University of California-Berkeley linguist Kathryn Klar and Terry Jones, an archeologist at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, acknowledge their contention will not sit well with others who have studied the question -- given that the idea had already been kicked around five decades ago and rejected as not supported by facts.
Jones told the Los Angeles Times he was slow to accept it too -- but after scouring evidence for the last five years, he thinks Polynesians visited the California coast centuries before Europeans got there.
"I didn't believe it myself for the first year or two and didn't talk publicly about it until the year after that," said Jones. "For at least 50 years, this whole idea has been considered unthinkable."
It still is, if you ask Brian Fagan, a professor emeritus of anthropology at UC Santa Barbara.
"I flatly won't accept it," said Fagan. "It's a wonderful, bold theory, and I admire them for putting it out. But I don't think it's supportable at the moment."
Jones and Klar reported their findings in the journal American Antiquity.
Notable deaths of 2014 [PHOTOS]