An examination of early European theories about the origin of American indigenous peoples.
The American Indian—origin, culture, and language—engaged the best minds of Europe from 1492 to 1729. Were the Indians the result of a co-creation? Were they descended from the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel? Could they have emigrated from Carthage, Phoenicia, or Troy? All these and many other theories were proposed.
How could scholars account for the multiplicity of languages among the Indians, the differences in levels of culture? And how did the Indian arrive in America—by using as a bridge a now-lost continent or, as was later suggested by some persons in the light of an expanding knowledge of geography, by using the Bering Strait as a migratory route?
Most of the theories regarding the American Indian were first advanced in the sixteenth century. The two most influential men in an early-developing controversy over Indian origins were Joseph de Acosta and Gregorio García. Approaching the subject with restraint and with a critical eye, Acosta, in 1590, suggested that the presence of diverse animals in America indicated a land connection with the Old World. On the other hand, García accepted several theories as equally possible and presented each in the strongest possible light in his Origen de los indios of 1607.
In this distinctive book Lee E. Huddleston looks carefully into those theories and proposals. From many research sources he weaves an historical account that engages the reader from the very first.