Every year at least one book appears on the market that develops the idea of pre-Columbian transoceanic contacts between the Old World and the New. These are usually written by nonacademicians who have read widely and uncritically and have been intrigued by questions that have long been of concern to scholars. Over the course of the past four centuries almost every European, African, and Asian country has been suggested as having sent some of its people to the New World. And, of course, there is always Atlantis and Mu to round out the bill.

James Bailey is the latest contributor. He sees three major periods of intensive colonization across the Atlantic, which transformed the cultural prehistory of America. The first, occurring in the fourth millenium B. C., involved Aryan and Semitic sailors. This was followed by Sumerians and Akkadians who founded a colony on Lake Titicaca, and whose influence Bailey traces as far as the southeastern United States. It was these people who supplied the Bronze Age Middle East with copper, tin, and other metals. The third group of colonists came from the sea peoples of the West, also searching for tin.

The novelty in Bailey’s approach is that he sees mining and the search for metals as the reason for the colonization of the Americas by seafaring peoples from across the Atlantic. However, he is also willing to accept Chinese, Southeast Asians, Indians, and Polynesians as settlers on New World soil. Here is true eclecticism. Some of the data Bailey uses is reasonably well-established, most of it is not. In fact, there seems to be no thread of evidence, no matter how tenuous, that Bailey rejects as proof of transoceanic contact. What he lacks in rigor is more than made up in a diffuse, imaginative writing style that appeals to those who require neither logic nor evidence to believe his story.