African Diaspora Staff Writer  

Africa’s pre-Columbus presence in the ‘Americas’

Who were the original, indigenous Americans? In other words, who lived in the continents that we now know as North and South America before the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492?

Our initial thought might be that it is the “Native Americans”. These communities lived across the entire breadth of northern America before the arrival of Europeans (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Native American cultural blocks (source).

Through a decolonial perspective, one can see how the eventual border division between the USA and Canada and then their further divisions into states and provinces did not consider indigenous cultural formations.

The colonial division of territory equally affected indigenous peoples who lived to the South of the present-day United States of America.

But – when we probe further into history, we find that some of the ancestors of whom we know today as “Native Americans” arrived from Africa long before Columbus did in 1492. There are multiple sources of evidence of the early African presence in pre-Columbus America. Two of those are the pyramids in the western hemisphere and statues of ancient Africans.

There are few places in the world with ancient pyramids. Africa has the most. Africa’s oldest pyramid is Djoser. It was built between 2667-2648 BC (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: Pyramid of Djoser (source).

If we take a look at the pyramids in South America, including in Mexico, we find very similar architecture. In fact, structures in this region appear to outdate those of ancient Kemet (Egypt). Kemet means “land of the black”.

The Huaca Prieta Temple (see Figure 3) that is located in present day Peru is dated at approximately 7,800 years ago. This pre-dates the Djoser Pyramid in ancient Kemet. This fact has profound significance for how Africans re-build our post-colonial / knowledge systems. It also shapes how we view our relationships with people in South America and the rest of the world.

Figure 3: The Huaca Prieta Temple in modern Peru; built 8 BCE. Note pyramidic angles (source).

This is only one pyramid from ancient Peru and South America. Consider, also, ancient statues from this region that evidence the African presence in the ancient “West”.

The intention is not to culturally appropriate the culture of South Americans. DNA studies of the people living there now would be interesting. People living there now are equally welcome to acknowledge and claim their African heritage.

Genetically and linguistically, the Khoe San are more ancient. Nevertheless, the reader is encouraged to apply their own sight and interpretation and determine what they see in these images. Feel free to challenge the writer in the comments.

Consider the Olmecs (Figure 4) of South America who lived around 2,500 B.C. and flourished right through to 1,800-1,600 B.C. This is roughly the same time Nguni language speakers arrived in southern Africa > 1,800 BC. Again, interpret the image critically.

We need to ask ourselves – as Africans in the south of the continent and globally – why is this information not readily available to our children in their curricula? Part of the value of such knowledge is that it challenges Africans to geographically think outside of the continent.

For example, if the Huaca Prieta Temple pre-dates pyramids in ancient Kemet/Egypt, what did those knowledge systems include and what is the relevance of the knowledge of those Ancestors to us here in the south of the African Homeland and where ever we live?

Again – this should be taught, shared, distributed and discussed with the children and the masses of African people.