While LDS scholars agree with non-LDS scholars that the New World was populated primarily by humans who traversed the Bering Strait thousands of years ago, a growing number of non-LDS scholars agree with LDS scholars that there was transoceanic contact between the Old and New Worlds in ancient times.
In an article in Archaeology magazine, for instance, E. James Dixon explained that some of the most ancient early American sites were in South America — contrary to what one would expect if all ancient Americans had first arrived by way of the Bering Strait (near Alaska).
“According to this line of reasoning,” writes Dixon, \"early humans first entered the Americas by transoceanic voyages across the Pacific Ocean from Asia\" and then would have “gradually spread northward from there.\" He suggests that anciently, there may have been “numerous contacts, and probably even population movements across the Pacific between Asia and North America\" (“The Origins of the First Americans,” [March/April 1985], 26–27).
Studies suggest that ancient sailors landed in the Americas both intentionally and accidentally.
\"The winds and currents from the Strait of Gibraltar,\" notes non-LDS scholar George Carter, \"drive directly to America with great steadiness. Any mariner venturing out to sea beyond the ancient Pillars of Hercules and not having any mishap would arrive in America in a very short time” (\"Before Columbus,\" 176).
The famous non-Mormon explorer Thor Heyerdahl attempted to show that the oceans had been crossed by early man. Non-Mormon scholar Norman Totten explains that Heyerdahl's adventures were just a few among several voyages which have shown that the ancients could very well have crossed the oceans.
Other modern researchers have crossed the Atlantic in kayaks, dugouts, rafts and reed boats.
One scholar documented about a hundred accidental landings of Japanese fishing boats on American shores prior to 1850. Of these accidental landings, the surviving Japanese sailors were almost always absorbed into the local Indian populations (\"Categories of Evidence for Old World Contacts with Ancient America,\" 177).
There are cultural, linguistic and botanical evidences for transoceanic contact. Critics typically dismiss cultural similarities as independent invention. Equally intelligent humans all over the global often invent similar things. While this is true, botanical evidence cannot be reproduced by independent means. Not too many years ago, for example, a mural depicting a pineapple was found on a wall from ancient Pompeii (Carter). Pineapples are not native to Naples, yet somehow the artists in Pompeii knew of the pineapple before, it was believed, men had sailed to the Americas.
Carter also points out that the ancient Romans recorded the \"appearance of a new grain\" that grew \"on a stalk like sugarcane but bears grain in an ear,\" the individual grains, they noted, were \"as large as peas.\" This description certainly refers to maize (American corn), which not only didn’t grow anciently in the Old World, but — because of sophisticated agricultural techniques — does not grow wild anywhere.
Carter, a Catholic ancient America expert and professor of the department of geography at Texas A&M explains that he, like other scholars, used to attribute evidences for transoceanic contact as simple cases of independent invention. When he discovered the biological evidences, however, his opinion changed. “Only God,” Carter notes, “can make a sweet potato (peanut, maize, chicken, hibiscus). The list is now becoming very long.”
Most scholars have traditionally believed that chickens, for example, were first introduced to the Americas by Columbus. A recent discovery of ancient chickens bone in Chile, however, questions that assumption. DNA studies of the Chilean chicken bones show a rare mutation that can only have come from chickens of the Polynesian Islands. Mason Inman, writing for National Geographic claims that this “means Polynesians not only colonized nearly every island in the South Pacific — making journeys over thousands of miles — but they also made the long hop all the way to the Americas.”
As Carter correctly points out:
“The plant and the chicken evidence proves in absolute terms that the great oceans were crossed, very early, and seemingly fairly easily, for plants and animals were carried so easily that they did not have to be eaten. I consider that the biological data has proved the case for diffusion. This, then, changes the odds and makes more admissible all the cultural evidence.”
In a 2001 conference at the University of Pennsylvania, Drs. John Sorenson and Carl Johannessen presented overwhelming evidence — based primarily on plants — that a “considerable number of transoceanic voyages in both directions across both major oceans were completed between the 7th millennium B.C. and the European age of discovery.”