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A Few Preliminary Notes on Cultural Diffusionism versus Cultural Isolationism
Gary A. David, © 2018


Put simply, cultural diffusionism proposes that ancient people got around on foot or by boat a lot more than commonly assumed—around the world, in fact. This theory posits that a free flow of trade goods and cultural motifs existed globally in the early Neolithic period or perhaps even before.

Diffusionism acknowledges that innovation is primarily the result of cross-cultural influences of migrating groups. This theory ultimately suggests the existence of a global maritime-mercantile system that interacted with all parts of the world, sharing trade goods, ideas, customs, mores, and legends.

It is evidenced by the following: similarities of artifacts (including architecture) in geographically separated cultures, parallel ritual/spiritual practices, congruent iconography (symbols), comparative linguistics, cognates (semantics and etymology), corresponding ethnographies, correlative mythological narratives, and archaeo-genetics.


This theory posits that minimum interaction had occurred in ancient times between cultures over long distances. Tribes were generally provincial, circumscribed by narrow geographic horizons. Cultural innovation was the result of “independent invention” or “parallel evolution.” Each society had a “do-it-yourself” approach. Similarities between disparate cultures were merely coincidental.

During the 20th century anthropologists and archaeologists, many of them tenured or supported by universities, had suggested that diffusionist theories, which prevailed in the last part of the previous century, were inherently racist. Those theories, they said, implied that Caucasians had bestowed the benefits of civilization on the “darker” races in order to bring them toward the light.

Proposing an alternative isolationist theory, this Columbus-was-first crowd described a scenario of scattered, provincial tribes of Native Americans going it alone the best way they could on a sparsely populated continent. They were in part trying to disprove the “Lost Tribes of Israel” theory or the “Children of the Sun” (“heliocentric’) theory of W.J. Perry and G. Eliot-Smith, which suggested that ancient Egypt was the source of all major world cultures. Cultural isolationists essentially presuppose that indigenous peoples were not intelligent or skilled enough to make extensive migrations or voyages.

Conversely, I believe that the collective ingenuity of the peoples of North and South America together with those of Oceania allowed them to sail to distant lands in very early times. By the same token, I think the peoples of Europe and Asia used a similar collective ingenuity in order to make landfall on equally distant lands. The astronomical and navigational skills possessed by seafarers from all parts of the globe must have been the common currency of the day.

A Few Contemporary Diffusionists

• Stephen C. Jett, Ph.D., professor emeritus of geography UC-Davis and editor and publisher of Pre-Columbiana: A Journal of Long-Distance Contacts, founder of Early Sites Reasearch Society, [],
• Christine Pellech, editor of Migration & Diffusion: An International Journal, [],
• The late epigrapher Barry Fell, America B.C., Bronze Age America, and Saga America,
• The late geography professor at Texas A&M George F. Carter, Earlier Than You Think,
• The late South African author Jim Bailey, The God-Kings and the Titans, and Sailing to Paradise,
• The late researcher Gunnar Thompson, Ph.D., American Discovery
• Wayne, N. May, publisher of Ancient American magazine, [],
• journalist Patrick Huyghe, Columbus Was Last,
• Petroglyph expert and researcher Carl Lehrberger, Secrets of Ancient America
• et al.

A Few Contemporary Isolationists

• Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine and founder of Skeptics Society, monthly column in Scientific American,
• Kenneth L. Feder, archaeology professor at Central Connecticut State U., author of the required textbook Frauds, Myths and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology,
• Jeb Carb, archaeology professor at Miami U.,
• Andrew White, archaeology professor at U. of South Carolina,
• John W. Hoopes, archaeology professor at U. of Kansas,
• Jason Colavito, prolific blogger, author of Faking History: Essay on Aliens, Atlantis, Monsters & More.

So, the latter group of researchers is dogmatically anti-independent, anti-amateur, anti-avocational, and anti-nonacademic. In other words, in order to write about archaeology properly, a primary prerequisite is tenure (or tenure-track) at a university and work that is peer-reviewed. Their critiques are basically materialist, reductionist, and objectivist, when these ancient cultures being studied were anything but that.

By and large, these academics see Barbarians at the Gates in the form of sensational cable TV shows and popular alt-history. They don’t enter into their inquiries with an open mind but presuppose or presume that a topic or idea is basically spurious or wrong-headed from the start; thus, they don’t fully engage the topic in the way they would if they were approaching it in an unbiased manner. They tend to lump serious alternative historical and archaeological research together with the loony fringe of UFO advocates, alien abduction, ancient astronauts, conspiracy theories, and Illuminati/Freemasonry paranoids. They are in essence tarring the former with the same broad brush. In other words, they have an agenda, which is socially and politically motivated.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10-Apr-18 22:18 by gadavid.

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Cultural Diffusionism vs. Cultural Isolationism 3230 gadavid 10-Apr-18 22:17
Re: Cultural Diffusionism vs. Cultural Isolationism 711 Edmond 14-Apr-18 09:47
Re: Cultural Diffusionism vs. Cultural Isolationism 651 gadavid 15-Apr-18 20:23
Re: Cultural Diffusionism vs. Cultural Isolationism 698 Edmond 16-Apr-18 12:53
Re: Cultural Diffusionism vs. Cultural Isolationism 648 gadavid 17-Apr-18 19:26
Re: Cultural Diffusionism vs. Cultural Isolationism 643 gadavid 17-Apr-18 23:34
Re: Cultural Diffusionism vs. Cultural Isolationism 664 Edmond 18-Apr-18 10:00
Re: Cultural Diffusionism vs. Cultural Isolationism 634 gadavid 18-Apr-18 22:18
Being hard wired 637 drrayeye 19-Apr-18 06:24
Re: Being hard wired 636 Edmond 19-Apr-18 08:54
Re: Being hard wired 614 Aine 19-Apr-18 12:34
The scientific literature 661 drrayeye 19-Apr-18 13:26
Re: Being hard wired 663 gadavid 19-Apr-18 22:54
Re: Being hard wired 619 gadavid 19-Apr-18 23:18
Re: Being hard wired 658 Edmond 20-Apr-18 07:32
If you want tobe taken seriously by scientists 641 drrayeye 20-Apr-18 15:22
Re: Being hard wired 616 Eddie Larry 20-Apr-18 16:58
Re: Being hard wired 622 gadavid 21-Apr-18 05:08
Re: Being hard wired 623 Edmond 21-Apr-18 14:53
Re: Being hard wired 614 Eddie Larry 21-Apr-18 17:27
Re: Being hard wired 608 gadavid 22-Apr-18 21:52
Re: Being hard wired 654 gadavid 22-Apr-18 22:01
Re: Being hard wired 620 Edmond 23-Apr-18 09:29
Re: Being hard wired 648 gadavid 23-Apr-18 22:21
Re: Being hard wired 612 Edmond 24-Apr-18 10:30
Re: Being hard wired 671 gadavid 24-Apr-18 23:23
Re: Being hard wired 704 Edmond 25-Apr-18 09:21
Re: Being a hard wired pain 614 MDaines 25-Apr-18 10:57
Re: Being hard wired 1006 gadavid 25-Apr-18 19:38
Re: Being hard wired 630 Eddie Larry 19-Apr-18 18:31
Re: Cultural Diffusionism vs. Cultural Isolationism 696 PB Bytes 14-Apr-18 16:56
Re: Cultural Diffusionism vs. Cultural Isolationism 637 gadavid 16-Apr-18 00:15
Re: Cultural Diffusionism vs. Cultural Isolationism 661 drrayeye 17-Apr-18 21:56
Re: Cultural Diffusionism vs. Cultural Isolationism 620 gadavid 17-Apr-18 23:19
Re: Cultural Diffusionism vs. Cultural Isolationism 661 drrayeye 18-Apr-18 08:09
Re: Cultural Diffusionism vs. Cultural Isolationism 624 gadavid 18-Apr-18 22:30
Re: Cultural Diffusionism vs. Cultural Isolationism 623 drrayeye 19-Apr-18 05:26
To disprove a theory, all that is needed is a single true counter factual 602 Race Jackson 24-Apr-18 00:06
Re: To disprove a theory, all that is needed is a single true counter factual 610 Edmond 24-Apr-18 10:39

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