Sunday Telegraph - December 12th 1999
are preparing to celebrate the 1,000 years since Leif Ericsson
sailed to the New World from Greenland. However, the idea that
Norsemen were the first to reach America by sea is widely contested.
instance, Mark McMenamin, a professor of geography and geology
at Mount Holyoke College, Massachusetts, is convinced that the
Carthaginians discovered America between 350 and 320 BC. In
an issue of the Numismatic magazine, and at a meeting
of the American Friends of Tunisia Association last May, he
interpreted a series of puzzling gold coins of that period as
depictions of the known world, which includes a land mass to
the west of Spain.
on ancient trade routes believe that the Carthaginians reached
the coast of Brazil; Punic amphorae have been found underwater
in a bay near Rio de Janeiro and 4th century BC Punic coins
have been excavated at seven sites in the eastern United States.
archaeological finds offer a riot of anomalies, including ancient
coins and many epigraphic puzzles. The Bat Creek Stone from
Tennessee bears a Hebrew inscription said to date from about
the second century AD; an inscription found near Philadelphia
and dated to 800-600 BC seems to be in Basque.
maverick historian Farley Mowat has just published The Farfarers:
Before the Norse, in which he argues that the first Europeans
to reach America were Albans who set off from the
north of Scotland in the 8th century AD in search of walrus
ivory. The 78-year-old Canadian author maintains that the remains
of long houses far above the tree-line in northern Quebec were
built by these immigrants. His 36 books on the life, history
and ecology of North America have sold 15 million copies, and
he shrugs off the scorn of conventional historians.
suggests that America has long been visited both across the
Atlantic and the Pacific. The earliest human remains yet discovered
in the New World, the skeleton of a young woman found in Brazil
and carbon-dated to 11,500 years, shows distinct Australoid
features, while the 9,300-year-old Kennewick Man from Washington
State most closely resembles Polynesians of the South Pacific.
August Xinhua, the Chinese press agency, reported that similarities
between almost 300 markings found on pottery, jade and stone
at unspecified ancient native sites in central America closely
resemble 3,000-year-old Shang dynasty characters for the sun,
sky, rain water, crops, tress and stars. American and Chinese
pictographs in 56 matching sets were shown to senior academics
at a symposium in Anyang, former capital of the Shang dynasty.
impressive similarities add fuel to theories that Chinese arrived
in the Americas before the end of the Shang dynasty in 221 BC.
Shang legends state that a king led his people on a journey
to the east, with some historians believing that he took them
across the Bering Strait to North America.
Chinese classic, the Shan Hai King of about 2250 BC,
contains what seems to be an accurate description of the Grand
Canyon. Peanuts and maize have been found at ancient Chinese
sites dating back to 3000BC. The orthodox view is that neither
of these plants left their native America before their export
by European colonists in 16th century AD.
AD 499, a Chinese monk, Hui Shen, returned to China claiming
to have spent 40 years in the land of Fu Sang. He
left a record of the country he visited, which has been recorded
in official histories a land thought by some modern scholars
to be ancient Mexico.
there is the 3,000-year-old pottery found on the Valdivian coast
of Ecuador, decorated and incised in exactly the same way as
pottery from the Jomon area of Japan, and not preceded in Ecuador
by plainer and simpler bowls and urns.
Sieveking is editor of Fortean Times.