Grafton Elliot-Smith's Diffusionist Map
The passage quoted earlier in the 1949 Egerton Sykes edition of Donnely's Atlantis: The Antediluvian World linked cranial deformation to the Diffusionist "Children of the Sun" theory. At this point it might be a good idea to clarify exactly what that theory entails.
The term 'hyperdiffusionism' seems to have been coined by the British archaeologist Glyn Daniel in his book The Idea of Prehistory (1962) with a somewhat derogatory intention. It was intended to represent extremes of diffusionism, a theme popular in early 20th century archaeology that itself has been subject to criticism. Smith believed that all megalithic phenomena, be it in Northwestern Europe, India, Japan or Mesoamerica, originated in ancient Egypt. "Small groups of people, moving mainly by sea, settled at certain places and there made rude imitations of the Egyptian monuments of the Pyramid Age." (Smith 1911, ix). Smith believed in a direct diffusion to Syria, Crete, East Africa, Southern Arabia and Sumer, while other areas were influenced by secondary diffusion. The neolithic culture of Europe was derived from Egypt as well, according to Smith. The concept of hyperdiffusionism is now referred to by more neutral terms (when referring to the Americas) such as Pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact
At first, Smith remained vague on the reasons for the spread of Egyptian influence to places without mineral deposits like Polynesia. But in 1915 William James Perry, professor of comparative religion at the university of Manchester advanced the view that the "megalith-builders" were looking for pearls and precious stones, which Smith adopted as well.
Smith did not believe that this spread of culture was necessarily connected to a certain race, in contrast to other diffusionists like the German prehistorian Gustaf Kossinna. While he saw a racial affinity between the Egyptians and the first agriculturalists of southern Europe, both being of the "brown race", the spread of civilisation was mainly a spread of ideas, not of tribes or people.
In the age of Colonialism, hyperdiffusionism proved attractive, as it showed how missionaries, engineers and prospectors had spread civilisation all over the earth, as the colonial nations believed to do themselves.
Later on, hyperdiffusionism supplied a single, simple explanation of the complex process of neolithisation that made it attractive to amateur archaeologists worldwide. It could be used to retain a Eurocentric view on history in the face of increasing evidence for impressive autochthonous development, for example in Zimbabwe (Great Zimbabwe), Polynesia (Easter Island) and Micronesia (Nan Madol on the island of Pohnpei).
In present times it is widely believe today that the megalithic graves of Britain, Ireland, France, Portugal, the Netherlands, Denmark, northern Germany, and Poland are much earlier than the Egyptian pyramids, while the Mesoamerican pyramids are much later and securely based in a local development.[This is the standard view but it is wrong. Mesoamerican pyramids had a beginning of development by 3000 BC as small raised platforms, and larger pyramids were already being constructed well before 1000 BC-DD]
--The view that certain ideas or traits arise just once and spread over the surface of the Earth is largely non-controversial, but durring the middle part of the 20th century, Archaeologists and Anthropologists were known for sneering heavily whenever the term "Diffusionism" (or more loosely simply "Cultural Diffusion")was brought up. For a while the sustitution of the concept that certain things might be evoloved in parallel was used whenever anything which even hinted at cultural diffusion was brought up. It became necessary to argue long and hard for such basic ideas as there were exchanges of ideas, artistic motifs and Agricultural products between Peru and Mesoamerica, or again between Mexico and the Southern United States. At one point the argument had reached the point of suggesting parallel evolution of the megalith building in different parts of Europe.
At the top is Grafton Elliot-Smith's map for areas of cultural diffusion out of Egypt and the Mid-East (Smith prefered Egypt)And it includes the Inter-American diffusion areas and the Western European Megalith-Builders. W. L. Pery was a follower of Smith and wrote several books but focusing mainly on the Indian and Pacific Oceans and under his blanket name "Children of the Sun" for the overall theory. This is the version of the theory that was most highly derided by the critical scientists. And yet, the "Worst" part of the cultural diffusion area is already recognised by scientists: the Malayo-Polynesian language family has settled everywhere from Madagascar to Easter Island, all speaking related languages and sharing culture and ideas across that entire expanse. Furthermore, it is well known by now that the Polynesians had contact with Peru on the one hand because they brought back sweet potatoes and called them by their Peruvian Name, and that Madagascar had frequent contact with East Africa on the other end. Smith was basically recording Ethnographic information of the Malayo-Polynesian area and showing the cultures were all related to one another. So what could be plainer than that?
The problem is in thinking that the exchange of ideas has to go all at once and the mere fact that megaliths were built at one time in Europe and later on in the Pacific, or that Pyramids were built at one time in Egypt and Mesopotamia and at a different time in Mesoamerica, somehow proves that they must be independant inventions and that the same idea cannot carry through. Actually, time is no limiting factor in the expression of the same idea, the same idea can come and go many times over the millenia once it has become established.
Best Wishes, Dale D.