Photo EssayAt the Dandalos Hotel in Karacasu, near the ruins of Aphrodisias in southwest Turkey, I was surprised to come across this 8-foot-high translucent image of a bygone Native American chief.

Native American chief wall hanging at the Dandalos Hotel in southwest Turkey, (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

Perhaps I shouldn’t have been so surprised, since I’ve seen plenty of other images of Native Americana in Istanbul — including a garishly “sexy” Native outfit on a very skinny mannequin in the window of a clothing store in Galatasaray. Why all the Native American stuff?

Several Turks have since told me that they identify or feel kinship with Native Americans because they share a common ancestry, via the Bering Land Bridge and the Central Asian Turko-Mongol tribes who made their migrations across it a good 10,000 years before Christianity got started:

A study published in 2007 in PLoS Genetics, led by University of Michigan andUniversity College London researchers, suggests that the Bering land bridge migration occurred 12,000 years ago, that every human who migrated across the land bridge came from Eastern Siberia, and that every Native American directly descends from that same group of Eastern Siberian migrants. The authors note that a “[u]nique genetic variant widespread in natives across both continents suggests that the first humans in the Americas came in a single migration or multiple waves from a single source, not in waves of migrations from different sources”.

Today I saw a guitar player busking on Istiklal in an outfit meant to look like a North American native costume, but the man looked an awfully lot like a man I’d seen playing in a Peruvian flute band on Istiklal the day before, in traditional Andean clothing. (Note: All brown-skinned indigenous people do not look the same to me.)

Anyway. You cannot escape the flute players from the Andes. They may well be in every city in the world. If I flew to McMurdo Station in Antarctica, I would not be surprised to encounter an Andean flute ensemble playing the cafeteria.

Antarctica may look like outer space in the trailer above, for Werner Herzog’s brilliant Encounters at the End of the World, but Andean flute players will surely be the first musical act in actual outer space, where they will likely be comforted by the presence of the ancient Incan superfood, quinoa, which is well on its way to becoming the Official “Grain” of Long-Duration Manned Space Flight.


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