The story of the discovery of the New World is one that is steeped in controversy and debate. While Christopher Columbus is often credited with being the first European to discover the Americas, many historians argue that this is a gross oversimplification of the true history of the discovery. In fact, there is evidence to suggest that the first people to discover the New World were not Europeans at all, but rather the ancient peoples of the Mediterranean, including the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and even the Muslims.
It is important to acknowledge that many of the so-called “European discoveries” throughout history were not actual discoveries for the whole of mankind (or the whole world), but merely discoveries that have reached the ignorant Europeans that are, or have been known to the rest of the world before it came to Europe. As a result of the Europeans’ desperation to catch up to the civilized peoples of the world, their so-called explorers, colonizers, and scientists claimed credit for what had already been discovered and known by other cultures. The practice of Europeans stealing credit for the discoveries and innovations of other cultures, particularly those of the Muslim world, is a longstanding issue. In another article, I’ll be writing a detailed account of this intriguing subject.
When it comes to the discovery of the Americas, it is crucial to consider the political motivations of the European powers at the time. The Papal States, a dominant political entity in Europe during the so-called “renaissance”, had a vested interest in claiming the discovery of the Americas as their own in order to claim “new” land for Catholicism, to justify the extermination of the native populations, and to seize the known wealth and resources that lied further west. Their desire for this claim of discovery was likely influenced by their knowledge of early Muslim texts detailing the discoveries already made in the Americas, particularly Mas’udi’s manuscripts.
Furthermore, it is essential to recognize that the term “renaissance” is often (and should only be) used to refer to a cultural and intellectual awakening in Europe alone; other cultures and civilizations around the world had already been experiencing their own “renaissances” for centuries before the Europeans. To many civilizations, their ages of enlightenment were subsequent and consistent, and not limited to a certain, individual period in an era from the pages of history. And so, the European “renaissance” should not be viewed as a collective or global event, but rather as a cultural and intellectual awakening in Europe, for they have been asleep since time and memorial.
What’s even worse is that their so-called renaissance took them many steps backward as they pursued the advancement (as well as the general understanding) of sciences and other areas of knowledge and wisdom by abandoning the belief in God from every aspect of these understandings. Perhaps this was their way to minimize the level of plagiarism at the time, or perhaps not, since most of the Islamic knowledge throughout the centuries that preceded the so-called European renaissance was presented alongside a solid, comprehensive, and logical understanding that was compatible with the belief in God, for God, may He be glorified and exalted, is the Creator of all things, and all created things can be understood better with the acknowledgment of the Almighty as one of the primary factors when it comes to the study of any context.
It is also important to consider the historical context of the Iberian Christians concerning the discovery of the Americas. For centuries, the Iberian Christians have been actively erasing traces of Andalusian culture and history, including architecture, names of localities, and other cultural remnants; until recently, even the content found on Andalusian manuscripts was not widely shown to the public eye. Given this history of erasure, censorship, and intentional denial, it is not difficult to imagine that they would also devise a fraudulent claim of explorative discoveries to take credit for themselves, while further erasing the contributions of Andalusian and other non-European peoples in Iberia and in the so-called New World.
Once again, it is crucial, absolutely crucial, to acknowledge the fact that the history of Europe is full of examples of intellectual, cultural, and academic thefts that were perpetuated by the Europeans themselves over the past centuries. This is a topic that deserves further exploration in another article where the details of these thefts can be examined in more depth, which as I mentioned, I shall, God willing, write about it in a separate article once I have gathered all the relevant data.
Before I get into the story of Khashkhaash, it’s important to note that the Vikings, who were also seafaring warriors from Scandinavia, had already been traveling and exploring the North Atlantic for centuries before Columbus. They were the first “Europeans” to discover Iceland, then Greenland, and eventually Newfoundland, and there is evidence to suggest that they may have even reached as far south as the eastern coast of North America.
The truth is, the discovery of the New World is a complex and nuanced story that cannot be attributed to a single individual or civilization. Throughout history, there have been many daring explorers, seafaring nations, and ancient peoples who have ventured into the unknown, and many of them likely made contact with the indigenous civilizations of the Americas. The discovery of the New World is most certainly not a European story, but a story of human curiosity and exploration that spans the globe for many centuries.
A Cordoban’s Journey
Diving deep into our current subject, one particularly intriguing figure in the history of the discovery of the New World is Khashkhaash ibn Saeed, an Andalusian adventurer who is believed to have made a daring trip west of the Iberian continent after a perilous journey.
For years, modern historians have debated the question of whether or not Muslims preceded Christopher Columbus in reaching Latin America. Recent research and study conducted in Latin America by scholars Abdul-Hadi Barazorto and Daniel Denton have provided compelling evidence to suggest that this may indeed be the case.
In a lecture at the University of California, the researchers presented similarities in the ways of life practiced by the indigenous red-skinned natives and the Aztecs, with those of Muslims. This evidence, combined with historical texts like “The Butterfly of History Change” by Ibrahim Ali and “Gardens of Gold and Mines of Gems” by Al-Mas’udi, has led some historians to believe that Arab Muslims may have reached America as much as 500 years before Columbus.
One of the key pieces of evidence cited is the brief account of the Muslim adventurer Al-Khashkhash ibn Saeed ibn Aswad whom I mentioned earlier. The historical source states that he had sailed on a voyage with his companions across the “Sea of Darkness” in 889 CE.
According to Al-Mas’udi (full name Abu al-Hasan Ali ibn al-Husayn al-Mas’udi), Al-Khashkhash and his crew found valuable mines and precious metals on this voyage, which are believed to be in the Americas. Khashkhash was originally from the Andalusian region of what is now Beit Shaina in Spain. His journey to the Americas began in the port of Al-Walidah, also known as Palos de la Frontera in Spanish. This port, located in the southern region of Iberia, has a rich history steeped in maritime work and geographical discoveries. Is it, or is it not a coincidence that this is the same port from which Christopher Columbus set sail during his first voyage to discover the Americas?
Taken together, this evidence paints a compelling picture of a history in which Muslims may have played a much more significant role in the discovery and exploration of the Americas than previously thought. It raises important questions about how we understand and interpret the past and highlights the need for further research and study in this area.
The Academics Say Their Piece
In February 1998, archaeologist Jorge Diaz made a groundbreaking discovery in a cave in southern Matanzas, Cuba. Among the remains he found was possibly that of Khashkhash ibn Saeed. The remains were of a man who had died of scurvy and was buried with a coin from the 9th century CE, providing solid evidence of this claim. However, al-Mas’udi’s account reports that Khashkhaash returned to Al-Andalus safely after being away for a long time. Could he have ventured to the Americas more than once, leading to his ultimate death by scurvy on the island of modern-day Cuba?
But Diaz’s discovery wasn’t the first of its kind. In the late 18th century, a ceramic jar containing around 6,000 ancient coins was discovered on the eastern coast of Venezuela. The majority of the coins were Roman, dating back to the 4th century CE, but there were also Islamic coins from the 8th century CE. These coins were obtained by the military attaché of the United States embassy in Venezuela, Berkely Louis, who later worked for the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.
Maritime archaeologist Mandel L. Peterson was intrigued by this discovery and studied the coins brought back by Louis. In a letter to Paul G. Wiley, Peterson stated that he intended to publish a report on the discovery as soon as he finished studying the coins. However, it is believed that this report was lost, forgotten, or overlooked, and it remains unknown to this day.
Peterson noted in the same letter that the coins were damaged by corrosion and salt, but they were still suitable for study and identification. The presence of Islamic coins from the 8th century, in addition to the Roman coins, led Peterson to believe that the coins were from a shipwreck that occurred after the issuance of the latest coin. This evidence, combined with the fact that the discovery includes many similar and repeated coins, which reduces the possibility that it is a hidden or lost or buried ancient coin collection in recent times or after the arrival of Christopher Columbus, leads Peterson to believe that the coins were lost in a shipwreck on the Venezuelan coast in the 8th or 9th century.
This discovery, along with Diaz’s discovery in Matanzas, provides even more compelling evidence that Muslims may have actually reached America before Columbus did, and highlights the need for further research and study in this area. The idea of a lost shipwreck from the 8th or 9th century containing both Roman and Islamic coins raises many intriguing questions about the history of exploration and trade in the Americas.
The discovery of a trove of ancient coins in Venezuela has sparked the imagination of historians and archaeologists around the world. Among the roughly 6,000 coins found, many of them date back to the post-Roman era when coins were sometimes used even after the fall of the power that issued them.
Theodore Erzli Gordon, a renowned archaeologist, has studied the discovery in depth and believes that it is likely related to lost money from an Andalusian ship that arrived in Venezuela in the 9th century. This theory is supported by the writings of historian and geographer Abu al-Hasan Ali ibn al-Husayn ibn Ali al-Mas’udi, who wrote about this possibility in his book “Maruj al-Dhahab wa Ma’adin al-Jawhar”.
According to some scholars and historians, Columbus himself may have used Al-Masudi’s maps when he reached America, and Gordon believes that it is possible that a crew member of Khashkhash ibn Sa’id ibn Aswad’s ship may have reached Venezuela and been lost in an accident, with the coins being discovered centuries later.
These theories add an exciting new layer to our understanding of the ancient world and the interconnectedness of different cultures and civilizations. The discovery of these coins not only sheds light on trade and commerce in ancient times but also on the credibility of all the historical accounts and claims regarding pre-Columbian transatlantic contact. It is a reminder that the past is always full of surprises and that there is still so much more to be discovered and understood, regardless of what the “mainstream” narrative dictates. It is also a call to continue to dig in, to question assumptions, and to seek out new evidence that challenges our current understanding of the world, especially the understanding that’s being shoved into our faces by the same bunch that have been throwing a whole bunch of lies and rubbish at us since time and memorial.
Even More Discoveries
The aforementioned modern discoveries are not the only evidence that suggests pre-Columbian transatlantic contact. In February 1998, archaeologist Thor Heyerdahl made a shocking discovery in a cave at Lagoa Santa, Brazil. He found the skull of a man who had died of syphilis, a disease that was unknown in the Americas before the arrival of Christopher Columbus. This man died in the 9th century CE, which coincides with the journey of Khashkhash ibn Sa’id to America. This discovery adds yet another layer to the growing body of evidence in our argument.
According to Louisa Isabel Alberts de Toledo, author of the book Africa versus America, many different groups of people, including Afar, Fennec, Seltic Arawak, Basketo, Inca, and Muslims from Europe, reached the American continent before Columbus.
De Toledo argues that the journey from Andalusia and Morocco to America was relatively easy and could be completed in just a month or so. She claims that Muslim traders peacefully traded with the original inhabitants of the Americas without the need for occupation or oppression, unlike some folk (no names mentioned!). These Islamic trade relations continued for a long time until the arrival of Europeans, who, in the name of the Catholic church, destroyed much of the rich cultural heritage of the original civilizations of America, along with any tangible evidence pertaining to pre-Columbian voyages, particularly that of Muslim voyages.
Nonetheless, it is important to approach this discovery of a 9th-century skull with a critical eye. It is well-documented that throughout history and to this day, Muslims have been among the purest populations to ever exist, with hygiene being an essential priority among their many positive, healthy habits. Additionally, the 9th century was a prime time for Viking exploration, making it quite possible that this skull belonged to a Viking individual, rather than a Muslim. It is known that Vikings engaged in unsavory sexual practices, such as homosexuality among men, which could have been the source of a rare disease like syphilis in that era. Medieval Scandinavian societies tolerated homosexuality among men as long as they maintained a dominant, masculine role, as evidenced by Viking sagas and law codes. Therefore, while this discovery is intriguing, it should be approached with a healthy dose of skepticism and further investigation.
Al-Mas’udi’s Mention of Khashkhaash ibn Saeed
“It was the sea of darkness, green and vast. It is said that the lighthouse is not on this strait, but on an island in the Mediterranean Sea, near the coast of the Strait of Gibraltar. Some people believe that this sea is the origin of all the waters of the seas. It has strange stories that we have come across in our book, “Stories of Time”, from those who have ventured into it, those who have survived, and those who have been lost, and what they have seen and witnessed. One of them was a man from Andalusia, called Khashkhash, who was one of the young men of Cordoba, and his adventures. He gathered a group of people and set sail in boats prepared for this vast sea. They disappeared in it and returned with abundant treasures. His story is well known among the people of Andalusia.”
وهو بحر الظلمات والأخضر والمحيط وقد قيل إن المنارة على غير هذا الزقاق، بل في جزير من جزائر بحر أوقيانوس المحيط وسواحله. وقد ذهب قوم إلى أن هذا البحر أصل ماء سائر البحار، وله أخبار عجيبة قد أتينا على ذكرها في كتابنا أخبار الزمان في أخبار من غرر وخاطر بنفسه في ركوبه، ومن نجا منهم، ومن تلف، وما شاهدوا منه، وما رأوا، وأن منهم رجلا من أهل الأندلس يقال له خشخاش، وكان من فتيان قرطبة وأحداثها فجمع جماعة من أحداثها، وركب بهم مراكب استعدها في هذا البحر المحيط، فغاب فيه محة ثم انثنى بغنائم واسعة، وخبره مشهور عند أهل الأندلس وبين هذه المنارة المنصوبة
Miscellaneous Pre-Columbian Claims
The idea that there was another continent beyond the Atlantic Ocean was well-known and widely accepted before the voyages of Christopher Columbus. This belief was particularly prevalent among people of culture and science. Dr. Atilio Folierto, a Professor of International Economic Relations at the Bolivarian Military University of Venezuela, also believes that the American continent was depicted by several geographers, cartographers, and navigators long before Columbus’ first voyage. One example is the German geographer Henricus Martellus, who lived in Italy and created a map in 1489 CE that clearly shows the American continent and even some of its rivers, such as the Orinoco. The New World also appears on the maps of Andrea Bianco and the Spercheios, which date back to 1448, and on the map of the Italian world navigator Paolo Toscanelli. This suggests that the idea of land across the Atlantic was not a new concept, but rather one that had been circulating for quite some time among those in the fields of cartography and navigation.
So, as we come to conclude this argument, we have seen how, throughout the ages, explorers from all parts of the globe have dreamed of setting sail and discovering distant lands. For centuries, the New World remained shrouded in mystery and speculation, and many believed that no one had ever made contact with its inhabitants before the ungodly, bloodthirsty Christopher Columbus. However, in recent decades, a lot of evidence has surfaced that suggests otherwise. These pre-Columbian transoceanic contact theories include evidence such as the presence of domesticated plants and animals in the Americas prior to Columbus’s arrival, the existence of written records and oral histories, and even archaeological discoveries made in the past few decades.
Some of the most convincing evidence comes from mitochondrial DNA studies, which have concluded that some Native American groups descended from East Asians. Although this theory has been met with some criticism, it is widely accepted as a viable explanation for the origins of certain Native American tribes. Other theories include the possibility of Asian, African, or European exploration and contact before Columbus, based on the presence of African artifacts in the Americas, as well as the discovery of countless artifacts in North, Central, and South America. In the section below, I’ll be jotting down most of these widely-known theories (listed in alphabetical order).
The Carthaginians were renowned for their immense wealth and knowledge of a vast island located in the Atlantic Ocean. It was here that they sourced their wealth while keeping its location a closely guarded secret. Evidence of their presence in the Americas has been discovered through artifacts such as pottery, copper and bronze tools, weapons, and inscriptions which have been found in Canada, the United States, Paraguay, Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina. In addition, Isphora flasks with lugs and narrow necks, typically used by the Carthaginians, were also discovered across the Americas, dating back to the period between 350 and 320 BCE.
Adding to this evidence, a map was discovered on a Phoenician gold coin found in Carthage, which was dated back to 320-350 BCE. The map depicted the Mediterranean, Europe, Britain, Asia, and the Americas. Initially, the shapes at the bottom of the map were thought to be Phoenician letters, but American scientist Mark Maminamen revealed that it was actually a map of the ancient world according to the Carthaginians. This further illustrates that the Carthaginians had a much more expansive knowledge and reach than previously assumed. These discoveries have changed our understanding of the extent of the Carthaginians’ power and influence in the ancient world.
Traces of coca and nicotine found in Egyptian mummies have sparked speculation of Ancient Egyptian contact with the Americas. German toxicologist Svetlana Balabanova made the initial discovery while examining the mummy of a priestess named Henut Taui. Follow-up tests on hair shafts, to rule out contamination, yielded the same results. Balabanova suggests the tobacco may have also been known in China and Europe, as indicated by tests on human remains from those regions. She proposes that such plants may have developed independently, but have since gone extinct. Skeptical of Balabanova’s findings, Rosalie David of the Manchester Museum had similar tests performed on samples from their mummy collection, which also tested positive for nicotine.
“Mainstream” scholars, however, remain skeptical of the idea that Ancient Egyptians had contact with the Americas, citing the possibility of Old World sources of cocaine and nicotine. Two attempts to replicate Balabanova’s findings on cocaine failed, leading to questions about the validity of her results. The discovery of tobacco leaves in the mummy of Ramesses II in the 1970s also sparked controversy, with investigator Maurice Bucaille noting that the mummy had been moved multiple times and it was no longer possible to determine the origin of the material found inside. A study in the journal Antiquity suggested that reports of both tobacco and cocaine in mummies ignored their post-excavation histories and pointed out the potential contamination sources.
The similarities between the Aztecs and Phoenicians are remarkable, hinting at a deep connection between the two civilizations. When the Spanish conquistadors arrived in Mexico, they were gifted with charts of the harbors on the coast by the Aztec leader Montezuma. This is remarkably similar to the Phoenician tradition of surveying the harbors they traded with, as recorded by the ancient historian Herodotus.
Both civilizations were heavily involved in trade, with a knack for business on a grand scale. Their artistry in gem engraving and jewelry-making was also of high quality, and both used materials for writing that were similar, with the Phoenicians using papyrus and the Aztecs using leaves, particularly those of the aloe plant.
The creation stories and earliest historical traditions of both societies were also strikingly similar. They shared almost identical cosmogonies, and their stories of the world, such as the deluge, the building of the Tower of Babel, and the confusion of languages, had remarkable parallels. The enduring similarities between the Aztecs and Phoenicians continue to amaze scholars and bring new insights into our understanding of the ancient world.
The parallels between the Aztec and Phoenician civilizations are striking and undeniably fascinating. From their religious beliefs and practices to their impressive engineering feats, the similarities between the two civilizations can be seen in multiple aspects.
Religiously, both the Aztecs and Phoenicians were deeply devoted to their beliefs and rituals, however, their practices gradually decayed and ultimately resorted to the horrific practice of human sacrifice, particularly the sacrifice of children. This trend was mirrored in both civilizations, prompting us to question whether their spiritual decline occurred simultaneously in distant corners of the Phoenician empire.
The impressive engineering endeavors of both nations are also worth noting. The Phoenicians constructed large aqueducts for Solomon, and similar structures can be found in Mexico. Moreover, the use of the lotus as an ornamental element was typical of both civilizations.
Another remarkable similarity is the existence of calendars in both countries that appear to have the same origin, as both civilizations were known for their sophisticated and accurate calendar systems. The Aztec calendar was based on the Egyptian and Asiatic systems and was even more precise than the Gregorian calendar used by the Europeans. Similarly, the Phoenicians and Aztecs were renowned for their expertise in seafaring due to their lifelong habit of sailing, which makes the possibility of a transatlantic voyage more plausible.
These correlations are truly astounding and demonstrate the impressive abilities of both the Aztecs and the Phoenicians and the complexity of their societies. Click here to check out my other article on the Phoenicians – I also mention some of these points which I’ve mentioned here as well.
Isolated archaeological finds in American sites that originated in the Old World suggest possible contact between the civilizations of Classical Antiquity, mainly the Roman Empire, and other contemporaneous cultures. The Bay of Jars in Brazil, for example, has yielded ancient clay jars that resemble Roman amphorae for over 150 years. It’s been proposed that these jars may have come from a Roman shipwreck, but it’s also been suggested that they may be 15th or 16th-century CE Spanish olive oil jars. Archaeologist Romeo Hristov argues that a Roman ship, or a shipwreck drifting to American shores, is a possible explanation for the alleged discovery of Roman artifacts in America. Hristov also claims that the discovery of evidence of Roman travels to the Canary Islands and a Roman settlement on Lanzarote supports this theory. An Italian botanist, Domenico Casella, suggested in 1950 that a depiction of a pineapple (a fruit native to the New World tropics) was represented among wall paintings of Mediterranean fruits at Pompeii. However, this interpretation has been challenged by other botanists who identify it as a pine cone from the umbrella pine tree, which is native to the Mediterranean area.
In 1933, a small terracotta sculpture of a head with European-like features and a beard was discovered in a burial offering in the Toluca Valley, 72 kilometers southwest of Mexico City. The artifact, found under three intact floors of a pre-colonial building dating back to 1476-1510 CE, has been studied by experts in Roman art and anthropology, who believe the style is compatible with small Roman sculptures of the 2nd century. If genuine and not placed there after 1492 CE, it provides evidence of contact between the Old and New Worlds. However, some experts, including Arizona State University’s Michael E. Smith, remain skeptical and have heard claims that the artifact was planted as a joke by a student who worked on the site. Despite efforts to confirm or reject this claim, Smith admits the possibility that it was a genuine post-Classic offering at Calixtlahuaca cannot be ruled out.
Moreover, Pomponius Mela and Pliny the Elder write that proconsul Quintus Caecilius Metellus Celer, who died in 59 BCE, received “several Indians” as a gift from a Germanic king. According to the account, these Indians were driven by a storm to the coast of Germania and were given to Metellus Celer upon his arrival in Gaul as proconsul:
“Metellus Celer recalls the following: when he was proconsul in Gaul, he was given people from India by the king of the Sueves; upon requesting why they were in this land, he learned that they were caught in a storm away from India, that they became castaways, and finally landed on the coast of Germania. They thus resisted the sea but suffered from the cold for the rest of their travel, and that is the reason why they left.”
Frederick J. Pohl suggests that these castaways may have been American Indians, but the account is uncertain as Metellus Celer died before he ever arrived in Gaul.
The Bat Creek inscription and Los Lunas Decalogue Stone have led some to suggest Jewish seafarers may have traveled to America after fleeing the Roman Empire during the Jewish–Roman wars between 66 and 135 CE. However, American archaeologists have argued that the Bat Creek inscription was copied from an 1870 Masonic reference book and that the Decalogue Stone was possibly carved by anthropology students. Scholar Cyrus H. Gordon believed Phoenicians (as I mentioned earlier) and other Semitic groups crossed the Atlantic in antiquity and arrived in North and South America, based on his own work on the Bat Creek inscription. Similar ideas were also held by John Philip Cohane, who even claimed that many US geographical placenames have a Semitic origin.
Furthermore, some researchers believe that the Olmec civilization was influenced by Chinese refugees, particularly at the end of the Shang dynasty. In 1975, Betty Meggers of the Smithsonian Institution suggested that the Olmec civilization originated around 1200 BCE due to Shang Chinese influences. In 1996, Mike Xu and Chen Hanping claimed that celts from La Venta bear Chinese characters. Furthermore, in 1882 a miner found Chinese coins from 2637 BCE twenty-five feet below the surface in British Columbia, leading to speculation of Chinese influence on the Olmec civilization.
A group of Chinese Buddhist missionaries led by Hui Shen before 500 CE claimed to have visited a location called Fusang. Some suggest that Fusang may have been in North America due to similarities between the California coast and descriptions of Fusang in Asian sources. In his book 1421: The Year China Discovered the World, British author Gavin Menzies claims that the treasure fleets of Ming admiral Zheng He arrived in America in 1421 CE, but “mainstream” historians dismiss this as unproven. In 1973 and 1975, doughnut-shaped stones resembling Chinese fishing anchors were discovered off the coast of California and initially thought to be proof of pre-Columbian Chinese contact. However, later geological investigations revealed them to be made of local rock and used by Chinese settlers fishing in the 19th century CE.
In 1879, Alexander Cunningham wrote about carvings on the Stupa of Bharhut in India dating back to 200 BCE, where he noted a depiction of a custard apple. However, it was later discovered that this plant was not native to India and was only introduced after Vasco da Gama’s discovery in 1498 CE. A study in 2009 found carbonized remains of custard apple seeds dating back to 2000 BCE. Similarly, Grafton Elliot Smith’s 1924 book Elephants and Ethnologists claimed that certain carvings on Mayan stelae at Copán represented Asian elephants, but later research suggested they were actually based on the indigenous tapir. In 1989, Carl Johannessen suggested that carvings from Karnataka dating back to the 12th century depicted ears of maize, a crop native to the New World, but this was dismissed by Indian researchers who claimed the object represented a Muktaphala, an imaginary fruit bedecked with pearls.
Ireland and Wales
In the 6th century CE, Irish monk Saint Brendan embarked on a legendary journey into the Atlantic Ocean in search of Paradise. Since the discovery of the Americas, many have tried to connect the Brendan legend with an early discovery of America. In 1977, Tim Severin even successfully recreated the voyage using a replica of an ancient Irish currach. Similarly, the legend of Madoc, a Welsh prince who supposedly explored the Americas as early as 1170 CE, has been used to bolster British claims in the Americas.
Despite most scholars considering the Madoc legend to be untrue, the idea of “Welsh Indians” – descendants of Madoc’s voyagers – intermarrying with local Native Americans and living somewhere in the United States, has persisted. This idea has even inspired white travelers to search for these “Welsh Indians” and their supposed construction of landmarks throughout the Midwestern United States. However, no conclusive archaeological proof has been found to support these claims. Biologist Barry Fell has even gone as far as claiming to have found Irish Ogham writing carved into stones in the Virginias, but these claims have been met with skepticism by experts in the field. While the idea of pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact is intriguing, it remains just that – a legend, shrouded in speculation and uncertainty.
Archaeologist Emilio Estrada proposed that the similarities between pottery from coastal Ecuador and Japan’s Jōmon period suggest contact between the two cultures. However, most archaeologists reject this idea due to chronological and other issues. Alaskan anthropologist Nancy Yaw Davis also argues that the Zuni people of New Mexico have linguistic and cultural similarities to the Japanese, speculating that Buddhist priests or Japanese peasants may have crossed the Pacific and influenced Zuni society.
In the late 1800s, lawyer and politician James Wickersham also suggested pre-Columbian contact between Japanese sailors and Native Americans, citing historical records of several dozen Japanese ships being carried to North America by powerful ocean currents. While there is no definite proof of pre-Columbian contact, Wickersham believed it unlikely that such contact would have begun only after Europeans arrived in North America.
Claims of an African presence in Mesoamerica stem from the Olmec culture, African plant transfer, and historical accounts. The Olmecs, who existed in southern Mexico from 1200 BCE to 400 BCE, were first suggested to have African ties by José Melgar in 1862 CE. Ivan Van Sertima’s book They Came Before Columbus (1976) further advanced this idea, linking Mesoamerican pyramids, calendar technology, mummification, and mythology to African boat arrivals. However, these claims have been widely criticized by “mainstream” academics as pseudoarchaeology.
Leo Wiener’s Africa and the Discovery of America also suggests similarities between West African Mandinka people and Mesoamerican religious symbols and words (ie., “kore“, “gadwal“, and “qubila” in Arabic, or “kofila” in Mandinka).
Malian sources also suggest a fleet from the Mali Empire led by Abu Bakr II visited the Americas in 1311 CE. Christopher Columbus’s journal also mentions claims of West African boats sailing to the west with merchandise and black people with metal spears arriving from the south to the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. Brazilian researcher Niede Guidon believes humans may have come by boat from Africa 100,000 years ago, but this theory lacks genetic evidence in modern populations. However, to analyze the Malian theory with greater insight, let’s take a look at the account first off, followed by the analyzed interpretation, and the concluded legacy that we portrayed from this analysis:
1 – The Account:
Mansa Musa, the 9th ruler of the Mali Empire, embarked on a journey to Mecca for the hajj in 1324. Along the way, he stopped in Cairo and formed a friendship with the emir, Abu al-Hasan Ali ibn Amir Hajib. During their conversations, Musa shared his story of ascending to the throne, saying:
“We belong to a house which hands on the kingship by inheritance.”
But Musa’s aspirations reached far beyond the borders of his kingdom, as he had a burning desire to discover the limits of the Atlantic Ocean. He assembled an expedition of 200 ships, each filled with men and provisions to last for years, and charged the leader with the mission to:
“Not return until you reach the end of it or your provisions and water give out.”
Years passed before any word was heard from the expedition, and when a ship finally returned, the captain reported a strange discovery:
“Yes, O Sultan, we traveled for a long time until there appeared in the open sea (as it were) a river with a powerful current. Mine was the last of those ships. The (other) ships went on ahead, but when they reached that place, they did not return, and no more was seen of them, and we do not know what became of them. As for me, I went about at once and did not enter that river.”
The sultan didn’t believe the captain’s tale and decided to set out on his own expedition, assembling an impressive fleet of 2,000 ships, half for himself and his men and half for provisions and water. He entrusted the kingdom to the captain and set out into the unknown Atlantic Ocean, never to be seen again. The captain, now the king in his own right, recounted this story to the scholar al-‘Umari, who recorded it as the only account of this mysterious voyage.
But the identity of the ambitious sultan who embarked on this journey remains a subject of debate among historians. Al-‘Umari’s record doesn’t mention the sultan’s name, and later Arab historians of West African oral tradition do not mention this voyage at all. Some historians attribute the voyage to Mansa Muhammad ibn Qu, while others suggest it was Mansa Abubakari II. However, the inclusion of Mansa Abu Bakr II in the list of Malian rulers is a mistake that stems from a mistranslation by a 19th-century European historian. The Abu Bakr in question was a brother of Sunjata, the founder of the Mali Empire, who never ruled himself. Another figure named Abu Bakr did rule as Mansa, but he was the predecessor of Sakura, not Musa. Some historians also suggest that the voyage should be attributed to Mansa Qu, who was the father and predecessor of Muhammad ibn Qu according to Ibn Khaldun.
2 – The Interpretation:
Despite the claims of some researchers, the majority of experts in the field agree that there is a lack of conclusive evidence for pre-Columbian contact between Africa and the Americas. The idea that Malian ships may have reached the Americas and then failed to return to Africa, with no significant economic impact, is widely discredited.
Ivan van Sertima and Gaoussou Diawara have put forth the theory that the voyage did in fact reach the New World, citing an abstract of Columbus’s log and the testimony of indigenous peoples. However, the majority of “mainstream” scholars reject this theory, citing a lack of physical evidence and insufficient grounds to support the idea of pre-Columbian contact. As Haslip-Viera et al. (1997) notes:
“No genuine African artifact has ever been found in a controlled archaeological excavation in the New World.”
Other experts in the field, such as Karl Taube, have also stated that:
“There simply is no material evidence of any pre-Hispanic contact between the Old World and Mesoamerica before the arrival of the Spanish in the sixteenth century.”
3 – Legacy:
Mansa Musa, the great ruler of Mali, was not one to be held back by the failures of his predecessors. He saw their impractical plans as opportunities for himself to rise to power and make his own mark on history. But it wasn’t always this way. In the oral tradition, there is a lack of information about his own voyage, leading some to speculate that it was viewed as a shameful abandonment of duty. However, in modern times, we have come to see this voyage in a different light.
As the Malian historian Gaoussou Diawara puts it:
“Modern politicians should look up to the Mansa as an example of a ruler who valued science and discovery over holding onto power.”
The exact date of this voyage remains a mystery, but it is believed to have occurred around 1312 CE, around the time Musa became the Mansa. Despite the lack of clear evidence about the fate of the voyage, we can be sure that it was a significant moment in the legacy of this great leader.
In 2007, human skulls with Polynesian features were found in a museum in Chile. Craniometric analysis suggests they originated from Mocha Island, off the coast of Chile, and were likely from the Mapuche people. Similar features were also found at an excavation in Central Chile, supporting the theory of Polynesian voyagers reaching the west coast of South America.