This book got inside of my head because it was convincing enough to make me question some of the history that I've previously taken for granted. I just didn't know what to make of it. Certainly, I found the history of Cape Breton that is explored in the first part of the book very interesting because I was never really aware of how important the island was for the first Europeans on the continent. The later sections of the book were more problematic. In the latter parts, information about the architectural 'ruins' of the site Chiasson has found, and cultural knowledge and textile patterns that seem to be unique to the Mi'qmak are sited as evidence of Chinese settlement on the island before Europeans (sometime around 1421).
While it seemed to me like some of the similarities are striking (particularly the clothing patterns as compared to traditional Chinese dress) there isn't any of the evidence one might expect to find of human settlement. I tried looking on the internet for more evidence of Chinese settlement on the coast of Cape Breton but there was not much more then book reviews on the Seven Cities. That in itself raises questions about why archeologists haven't investigated further. Perhaps they know something that the author of the book is overlooking. It is also possible that the wheels of science turn slowly and there is lag time on exploring new ideas that run counter to what is commonly held knowledge. However, it seems like this would be an exciting avenue for further research if it was legitimated by artifacts of daily and industrial life as Chiasson is suggesting. It would also mean all but a few sparse accounts of the 'ruins' have been successfully covered up or 'forgotten' in both European and Chinese history, which doesn't seem likely.
In any case, it was interesting to wrap my mind around this possibility. I did think the similarities of dress and other cultural knowledge type evidence was compelling. It suggests that there was some kind of contact that little is known about but I doubt the scale of the settlement Chiasson claims. Now that it is on my radar, though sceptically, I will certainly keep my ears open to new information on the topic.
2 days ago