Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The case of the Micmac hieroglyphs: a powerful blow to isolationist theories

Written languages among Native American peoples were very rare. A notable exception, however, was the written language of the Micmac people (commonly spelled Mi'kmaq today, with the sound "mi" representing the definite article in their language, and the word Mi'kmaq indicating "The Family" or "The People," according to some sources).

The Micmac written language, which contains remarkable similarities to ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, was preserved in extensive records by a French missionary named Pierre Maillard (1710 - 1762). The fact that many symbols in this writing system resemble so strongly the sacred hieroglyphs of ancient Egypt causes proponents of the isolationist hegemony varying levels of discomfort, frustration, and defensiveness, which usually manifests itself in the form of scornful criticism of anyone who suggests there may have been some ancient connection between citizens of ancient Old World civilizations and the Indians of the Americas.

If the Micmac script were the only isolated data point suggesting ancient contact across the great oceans, then such skepticism would perhaps be warranted. However, as we have seen with just a few of the many possible examples we have outlined on this blog, there is extensive other evidence which should make those who deny the possibility of ancient cultural contact realize that they are actually the ones who are on shaky ground (see for example here and here).

We have demonstrated that mankind appears to have possessed advanced scientific knowledge at an incredibly early date -- for instance, the design of Stonehenge and the pyramids of Giza indicate knowledge of the size and shape of the earth, as well as of mathematical concepts such as pi and phi and the subtle astronomical phenomenon of precession. It is not surprising to find that civilizations which understood such concepts could sail across the oceans (or, perhaps the converse, that civilizations which could sail across the oceans knew the size and shape of the earth, etc).

Numerous researchers have proposed that the ancient Phoenicians, Chinese and Celts may all have had the capability and inclination to cross the Atlantic and the Pacific, and may have done so somewhat regularly. In Before Columbus, Dr. Samuel D. Marble has suggested that the Egyptians (with their superior knowledge of the stars and of the size and shape of the earth) may have joined with the Phoenicians (with their superior capabilities as shipbuilders and sailors) in a sort of happy marriage, "a partnership that benefited both people, and in this case that benefit was substantial" (119). If there were Egyptians present on Phoenician voyages of discovery and trade with the Americas, it is entirely possible that the hieroglyphs of the Micmac, who lived among the excellent sea-landings of Nova Scotia (see map below) were influenced by these ancient voyagers.

Professor Barry Fell (1917 - 1994) published some persuasive side-by-side analyses of the Micmac writing system with that of the ancient Egyptians in his controversial 1976 work, America BC: Ancient Settlers in the New World. There, he illustrates the hieroglyphs recorded by the eighteenth-century missionary Father Maillard next to the hieroglyphs that he maintains would be the Egyptian counterparts to the same words. Some of these comparisons are reproduced on the web here (with the text translated into Italian, but the Micmac and Egyptian comparisons still apparent to readers of any tongue).

On page 3 of that web document, the text for Psalm 116 (Non nobis domine) is reproduced from the Micmac writing recorded by Father Maillard, along with Barry Fell's suggested Egyptian hieroglyphs for the same words. This line-by-line comparison can be found in America BC on page 254.

Later, on page 5 of the web document, another image from Fell is reproduced, showing the similarities of Micmac and ancient hieroglyphs for various words or concepts. This page can be found in America BC on page 255.

Those who oppose the idea of the ability of ancient civilizations to sail the deep oceans argue that Father Maillard must have invented this language for the Micmac, in order to enable them to record the doctrines of Christianity. Why he would use ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs rather than the Latin alphabet is a bit of a problem for this theory; it is usually asserted that this writing system was introduced by the missionaries, or that they modified an existing system of writing and deliberately made it look Egyptian because Egyptian hieroglyphs were all the rage during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (although they would not be translated until the famous deciphering of the Rosetta Stone by Champollion in 1822.

Typical of the arguments of the detractors is this essay published on the web, which declares as its goal "to examine Fell's claims of discernable ancient Egyptian and other North African languages and scripts in foreign petroglyphs, markings, writings, and the like, and to show a pattern of poor scholarly standards." On that page, the skeptical author advances the thesis that "It's not unreasonable to conclude that the Mi'kmaq - Recollet writing system is often called 'hieroglyphic' because Le Clerq [another French missionary who preceded Maillard] was familiar with the idea of Egyptian hieroglyphs as 'sacred carvings' and applied the term to reflect a holiness associated with the writing of Catholic material in his new Native American orthography."

This hypothesis is completely speculative, suggesting that a Catholic missionary would believe that the use of Egyptian hieroglyphics (which he could not decipher but found to be fascinating) somehow attributed "holiness" to his attempts to record Psalms and other writings for the Micmac people.

Similar criticisms are found on the Wikipedia page for "Mi'kmaq hieroglyphic writing," where it is argued that "Comparison with the actual Egyptian hieroglyphics shows that Fell's claims have significant shortcomings." The Wikipedia page criticizes Fell's analysis of the following hieroglyphs:

In the Wikipedia entry, Fell's analysis of the first symbol is criticized because, "The Micmac glyph cited by Fell appears not to be an Egyptian Hieroglyph, but rather the Christian symbol Globus cruciger with the Earth (a crossed circle) surmounted by a cross."

His analysis of the second symbol is criticized because, "The Micmac glyph cited by Fell appears to be an ordinary pentagram star used for 'heaven'; no connection to Egypt is necessary for the Micmac sign to make sense in this context."

His analysis of the third symbol is criticized because, "The Míkmaq msit 'all' (not 'full'?) is not drawn accurately; it is a large equilateral triangle made up of horizontal lines, not a low horizontal sign like V30."

Finally, his analysis of the fourth symbol is criticized because, "The Micmac glyph cited by Fell appears to be a triangle, representing the Trinity, and not a set of stairs."

By this sort of criticism, it is implied that there must be no connection between the Micmac writing and the ancient Egyptian, and that the symbols selected by the priests were merely Christian symbols (such as a triangle for the Trinity or a Globus Cruciger for the concept of "holy") and that these selections only coincidentally resembled Egyptian hieroglyphs for the same concepts.

However, this argument becomes more difficult to maintain when other Micmac symbols are examined. For example, prominent in the Micmac version of the Lord's Prayer reproduced above (from an 1822 book published in German) is the symbol for "name" (as in, "hallowed be thy name"). The Micmac symbol recorded by Father Maillard in 1762 is extremely suggestive of the ancient Egyptian symbol for a name, which is the symbol known as a "cartouche" (see below, in which the Micmac symbol is juxtaposed with a cartouche from the Rosetta Stone):

This similarity is extremely problematic, because it is well known that the feat of deciphering the Rosetta Stone rested upon the insight by Champollion (in the 1820s) that these cartouches contained royal names, as well as his breakthrough discovery that the hieroglyphs could play a dual role in representing both individual phonetic sounds in some usages and entire words in others. To suggest that Maillard (who died in 1762) had known that cartouches represented the concept of a "name" is speculative beyond belief, and implies that this missionary priest, who spent the bulk of his life in remote woodlands ministering to Native Americans and who had never been to Egypt nor shown any evidence of interest in deciphering the mystery that had puzzled linguists for centuries, had somehow found time to crack the Egyptian code before Champollion, but had kept his understanding of it a secret.

Other Micmac hieroglyphs that are difficult to explain away are shown in the image on page 5 of the Italian reproduction referenced above, such as the hieroglyphs that Egyptologists equate with an image of "mountains" or the common image of a "mouth," as well as the startlingly similar hieroglyphs denoting "metal" in general (three vertically-arranged circles in both systems) and "gold" and "silver" in particular. While the hieroglyphs selected by Wikipedia can be attacked as being coincidental Christian symbols mistakenly confused with Egyptian hieroglyphs, these others cannot be so readily criticized.

In the end, it does not really matter whether one is convinced by the evidence of ancient contact present in Micmac script. One piece of evidence, on its own, can be explained away as an incredible coincidence. The important perspective to adopt when examining such evidence is the understanding that each such clue is "one data point." When viewed in conjunction with all the other data points found in the Americas which point to deliberate ancient contact, the Micmac writing system is far more powerful evidence.

The possibility that ancient civilizations who inherited knowledge from predecessors unknown to conventional academia (who possessed knowledge and capabilities far beyond what conventional academia would grant at such an early date) regularly traveled across the oceans is explored in more depth in The Mathisen Corollary book.

One point that is made is that, while conventional scholars may scoff at the evidence of European writing systems found in the New World, and argue that such evidence is either faked or (as in the case of the Micmac writing) the invention of modern priests with an affinity for the "holiness" of an Egyptian writing system which they could not even understand, it is far more difficult to argue that enormous pyramids, temples and murals were also fakes or modern anachronisms. Even more difficult is it to argue that the human remains, in the form of mummies and mummy-bundles, are forgeries or cases of mistaken identity.

Taken in context with all the other evidence, then, the case of the Micmac hieroglyphics is another blow to the isolationist position, and a powerful blow at that.