Friday, September 21, 2012

(AFRICANUS BLOG) HOW the Senegalese crossed the Atlantic to the coast of Mexico

It is clear that the sea crossing of the Atlantic Ocean is not the impossible feat that it has been made out to be by those glorifying Christopher Columbus and with him, 'Western Civilisation'. You don't need massive ships with manipulable sails to get there and get back.

There are currents around the Equator which go directly from West Africa to Northeastern Brazil and the Caribbean. The existence of African civilisations in the Americas has been underreported and still meets psychological and cultural resistance.

A good book on the issue is prof. Ivan van Sertima's "They Came Before Columbus". Also see here. There is huge psychological resistance against anyone who does not deny agency to colonized people and the attempts to take agency away from Africans are often desperate and far fetched. Anyway, on Abubakari II, (BBC) Africa's 'greatest explorer', Wednesday, 13 December, 2000.

HOW the Senegalese crossed the Atlantic to the coast of Mexico
Pre-Columbian Mandingo Crossings

ALSO called the Manding, Mandinga, and Mandé, the Mandingo tribe, together with its subgroups - the Bambara, Malinké, Kasonké Kabonké and Pakaounké - constitute one of the most extensive tribal networks in Africa, with an extensive distribution in the Senegal and sub-Saharan Africa.

These tribes are very widely distributed in Benin (formerly Dahomey), Burkina Faso, the Ivory Coast, Guinea-Bissao. Guinea Conakry, Liberia, Mali, Mauretania, and several other West African countries. The Mandingo tribe is therefore a West African archetype, and genetically or factually, their exploits can be interpreted to the credit of all of the peoples of the west coast of Africa.

In order to emphasize the feasibility of this achievement, it has to be emphasized that of itself, it was not such an unthinkable undertaking. It was simply assumed to be. The reality is that it has been accomplished by so many teenagers that the Guiness Book of Records is no longer accepting aplications from teenagers to record the shortest times from coast to coast.

THE title of this hub is an ironic reference to the frequently exploited conjecture that trans-Atlantic voyages could not have been achieved except in large sailing-ships, and the arrival of Africans on the opposite shores of the Atlantic remained predominantly undebated In spite of extensive evidence to the contrary. Therefore, a disproportionate amount of time has been devoted, not to researching the means by which the Mandingos made the crossing: (they might as well have been ghosts) but to proving that such events never ih fact took place. It is an unfortunate fact that when discussing trans-oceanic voyages, only ships the size of slavers, tea-clippers and pirate ships are ever considered suitable for the journey.

Feasibility - Vessels

WITH only the slightest exagerration, it could be said that crossing the Atlantic in vessels sometimes whimsical, and ocassionally badly-adapted has aquired the dimensions of a game, played nearly every year by single people in small vessels. In Myths of Pre-Columbian America, Donald Mackenzie observes that:

'seaworthiness is not proprtionate to size: to the contrary, the larger the size, the greater the stresses set up by the wind and the waves as they encounter the inertia of the heavy craft, and thus the greater the possibility of breaking up.'

IN1998, it took 74 days to swim the 3700 miles across the Atlantic from Brittany to Massachusetts. As a matter of fact

'WIND propulsion by sail, setting such rigorous limits upon the direction in which a ship could move, and enforcing... a very low average speed ... is a far from satisfactory way of achieving motion over great tracts of ocean`.' (A History of Seamanship).

Feasibility - Ocean Currents

Once cast into the Mid-Atlantic, it is almost impossible to avoid the South American coast.

THE Guinea Current acts in conjunction with two others - the North Equatorial, and the South Equatorial. Away from the coast of Senegal, It merges with the South Equatorial Current, the northern portion of which joins the North-Atlantic Current in the mid-Atlantic, At this point, the reinforced current acts in support of the powerful Canaries Current,

THE Canaries Current is a faster and more direct conduit to the opposite coast of the Atlantic. It 'flows along the coast of Africa to Cape Verde where it splits. One branch continues south along the coast. The other branch flows into the Atlantic and becomes the North Atlantic Current. This strikes the American Coast in a broad band from the Guianas through to the West Indies. This current also leaves the African continent...along the coast of Senegal and Gambia.' (Winds across the Atlantic: Possible African origins for some Pre-Columbian new World Cultigens).
See all 2 photos

The almost traditional approach is to assume that Mandingos could never have successfuly made the Atlantic crossing. The second step is to try to prove that traditional craft depicted on Egyptian drawings dating from the time of the Pharoahs - papyrus boats - could have gone.

My hypothesis is that even if Egyptian craft could have made the crossing, except as twentieth-century expeditions, no attempts had been made using papyrus boats; and even if they had, the journey would have been exceedingly arduous, and that because of the dangers of rotting and water-logging, papyrus craft would have been tested to the point of destruction long before arrival on the coast of Mexico.

On the other hand, the Atlantic Ocean is so pacific and it currents so favorable, that Senegalese and Mandingo wooden craft would have made the journey almost as a matter of routine, while papyrus craft would have succeeded, if at all, only against all the odds.

Perhaps the factor that above all made the crossing by papyrus boat so infeasible was that any crossing conceived as an expedition in the late twentieth century could never seriously claim to honestly duplicate the conditions encountered during the same voyage two thousand years previously, when radio communications, stops along the way, and up-to-date maps would have been completely out of the question, and the crossing would have amounted to a single. unbroken sea-journey. In addition to these obvious problems should be added others of which, due to the passage of time and the change in perspective, we could not even begin to imagine.

While some researchers have proved that sailors from the Senegal were able to navigate with the aid of the stars, my aim in this hub has been to approach the subject from the worst case scenario by emphasing that no specifically-fashioned sea-going vessels or navigational aids had been available to the Mandingo sailors from the Senegal.

Man vs Nature

In all of my hubs, I foregrounded the effect of nature in endeavors traditionally believed to have been completely man-mediated. Thus, I have argued previously that because of its accessibility to the northern extremities of the North American coast, sailors from the Russian land-mass could not have avoided discovering America, millenia before Christopher Columbus, even if they had wanted to. Likewise, in the current circumstances, my intention has been to prove that, being situated at the point of Africa nearest to the coast-line of the New World, Mandingo sailors from the Senegal could have simply been conveyed across the Atlantic aided by its geography, as had Columbus and other European mariners, centuries afterwards.


1. Tounkara, Keba. Civilisation Mandingue, Société et Culture: [in] Peuples du Sénégal.
2. Van Sertima, Ivan. They came before Columbus.


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