Gavin Menzies rewriting Polynesian origins, neat!

Via Savage Minds, who have reproduced the article from the Dominion. Gavin Menzies (author of a book called 1421: The Year China Discovered The World–which I have not read) claims all sorts of interesting selective stuff about Chinese exploration of the Pacific (transcript of a speech, here) and most mindbogglingly, that the Maori were not actually Polynesians but result of "Melanesian slaves raping Chinese prostitutes".

Reading the speech linked above it seems clear to me that Menzies is relying heavily on selective-to-the-point-of-distorted interpretations of genetic work. Yes, East Asian lineages appear in Polynesian and South American populations. But this is because they share common East Asian ancestors a good, oh, 6000 years ago, in the case of the Polynesians, and likely twice that for South Americans. Not because they're descended from a Chinese/Japanese "fleet" from 600 years ago.

More from the speech above:

M. Hertzberg and Colleagues found an Asian specific delection of mitochondrial DNA in Polynesians – notably, Niueans, Tongans, Samoans and Maoris. Shinji Harihara and colleagues produce startling pie charts – it appears the Niueans, Tongans, Samoans and Fijians had ancestors from the Shizoka province of Japan. To this day Niueans share close linguistic similarities with Mainland Chinese.

I'd expect this in a second-year anthropological genetics paper (which I would subsequently give a C). The whole point about the 9bp deletion is that it tracks (roughly) the Austronesian expansion, of which all those Polynesian populations were the end result. I can't even begin to stop laughing at "startling pie charts" and hope one day to get a review which praises MY startling pie charts. And Niueans sharing close linguistic similarities with Mainland Chinese (uh, what are we calling Mainland Chinese?)… okay. I would like to see the statistical comparison there that demonstrates more cognates between Niuean and Mandarin than Niuean and Tikopian, or Niuean and Mekeo, or Niuean and freakin' MALAGASY, and then I might listen.

Yup. Might be waiting some time for that.

Back to the Dominion report:

Menzies said his book had been well-received around the world but had drawn hostile criticism in New Zealand — because academics were government servants out to protect their pensions.

"People just don't believe them any more. I think they live in boxes and their whole way of teaching history is fundamentally flawed, from the bottom up."

Well, it is always a big clue when the academic pension is regarded as the carrot by which scores of anthropologists/historians/biologists conspire to fraudulently rewrite history, and a lone voice carries the truth, right?

I am quite tempted to read this book as a bit of rage is sometimes quite healthy, but like Oppenheimer's Eden in the East, I fear it might sit nicely alongside a bit of Graham Hancock.

edited to add: A quick tour of 1421exposed and links therein reveals right-thinking folk have gone ahead and thoroughly demolished this rubbish. Well done, learned peeps. 

Have a more interesting link instead, (beautiful) photos of the Columbian Nukak

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2 responses to “Gavin Menzies rewriting Polynesian origins, neat!

  1. Because, as we all know, people continue on in academia for THE MONEY. I mean, aren’t you just ROLLING in dough? I’d say someone writing a book that appeals to the sensibilities of people with nothing better to do that feel smart because they don’t actually want to work for it has a better chance of making a ton of cash than most anthropologists. Like, what?

    >

    I always think this, like, I should read that so I know what I’m protesting, but sometimes it actually pollutes your brain. Although it would be fun to get drunk and do a dramatic reading, in an old-english-man voice and everything.

    *smacks your startling pie chart* shake it like a polaroid picture, woman!

  2. Yes, Gavin Menzies work has been very poorly researched.
    I would place him in the same basket as Robert Langdon, a man also unable to accept that extensive ocean voyages were being conducted thousands of years ago.
    We can add a few other people to this basket. Paul Bahn for suggesting that skulls in Easter Island tullpas were put there to make chickens lay bigger eggs. Also the scientist who suggested that Rongo Rongo script was merely natives mimicking spanish writing. Then there is the scientist who suggested the Spanish were responsible for transporting Kumera into the Pacific and the latest paper of poorly researched garbage is the scientist who is now saying that there no obsidian traders in the Pacific but obsidian artifacts were merely made from small chips of obsidian inclusions in pumice stone that brought obsidian upcurrent to the far flung islands of the Pacific. The size of some obsidian artifacts that had been struck off a ‘core’ would have to have come from a piece of pumice at least a meter in diameter. For a more up to date and enlightening view on pacific prehistory see my website
    http://www.polynesian-prehistory.com
    Peter marsh

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