The Zuni Enigma: A Native American People's Possible...

Editor's Choice

January 06, 2002|By Michael Pakenham

The Zuni Enigma: A Native American People's Possible Japanese Connection, by Nancy Yaw Davis (Norton, 318 pages, $16.95 paperback).

The Zunis, a distinct tribe that live in northern New Mexico, are among the most studied groups in the world of anthropology -- mainly because they are utterly unlike any other native Americans in a number of ways,including language, physical size and shape, blood chemistry, family structure and religious practices. Now comes Davis, with a doctorate in anthropology, who has spent some 30 years examining the Zuni culture and what she now asserts are compelling connections with 13th-century Japanese elements of language, symbolism, ceramic skills, mythology and cosmological traditions. The thesis is that Japanese sailed to the west coast of the hemisphere more than 700 years ago and intermingled with existing indigenous people, yielding a unique amalgamated culture. Fascinating conjecture, persuasive connections, a lovely book to start serious arguments over -- if you're looking for a good fight.

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