Location of Tarshish and pre-Columbian trade links between South America and the "Old World".

by Jim Allen

THE DISCOVERY of coca and tobacco used as preservatives in the mummification process in ancient Egypt of Rameses III suggests that around 1200BC a people were engaged in trade between the South American continent and Egypt. At the present time nothing is known of these people, where they came from or what type of ships were used.

The prime question therefore is – "Who was the very first to cross the Ocean Sea?"

Logically the two most obvious options would be that ships from Egypt reached South America where coca grows along the slopes of the Andes in what is now Columbia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia or that ships from South America sailed across the Ocean to reach Egypt either eastwards via the Mediterranean or under the Cape of Good Hope to enter the Red Sea, or westwards via the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

Egypt has a well recorded history, yet no record exists of their ships having crossed the Atlantic Ocean on trading voyages and even if they reached the coast of South America, it is unlikely that without prior knowledge they would be aware of or able to navigate the considerable distances along the inland waterways to reach the foothills of the Andes where coca was grown.

On the other hand, a people setting off from South America could conceivably reach the shores of India, Mesopotamia or Egypt all of which developed civilisations on easily accessible seaboards.

To reach the Andes hinterland of South America, two possible river routes suggest themselves, the first via the Amazon for voyages to the Mediterranean and the second via the River Parana and the Plate estuary for the route via the Red Sea.

Both these river systems are almost interconnected at a point near the town of Matto Grosso where the upper waters of the Amazon river (via the tributary known as the Guapore River) comes close to the upper waters of the Paraguay River. A ridge west of this site is one of the sites Col P.H.Fawcett considered as a possible location for a "lost city" and it seems logical that a point on higher ground near the headwaters of both rivers could have been a good location for an ancient city which would facilitate a water-borne trade route through the centre of ancient South America.

One mysterious city whose site has never been fully identified is that of the city of Tarshish or Tharshish as it is described in the Bible. In the days of King Solomon, a fleet sailed to Tarshish once every three years bringing back gold, silver, ivory and peacocks and gold was so plentiful in Solomon’s time as to be accounted of little value.

Solomon’s fleet was built for him by Hiram of Tyre (a Phoenician) and Hiram also provided the crew. The fleet sailed from the shores of the Red Sea but since the Bible also tells us that Jonah tried to escape to Tarshish via a Mediterranean port before being swallowed by the whale, we may surmise that Tarshish lay at a site equally accessible via the Mediterranean or Indian Ocean/Atlantic route.

Present day archaeologists suggest a site near the Guadalquivir River in Spain was the location of Tarshish but since peacocks do not originate in Spain but in Ceylon and peacocks were brought to King Solomon by the returning Tarshish fleet, we can rule out Spain as the location of Tarshish.

An ancient Greek text says that the location of Tarshish was at the entrance to a river. If one followed the river upstream one came to a Silver Mountain and the river carried in its stream gold, silver, tin and bronze.

If the ancients were trading in coca and tobacco then it is equally probable that they were trading in precious metals particularly copper and tin used to make bronze and also gold and silver, these metals being abundant in the Andes Mountains.

No mountain of solid silver exists in Spain but a mountain of this description namely Mt Potosi exists in what is now modern Bolivia. One possible route to this mountain would be via the Rio de la Plata (which means River of Silver), Rivers Parana/Paraguay and the River Pilcomayo (which used to be called Rio de la Plata) and this river additionally carries n its stream, as mentioned above, the required metals gold, silver, tin and bronze.

The Greek text also says that Tarshish was located on an island at the entrance of the river – "when the river reached its mouth it divided into two and the city stood as if on an island between the two arms of the river."

Anyone arriving on the South American continent from over the Ocean would find it useful to encounter a seaport at the entrance to the river so the two most logical sites for a city such as Tarshish would be (a) at the entrance to the Parana River in the now Rio de la Plata near Buenos Aires or (b) at the junction of the River Pilcomayo and River Paraguay near Asuncion.

The delta of the River Parana is fragmented into many islands and it is difficult to identify any one island "between the arms of the river" although one island of figure of eight configuration is reminiscent of the figure of eight shields found in the Cretan palace of Knossos and suggests itself as a possible location for an ancient city being the first point of contact with the estuary and the Atlantic Ocean.

The more probable site of Tarshish however lies on an island at the entrance to the Pilcomayo River opposite Asuncion, since satellite photos show that at this point the Pilcomayo forks into two arms exactly as per the ancient text, creating an island between the arms of the river. Moreover also in accordance with the ancient text, the river discharges into a broad bay – the Bay of Asuncion and this part of the Paraguay River also comprises shallows and sand banks.

Another point of extreme interest is that the 1940 book "The Shadow of Atlantis" by the South American Col A.Braghine quotes the opinion of a Mssr A.Frot (a French engineer living in Brasil in 1926 who had studied petroglyphs throughout the continent) that the "pre-Egyptians" started from South America and even gives the line of longitude of their starting point – this line of longitude co-incidentally passes through the island at the entrance to the Pilcomayo River mentioned above and additionally broadly follows the line of the upper River Paraguay passing through the Marsh of Xarayes which may formerly have been an inland sea.

To the NW of the marsh exists the Beni and Mojos territories in Bolivia where recent archaeology reveals another unknown civilisation which dug canals connecting complete river systems and created a system of agriculture using raised plots extending throughout Bolivia into Amazonia.

Marshes are good places for the growing of reeds, excellent for constructng the giant reed ships which may have roamed the world's oceans and this civilisation which existed on mounds in the Beni region has as yet no name, but as their lands are under wayer due to flooding for several months of the year, surely there can be no better name than people of Atlantis

main website Historic Atlantis in Bolivia


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