While you may think that this post is silly, as everyone and their grandmother knows who discovered America. The famous rhyme says it all, in 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue. Duh! Well what do you say we take a look at some of the facts behind this claim.
The following is undisputed. Christopher Columbus, an Italian Explorer, with the backing of the Spanish King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella set sail across the Atlantic in search of riches. On October 12, 1492 Columbus landed on San Salvador island in the Caribbean. There is not a person that would argue with these facts, as they are well documented as well as proven to be accurate. However, there is a mound of proof that Columbus was not the first European, or foreigner to reach the shores of America. There is evidence to suggest that he was not even close. So if that is the case then who truly discovered America, and why do we give him credit that is arguable not deserved? Let’s take a look at some other civilizations that have laid claim to the discover of American and the possible reasons why they have not gotten the recognition they deserve.
There was a group of people that landed in America almost 500 years before Columbus, which is also well documented. We know this because they left behind many of their structures as well as other artifacts. I am sure many of you can remember the name Leif Erikson, the famed Viking explorer. That’s right the brutish and violent civilization actually beat Columbus to the Americas by nearly 500 years. While Erikson was credited with landing in America, he was not the first to set eyes upon it. In fact he found out about “land west of Greenland” from another Viking sailor named Bjarni Herjólfsson who claimed to have seen land when his ship was blown off course. While many have given credit to Erikson as the true discoverer of America, the Vikings failed to establish a permanent colony there for whatever reason. That is probably the main reason that no credit is given to Erikson as the true discoverer of America.
With that being said what if I told you that there was evidence of yet another civilization calming to have discovered America almost 100 years before Columbus’s famed voyage? There some decent evidence, albeit speculative, that suggests the Chinese were among the first to discover and map America, even making it as far East as the Grand Canyon. In the book 1421: The Year China Discovered the World by Gavin Menzies, he claims to have proof, mostly circumstantial, that the Chinese were also the first to discover America as well as quite a few other feats such as circumvent the globe before Megallan did. The basis of his argument comes from a map that he claims to have been drawn well before the Columbus voyage in 1492. This map details the West coast of America along with many detailed rivers, there is even a reference to the Grand Canyon.
There are many historians that say that Menzies’s book is complete nonsense and that there is no evidence to suggest that any Chinese explorers made it to America. I have also read that Chinese ships used giant boulders with a hole in them as anchors, and many of these can be found in the shallow waters off the West coast. But it is also known that this same method was used well into the 1800’s, so it is hard to determine the age of such a stone. Regardless, Menzies does have some interesting points and does have a few facts to back it up, but the without the proof of hard evidence it’s hard to say that this is a viable theory.
Still there is another claim that an individual well before Columbus discovered America. There is a legend of a Scottish nobleman making a journey to the new world. His name was Henry I Sinclair, Earl of Orkney. You may recognize this name from the famous novel by Dan Brown The Da Vinci Code which details this journey as the way the Holy Grail was transported to the America. As for that bit of speculation I think there is little to no evidence to support that claim. However, there is again somewhat circumstantial, evidence that this trip did take place, whether or not he had the Grail is a whole other issue. There are very few details about the life of Henry I Sinclair which again makes this debate a rather difficult one. There are claims that letters that were published in the 1700’s detailing the voyage that took place around the 1400’s. The authenticity of the letters are in question by many historians. What I do think is interesting is that a chapel was constructed in Rosslyn, Scotland (this chapel was also used in The Da Vinci Code) that some claim depict carvings of plants only found in America. This is again somewhat of a “see what you want” or “eye of the beholder” type deal. I will say that the symbols do look like corn, which is not native to Europe, which would lead one to believe that St. Claire traveled to America saw corn and returned and eventually the carvings in the chapel were based on his description. But again there is little evidence to suggest this actually happened.
There are still other civilizations that have claimed to have discovered America. This Wikipedia article covers a few of the more obscure ones. I have for the most part heard of most of these claims before, although I think the most interesting and most plausible are the Chinese, Japanese, and the Polynesian cultures could have, not easily, but realistically traveled to North America with their technology. However, the one I find possibly the most fascinating and a civilization that I had no idea that was linked with the discover of the new world, is the Romans.
While this may seem strange and could certainly pass as a wild conspiracy theory, I did find there some very plausible evidence to suggest that some Romans did make the journey to discover America. From the article:
“The ceremonial sword came out of that shipwreck. It is 100 per cent confirmed as Roman. I began my forensic work into it using an XRF analyser – which is a leading archaeological tool for analysing metals. And we found all these other metals that tell you this was made from ore that came directly from the ground. It has the same arsenic and lead signature in it. We’ve been able to test this sword against another one like it and it matches.”
The discovery of these artifacts was found in the waters around the infamous Oak Island. I do not want to get into that mess, as that would warrant a post all on its own, but I will say that this discover does add another layer of mystery to the mystique the surrounds Oak Island. (In case you were wondering, this is where there is believed to be a great treasure hidden. Like, either the Holy Grail, Ark of the Covenant or just a large quantity of riches.) So, if these artifacts are indeed authentic, then is it safe to say that the Romans did indeed discover America, and did so well before anyone else. The only thing that irks me is that, the Roman civilization was well documented. This is one of the reasons we know so much about their culture. So I would imagine that a discover of a new land would certainly make it into their records. On the flip side, if this was the only ship, and it sank of the coast of Oak Island, it is plausible to think that there were no survivors and not one to tell the story of the newly discovered land. I can see both sides.
I would have to argue that the Romans did discover America, how else to you explain the artifact. I suppose it is also plausible that a ship perhaps of the 1700 or 1800’s was carrying these things and sank off the coast of Oak Island. That could account for them, but I am not sure why a 1700’s ship would have these things and be in North America? Certainly odd.
The problem is that Columbus, right or wrong, is always going to get the credit. Mainly because he was the only one to actually establish contact with the locals and return with a well-documented journey as well as set up permanent establishments. All of these things no one else did that was mentioned above. He was also the first to get widespread credit during his life, and have it well documented. For those reasons, again right or wrong, Columbus will always get the credit.
I do not necessarily agree with giving him all the credit however, I think there should be an asterisk or something next to his name in the history books. I think it is safe to say that he did not and was not the first to discover America, just the first to establish contact. Honestly I do not think it matters, but I do think it is silly to have a day celebrating a man who was not the first to do something he is celebrated for.