Pre-Columbian Contact with the New World

Mar 2017
3,238
United States
#1
Ever since the 1960 archaeological discovery of an 11th century Viking settlement at L 'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland, the possibility of additional instances of transoceanic Pre-Columbian contact with the New World has become a rather contentious issue in historical scholarship. While this is the only site widely accepted as evidence for Pre-Columbian contact, there is in fact a considerable body of evidence in the form of archaeological artifacts, mysterious structures, and old documents which are certainly worthy of further investigation, and may in fact call into question the currently accepted historical narrative. It is true that much of the evidence usually cited as "proof" of previously undocumented trans-oceanic contact between the Old World and the New is dubious, with some out right hoaxes. The field has also been tainted, hopefully not irredeemably so, by a cadre of charlatans hoping to make a fast buck through book sales and television "documentaries."

However, in spite of being a field marred by cranks and hoaxes, there remains some evidence which cannot be so easily explained away. Evidence from the Polynesian islands in particular has convinced even some scholars.

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00223340120049442

For example, sweet potatoes, which are indigenous to South America, were grown abundantly in Polynesia when the first European explorers arrived during the 18th century. Additional evidence in the form of chicken bones discovered during archaeological excavations in Chile may form another tangible link between Polynesia and pre-Columbian South America. The bones which were radiocarbon dated to between 1321 and 1407 are thought to be linked genetically to chickens found in the South Pacific islands.

Speculation about ancient Chinese contact with the Americas is also common. Evidence for this which is often presented by proponents of this theory includes the 5th century AD testimony of Buddhist missionaries led by Hui Shen, who claimed to have traveled to a location which he called "Fusang." The fact that ancient Chinese mapmakers placed this region on the Asian coast has not deterred proponents, who often cite perceived similarities between the coastline of California and Fusang as described by Hui Shen. The British historian Gavin Menzies has also made the controversial claim that the fabled Chinese treasure fleet led by the legendary Admiral Zheng He arrived along the western coast of North America in 1421. For evidence, he cites old Chinese maps which allegedly depict the North American coastline, as well as certain linguistic terms which he claims are shared by the Han Chinese and local Amerindian populations.

https://web.archive.org/web/20070317044419/http://www.csicop.org/sb/2004-09/tales.html

Perhaps even more convincing, was the apparent discovery of an ancient Roman shipwreck off the coast of Brazil containing a large cache of amphora. While I personally find the most likely explanation for the presence of this remarkable ship to be that proposed by Dr. Romeo Hristov who suggests a Roman cargo ship was caught in the West African current and drifted to South America, the possibility that it was a voyage of exploration cannot entirely be ruled out, however ever improbable it may be.

There is also the early medieval Irish legend of St. Brendan and his voyage across the Western Ocean in search of paradise. Some theorize that he may in fact have described North America. The successful recreation of St. Brendan's voyage by the experimental archaeologist Tim Severin, who in 1977 crossed the Atlantic to North America in an authentic Irish Currach, perhaps lends strong credence to such claims. At the very least it demonstrates that it would have been possible for the 5th century Irish to reach North America.

There are many other examples of ancient and medieval peoples who it is claimed reached the New World before Columbus, some more convincing than others. I have started this thread in the hope of initiating a sober and scholarly discussion of the archaeological, historical, and linguistic evidence for pre-Columbian transoceanic contact with the New World. Personally, I am agnostic on the issue. I neither wholeheartedly embrace claims of pre-Columbian contact (excepting of course for the aforementioned Viking settlement), nor will I dismiss such claims off-hand. However, I do believe that the evidence for pre-Columbian contact is sufficient enough that further investigation is both a valid and necessary pursuit.

One final note before we begin this discussion. While my historical interests are quite omnivorous, and I have recently developed a strong interest in the possibility of pre-Columbian contact, I am far from being an expert on the subject. I am primarily a specialist in ancient Egyptian history and archaeology, with a considerable background in the history and archaeology of the greater ancient Near East and Mediterranean. Perhaps other members of this forum will have greater insights into the possibility of pre-Columbian contact. And it is my hope that this becomes a lively thread where the evidence from both sides of the debate can be presented in a civil and scholarly manner.
 
Last edited:

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
5,104
Portugal
#4
Your mention to Dr. Romeo Hristov made me think that I had already had read about him and forget most of it. I made a quick net research, remembered something, and found this online paper: http://www.unm.edu/~rhristov/ArqueologiaMexicana.pdf (in Spanish).

His studies are somewhat controversial, and in the edge of the Academia, but sometimes someone has to risk his reputation in this kind of projects.
 
Mar 2017
3,238
United States
#5
Your mention to Dr. Romeo Hristov made me think that I had already had read about him and forget most of it. I made a quick net research, remembered something, and found this online paper: http://www.unm.edu/~rhristov/ArqueologiaMexicana.pdf (in Spanish).

His studies are somewhat controversial, and in the edge of the Academia, but sometimes someone has to risk his reputation in this kind of projects.
I agree. Unfortunately, I do not read Spanish. Do you know if the article can be found in either English or German?
 

Frank81

Ad Honorem
Feb 2010
4,983
Canary Islands-Spain
#7
The account on Malian expeditions is particularly interesting, according to al-Omari, in words of Mansa Musa:

The ruler who preceded me did not believe that it was impossible to reach the extremity of the ocean that encircles the earth (meaning the Atlantic): he wanted to reach that (end) and was determined to pursue his plan.

So he equipped two hundred boats full of men, and many others full of gold, water and provisions sufficient for several years. He ordered the captain not to return until they had reached the other end of the ocean, or until he had exhausted the provisions and water. So they set out on their journey. They were absent for a long period, and, at last just one boat returned. When questioned the captain replied: 'O Prince, we navigated for a long period, until we saw in the midst of the ocean a great river which flowing massively. My boat was the last one; others were ahead of me, and they were drowned in the great whirlpool and never came out again. I sailed back to escape this current.'

But the Sultan would not believe him. He ordered two thousand boats to be equipped for him and his men, and one thousand more for water and provisions. Then he conferred the regency on me for the term of his absence, and departed with his men, never to return nor to give a sign of life.


 
Last edited:
Mar 2017
3,238
United States
#9
The account on Malian expeditions is particularly interesting, according to al-Omari, in words of Mansa Musa:

The ruler who preceded me did not believe that it was impossible to reach the extremity of the ocean that encircles the earth (meaning the Atlantic): he wanted to reach that (end) and was determined to pursue his plan.

So he equipped two hundred boats full of men, and many others full of gold, water and provisions sufficient for several years. He ordered the captain not to return until they had reached the other end of the ocean, or until he had exhausted the provisions and water. So they set out on their journey. They were absent for a long period, and, at last just one boat returned. When questioned the captain replied: 'O Prince, we navigated for a long period, until we saw in the midst of the ocean a great river which flowing massively. My boat was the last one; others were ahead of me, and they were drowned in the great whirlpool and never came out again. I sailed back to escape this current.'

But the Sultan would not believe him. He ordered two thousand boats to be equipped for him and his men, and one thousand more for water and provisions. Then he conferred the regency on me for the term of his absence, and departed with his men, never to return nor to give a sign of life.


That is a very interesting account. The medieval Islamic civilizations of the Near East and Africa produced a great many merchants and explorers. It wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility to suggest they may have had occasional contact with the Americas. Further investigation is needed.

Interestingly, the stone heads of the Mesoamerican Olmec civilization do contain certain African features. This is considered by some as evidence for an African origin for the Olmecs.
 

martin76

Ad Honorem
Dec 2014
6,245
Spain
#10
What I say....Colon arrived to America because he bought a ticket to a tour-operator... that the reason because Pizarro-Almagro-Cortes-Valdivia-de Soto-Coronado-etc etc found lot of vikings, irish, swedish, italian, chinese, Poles Kenyatan and Mauritian in North-Central-and South America when they arrived there....

Nothing as to inmigrate to USA to invent a history to say you discover America... but the FACT.. the only FACT.. when spaniards arrived to Ohio or to Kentucky.. they found...not even one viking.....
 

Similar History Discussions