ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY.

ON THIS DAY in 1923, the famous archaeologist Sir Landon Ramboggle emerged from a dig outside Cockaponset, Connecticut, with the announcement that he had discovered startling new evidence of Chinese settlement in eastern North America. Sir Landon and his crew had been digging deeper and deeper, past early proto-Indian remains, in search of the first evidence of human habitation in eastern North America. So deep was this excavation, in fact, that the jocular locals had begun referring to it as “Ramboggle’s Big Old Hole in the Ground,” a joke whose meaning apparently depended on a long acquaintance with rural Connecticut customs. Sir Landon’s astonishment was complete, however, when he discovered pottery and other artifacts that could only have come from China of the Xia dynasty, the earliest period of Chinese imperial history. (For the sake of clarity, we use the currently fashionable transliterations of Chinese names in this article.)

How could ancient Chinese colonists have reached the shores of Connecticut four thousand years ago? The question was baffling, to be sure. Many vague traditions in Chinese history tell of long voyages by heroic Chinese mariners, but no one had ever suggested eastern North America as one of their destinations. Surely the Pacific coast rather than the Atlantic was more likely to attract Chinese settlers. Yet the artifacts, which were found in great abundance, spoke for themselves. They were well preserved and easily identified; they were simply thousands of miles from where they were supposed to be.

In the weeks that followed, the mystery deepened along with the excavation. In the next layer, beneath the Xia-dynasty artifacts, was a distinct layer of Shang-Dynasty artifacts. By all the laws of archaeology, older layers should be below more recent layers; but here the order was reversed. The next layer proved to be the even more recent Zhou Dynasty; then the Qin, and so on through the timeline of Chinese history, until, to his utter bafflement, Sir Landon was unearthing remains of the 1911 republican revolution.

The day after that most perplexing discovery, the diggers struck daylight, and at once the mystery was solved. Sir Landon had simply dug to China—an eventuality against which several of the locals recalled having warned him when he began digging. They appeared to be much amused, in their laconic and inscrutable New-Englandish way.

Sir Landon himself never worked again in the field of archaeology, but the fiasco, embarrassing though it was, did end with some benefit to him. The fashion for Chinese food was surging throughout North America, and the tunnel Sir Landon had dug proved a very useful conduit through which food could be delivered from giant manufactories in the Yangtze River valley for quick American distribution. By controlling the single source of supply for every Chinese takeout in North America, Sir Landon grew quite wealthy. He proved himself an able diplomat as well, and in spite of suspicion and hostility on both sides was able to negotiate a continuation of his exclusive contract with the new People’s Republic of China in 1949. The contract is still in force today, making the Ramboggle family the third-richest in the Western Hemisphere.