Book Review: Ivan Van Sertima

Pages: 4 (1468 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Drama - World  ·  Buy This Paper


[. . .] He also suggests that in African mummies there is evidence of botanical substances like cocaine found in the New World only (Amazon, 2005). There are also many African rituals that Sertima suggests are common to early native Americans. One example is referred to as the "opening of the mouth" ritual and another is a libation ritual discovered in Mexico known to exist among Africans and Egyptian Pharhoes, who are said to have baptized their kin with cross libations (Amin, Davis & Eure-Harris, 1999).

According to Sertima "it is important to understand what a great burden of proof is required to establish cultural influence, even when there is a sound case for physician presence and contact" (Van Sertima 15). In addition Sertima asserts that if scientists "examine those helmets, we will find they are uncannily similar to the leather helmet worn by the Nubia-kemet military in the era of the amese" (Van Sertima, 30; Amazon, 2005). This suggests similarities between the two civilizations. He also affirms "The Indians told Columbus and others who arrived ... that a black people brought gold to those Islands" (Van Sertima, 30; Amazon, 2005)).

Yet another idea presented by Sertima is the notion that "The African presence in America before Columbus is of importance not only to African and American history" but also "to the history of world civilizations" (Rashidi, 2003). This presence as Sertima describes it is evidence in "stone heads, terra cottas, skeletons, and artifacts" and even through oral traditions long documented throughout history (Rashidi, 2003). Sertima is not the only scholar to write about African presence in pre-Columbian America (Rashidi, 2003). Other notable authors however such as Leo Winer fail to write on the subject as completely and thoroughly as Van Sertima does.

There are many sections in the book that help the reader understand what contributions Africans have made to world civilizations. Most notably in chapters 8 through 12 Sertima discusses various traditions, rituals and even plants that African's may have imported from African to America. Van Sertima for examples shows many native African plants such as "African cotton" found in America (Van Sertima 182). Ivan Van Sertima discovers many parallels that exist between African culture, mythos and animals and those found in Early America. For example, the "mythos of the bird attacking snake" originated in Africa (Amazon, 2005).


Since the dawn of time historians and scholars have credited Christopher Columbus and other early European explorers with making the first contact in the New World. New evidence however presented by Ivan Van Sertima in his work They Came Before Columbus: The African Presence in Ancient America suggests that African's rather than Europeans were the first to set foot in the New World. Ample evidence and historical data is provided throughout Van Sertima's work to support his theories. Sertima give examples of rituals such as the opening of the mouth ceremony that may have been derived from African practice. Van Sertima points out other traditions including the use of tobacco and presence of plants native to Africa such as African cotton which suggest that African's entered the New World long before Columbus

At this point in time Van Sertima's works are controversial at best. While many scholars support Van Sertima's assertions and provide identical evidence and support, many others cringe at the notion that Columbus was not the first to discover the America's. The controversy is understandable, given that Sertima's assumptions basically call for en entire review of historical data and in essence, the need to 'rewrite history'.

Undoubtedly more research will need to be done in the future to prove or disprove Sertima's claim. It is likely that the subject will remain controversial for many years. Van Sertima's work however is one that cannot be ignored when researching and examining the true roots and history of the early American people. At best They Came Before Columbus will cause all American's to question their true heritage and the people that influenced the world we have come to live in today.


Amin, Talib El, Davis, Willie and Eure-Harris, Curlada. "Prof. Van Sertima sets record straight during Lansing visit." 1999 -- November. 11, October 2005:

Khpera, S. (2001 -- Jan). "They came before Columbus." New African, 1: 16.

Rashidi, Runoko. "A tribute to Ivan Van Sertima." Global African Presence, April 13

2003. 12, Oct. 2005:

Sertima, Ivan Van. "They Came Before Columbus." New… [END OF PREVIEW]

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