Journal retracts claim that the Ancient Olmecs were Black Africans

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1m Aug 16, 2021

A journal has retracted a paper on the origins of a group of Indigenous Americans after readers said the basis of the paper was long discredited.

The paper, “Early pioneers of the americas: the role of the Olmecs in urban education and social studies curriculum,” was written by scholars at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, including corresponding author Greg Wiggan, and researchers at Towson State University, and published on June 25, 2020, in the Urban Review.

In a July 23 post on Medium, Kurly Tlapoyawa and Ruben A. Arellano “ask that the The Urban Review journal retract the article by Wiggan et al and discontinue its promotion of ‘Black Olmecs:’”

In their article, Wiggan et al peddle the long discredited notion that the Olmec were not indigenous Americans, but rather that they were black Africans who traversed the Atlantic Ocean millennia before Christopher Columbus. There are variations on the hypothesis, but the general idea is that Africans established (or helped establish) one of the oldest major civilizations in the Americas, the Olmec, which scholars credit as being a major inspiration for the Mesoamerican Indigenous cultures that followed. What we find surprising is that a publication that purports to be educational would publish an article that advocates the introduction of “Black Olmec” curriculum in schools.

Tlapoyawa and Arellano explain:

Proponents of this myth base their conclusions on superficial interpretations of the famous Olmec heads of Veracruz. These statues, they claim, bear physiognomic resemblance to Africans solely based on their broad noses and thick lips. The fact that the statues also resemble Mexico’s Indigenous people (along with the fact that broad noses and thick lips are not solely black African characteristics) is simply ignored. If these assertions were being made in the reverse by white authors about black African culture, those people would rightfully be castigated for their racist interpretations. Somehow, when it comes to Native Americans, especially if they are ancient and mysterious enough, it is okay to make outlandish claims. The long running pseudohistorical television program about ancient aliens and ancient peoples is in this same vein.

Now, the journal has retracted the paper:

The Editor-in-Chief has retracted this article (Wiggan et al 2020) following concerns raised by readers. After post-publication peer-review, it was found that the theory that Olmecs were Black Africans on which the lesson plan is based is not substantiated according to current Mesoamerican archaeology and genetic evidence. The authors have been offered to submit a revised manuscript updated with information based on current knowledge for further peer review.

Author Greg Wiggan stated on behalf of all co-authors that they do not agree to this retraction.

Wiggan has not responded to a request for comment from Retraction Watch.

Link to original Article titled " Journal retracts paper claiming that group of Indigenous Americans were Black Africans."

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