“Was it possible for Celtic warriors who joined forces with daring sailors from Carthage to arrive in Peru two millennia ago?”
Carthage’s Lost Warriors is a disc containing one episode of the long-running PBS series Secrets of the Dead. This episode concerns itself with what may have happened after Rome’s conquest of Carthage. Specifically, is it possible for Carthaginians to have crossed the Atlantic and arrived in South America millennia before Columbus’ discovery?
Carthage was defeated by Rome in 146 BC. The prevailing idea of the episode Carthage’s Lost Warriors is that not everyone ended up enslaved by the conquering Romans but perhaps some of the survivors fled. After three wars Rome conquered Carthage, and while hundreds of thousands burned in the vast array of fires set to the city-state, many must have been able to flee the chaos. It’s entirely possible the skilled Carthaginian sailors made their way to the Port of Coruna in Spain where they would have come into contact with mercenaries, the infamous Iberian Stone Slingers whose prowess with slingshots continues to this day. Theoretically these two groups could have sailed together across the ocean to what is present-day Brazil, arriving 1500 years before Columbus discovered the New World.
Like many episodes of Secrets of the Dead there tends to be lots of speculation and little scientific evidence. However one piece of evidence which seems to support this theory is found within the petroglyphs carved into the Rock of Inga. They look like letters from the Celtic Iberian language in the ancient world. Another bit of possible evidence is a Carthaginian metal axe found in South America. This has metal alloys not found in the Americas before the European discovery in the time of Columbus. The Amazon basin has been settled for over 11,000 years, with a population boom taking place 2,000 years ago. Archaeologists have found objects whose similarity to Mediterranean ones suggests interaction with foreign explorers.
An interesting trip is taken to one of the Chachapoya’s citadels on top of the Andes Mountains, the Temple of Kuelap. It boasts mason work whose origin is unknown, but could be dated around 500 AD. One of the really intriguing facts lies with the indigenous people. Within the population are found unexplained blonde people with light skin, traits which go back generations. Their DNA is collected and the results are surprising.
PBS is the industry leader in educational entertainment and Carthage’s Lost Warriors fits right in. There may be less concrete answers than one would like, but the inherent history is quite interesting all on its own.
The video is a standard def 1.78:1 widescreen transfer, and for once I wish the picture was smaller. A 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio would allow for less compression artefacting and the dilution of the other minor issues the widescreen betrays. There is a flat palette and a general lower definition look to the video. It’s not distracting, just a bit disappointing. For the audio, there’s the standard Dolby 2.0 Stereo mix, but there’s also a descriptive track for the visually impaired. I actually enjoy hearing that option and discovering what choices they make when describing things, and what I would have said differently.
Carthage’s Lost Warriors isn’t the strongest offering from the Secrets of the Dead series, however it really is interesting. Carthage is a place I know very little about and the chance to hear a theory of how its people may have shaped history definitely holds my interest.