Filed under: Fact or Fiction?, Urban Legends, You Decide
Much as I appreciate a holiday in honor of Columbus, I’ve seen reports that he may be getting undeserved credit. So, who discovered America?
Annie in Montpelier
This is a subject steeped in considerable controversy.
There are those who contend that the real problem is, the whole thing is taught back-asswards. The truth of the matter is, as these contrarians see it, Native Americans discovered Europe. We’ll delve deeper into that matter in a bit, but first let’s have a look at some other contenders for the exploit attributed to Columbus.
It might be worth noting that boats without motors can be unpredictable vehicles. Over the vast expanse of human time, wouldn’t you suspect that a great many drifiting boats from afar inadvertently “discovered” America?
Further, there is the factor that might be called the macho double-dare. “Buddy, I’ll bet you ten conch shells and a bucket of whale blubber the world ain’t flat.” How many reckless young sailors set off to see what lay beyond the horizon?
And we can’t discount greed, the search for riches.
Lastly there is the incentive provided by barbaric hordes coming over the hill. How often in the violent history of mankind was it time to pack your shit and git, possibly sailing off for parts unknown?
The thing is, dang near everybody discovered America. A bit of research will reveal that, whatever your heritage, you can probably make a claim of relatedness to a discoverer of America.
So, lassie, there’s nae doot that the true discoverer was the Scot, Prince Henry Sinclair, in 1398. Sinclair led a fleet of fugitive Knights Templar who hauled their treasure to Oak Island, Nova Scotia, where it has defied diggers ever since. However, some soreheads say the tale is a modern myth based on a practical joke on the part of Venetian navigator Nicolò Zeno.
Well, if not the Scots then surely the Irish. Sure and begorrah, it was St. Brendan who made the journey in a very small boat called a currach, way back in the sixth century. As unlikely as the tale may sound, it has been demonstrated by re-creation of the journey that he could have made such a trip.
But we cannot ignore the legendary Prince Madoc ab Owain Gwynedd of Wales, who dropped by in the twelfth century. That claim has many adherents since put forward by Humphrey Llwyd in the sixteenth century. The voyage is discussed in a long out of print book, now available again.
Of course, everyone is well aware of discovery by the Vikings about 500 years ahead of Columbus. Considerable testimony and evidence exists, among the more prominent exhibits being the Vinland Map.
But all of this fails to take into account the evidence of ancient chicken bones. Chickens can’t fly, beyond a glorified hop, so it is assumed they arrived in South America with human help. That would indicate “discovery” by Polynesians.
And what about Africans? Well, most certainly they made the discovery, as the book They Came Before Columbus demonstrates. One reviewer tells us: “So complete was the Europeans falsification of history that several people, both black and white, will be shocked to know that there were historical, archaeological, even botanical evidence of Africans contact with the New World in Pre-Colombian times.”
Evidence includes the Bambara werewolf cult of Mali, whose chief is known as Amantigi and who appeared in Mexican rituals as Amanteca. “The ceremonies accompanying these rituals are too identical to have been independently evolved among peoples who have had no previous encounter.” More about these discoverers may be found on the “Africa Speaks” web site.
Information on multiple visits from African traders and priests comes from books by the late Rutgers professor, Ivan Van Sertima, notably the previously mentioned They Came Before Columbus. A listing of all Van Sertima’s books is provided on the Race and History web site.
Van Sertima’s scholarship is not universally accepted. In the book Faking History, Jason Colavito takes a dim view: “It’s painful to see that entire careers can be built on misunderstandings, fabrications, and lies just because no one ever bothered to check the sources.”
And, wouldn’t you know it, other discoverers came from the Middle East. Evidence of Phoenician exploration includes maps. Additionally, various Phoenician inscriptions and carved images dating back several thousand years have been found in a number of locations in the Americas. For example, Phoenician sailors who may have been in the service of Egyptians, Hebrews or Persians visited Brazil in ancient times.
Speaking of Egyptians, German researchers found evidence of cocaine and nicotine when examining mummies, substances they say were only found in the Americas of long ago.
But we can’t forget the Greeks. Clues mentioned by Italian physicist and philologist Lucio Russo include depictions of men with beards in Mayan texts. He takes that to indicate Greeks on the scene. Russo’s book is currently being translated into English.
Russo mentions that pineapples show up in some Roman paintings. While pineapples are generally thought to come from Hawaii or the Philippines, they originated in the area that is now southern Brazil and Paraguey. Roman discovery of the Americas was an argument used by Italian immigrants to speed up the process of becoming Brazilian citizens. In addition to Brazil, the Romans also visited Mexico, attested to by a small sculptured head identified by experts as Roman.
And, as you probably know, the Chinese made the discovery of America some 71 years ahead of Columbus.
But the Japanese also came calling, much earlier, blending with the Zuni according to quite a few anthropological findings.
A good case can be made for discovery by the Lost Tribes. There is a stone near Los Lunas, New Mexico, where the Ten Commandments were carved in ancient Hebrew, perhaps 2000 years ago though possibly as recently as 500.
There are many accounts of Jewish communities in the Andes, this one from Portuguese traveler Antonio Montezinos: “It was a thrilling journey I took in South America. Now that I am back in Amsterdam, I must share with you some incredible news. There is a Jewish Indian tribe living beyond the mountain passes of the Andes. Indeed, I myself heard them recite the She’ma (the expression of the Jewish faith) and saw them observe the Jewish rituals.”
This survey hardly scratches the surface of all the reports of early exploration by various different groups from afar. These range from possibly credible to incredibly fraudulent, with a vast middle ground that might be misunderstandings and mistakes.
An excellent source for strangeness in this area of study is Harvard professor Dr. Barry Fell. He never met an odd looking rock that didn’t provide evidence of exploration by one foreign group or another. He found inscriptions and other evidence of everyone from Arabs to Polynesians to Celts, as detailed in his book, America B.C..
Now about those Native Americans who discovered Europe. There have been many reports. The book, The American Discovery of Europe, by Jack Forbes, professor emeritus of Native American studies and anthropology, shows that Native American seafarers often visited Europe long before Columbus made his voyage. There are accounts of an appearance in what is now Holland during the Roman occupation, around 60 BC. A balanced review of this controversial book may be found on the H-Net web site.
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images: Photo by Andrew Howley
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