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They Came Before Columbus: The African Presence in Ancient America Hardcover – Black & White, November 12, 1976

4.3 out of 5 stars 250 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

This controversial book by Ivan Van Sertima, the Guyanese historian, linguist, and anthropologist, claims that Africans had been to the New World centuries before Columbus arrived there in 1492. Citing--among other things--the huge Negroid-looking Olmec heads of Central Mexico and the similarities between the Aztec and Egyptian calendars and pyramid structures, Van Sertima pieces together a hidden history of pre-Columbian contact between Africans and Native Americans. He also puts forth the possibility that Columbus may have already known about a route to the Americas from his years in Africa as a trader in Guinea. The ideas in this book have been debated and discussed since its first publication in 1976; even those who choose not to believe Van Sertima's theories should take his argument seriously. --Eugene Holley, Jr.


—The Atlantic Monthly

“An immensely impressive book . . . well-written and clear.”

“I can’t praise this book enough! I kept shaking my head over its power.”
—Ishmael Reed

“Comprehensive and convincing . . . a big boost to black cultural history.”
—Publishers Weekly

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (November 12, 1976)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394402456
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394402451
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (250 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #350,010 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Ivan Van Sertima's pioneering work in linguistics and anthropology has appeared in numerous scholarly journals. Professor Van Sertima teaches Afro-American studies at Rutgers University.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The first time I heard Dr. Ivan Van Sertima speak was at Lincoln University a small historically black college in Pennslyvania. Dr. Van Sertima gave a powerful lecture about the African Presence in America before Columbus, a topic I never heard of before and honestly doubted it's validity.I thought I would leave the lecture only convienced that Van Sertima was a crank and his thesis was a fraud, but in fact the opposite happened. His speech was so articulate and his lecture so well researched and amazingly documented I decided I had to read his book and research the topic on my own. if skeptics think this book is solely for Afrocentrist they are wrong this book is very scholarly it gives botanical,cartographical,linguistic,artistic, and historical evidience in order to make a strong case for the African presence in America. Van Sertima shows us african cotton found in America.He shows the written accounts of the conquistadors themselves, Columbus and Balboa record the presence of Africans already arriving in America, in fact Balboa eyewitnessed Africans in Central America fighting among the "Indian" population..He highlights the mysterious Piri Reis map that shows Antartica mapped before it was covered with ice,when was the only time this could happen? 4,000 B.C.,the point is ancient man had the nautical skill to travel the world at a very early date. He touches on the journeys of Thor Heyerdahl and his ship the Ra successfully crossing the Atlantic, proving that ancient man could travel the high seas. I personally researched on my own the parallels between the Egyptian god(Osiris)and American god(Queztatcoatl)both are virgin born both are ressurection gods, it is amazing.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
Sertima has presented a thoery that is not "wild afrocentric babble." Its very plausible for the following reasons:

Most everyone is familiar with the time period of the Dark Ages, which lasted from the fall of the Roman Empire until about the 1200 or 1300's. It was a time when people were intellectually non-progressive, when the average peasent/serf never traveled 20 miles from the place of his birth. What people do forget is that the Dark Age was only a Western European phenomenon. The rest of Asia and Africa were steadily advancing.

One reviewer said that Africans had no ocean trade routes with other peoples. In fact, the East African coast was dotted with powerful city states that traded all over the Indian Ocean, including China. And on the West Coast, Africans did not need trade routes per se, because half of Europe was already under their complete domination through the Islamic Empire (black Moors).

Is it a coincidence that Spain and Italy were the first two European countries to climb out of the Dark Ages? No. Italy's trade routes with Africa long brought it into contact with Moslem and Chinese advances. And Spain; Spain was part of Islam! On the streets of Cardoba, Spain you would have seen Africans, Moslems, and a bunch of other races. By the way, the Moslems invented the magnetic compass and the astrolabe. This same Moslem learning flourished at the world first university; in Timbaktu. Timbaktu was in Mali, West Africa. In this climate how could West Africans not have known about sailing and trade routes?

Incidently, where was Columbus originaly from? Italy. Which country did he go to and got financing for his trip? Spain.
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Format: Paperback
Thank you, I believe that some people are just afraid of the hearing the truth because they have been lied to their entire lives. They have been taught their entire lives that White and European is superior and Black and African is inferior. Now that we are coming out of the 19th century, when racism was created in order to justify slavery and colonization, and African and African descent people are beginning to learn about their amazing heritage, many Whites are having a hard time swallowing the truth. I am taking two Africana courses in college, and there were many Whites who dropped the class because they couldn't stand to hear the truth about how the Europeans were so uneducated during the Dark Ages. After the fall of the Roman Empire Europe fell into illiteracy, even the nobles couldn't read, they believed that taking a bath was a moral sin, they were plagued with disease, war, famine and did not know how to properly encompass irrigation systems. And in now way is this to talk down on Whites or Europeans, I am just stating pure facts! They also believed the world was flat.

Europe was civilized several times by African peoples. First, it was the Ethiopians who migrated to various parts of the globe. The Greek historians Herodotus and Homer both state that Arabia, India (Dravidians), Western Asia (Sumerians), Nubia and Egypt were all occupied by descendants of Ethiopians. There is linguistic, historic, archaeological evidence of this. Also we should all be educated enough by now to know that it was the ancient Kemetic (Egyptian) people who educated the Greeks in sciences, mathematics, astronomy, masonry, architecture, philosophy etc. Prior to the influx of Greek scholars studying under Kemetic priests, all the Greeks primarily were known for was Mythological folklore.
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