Italian sailors knew of America 150 years before Christopher Columbus, new analysis of ancient documents suggests
#ItalianHometown; #ChristopherColumbus; #NorthAmerica; #TerraeIncognitae
Milan (Italy)/New analysis of ancient writings suggests that sailors from the Italian hometown of Christopher Columbus knew of America 150 years before its renowned 'discovery'.
Image Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain
Transcribing and detailing a, circa, 1345 document by a Milanese friar, Galvaneus Flamma, Medieval Latin literature expert Professor Paolo Chiesa has made an "astonishing" discovery of an "exceptional" passage referring to an area we know today as North America.
According to Chiesa, the ancient essay—first discovered in 2013—suggests that sailors from Genoa were already aware of this land, recognizable as 'Markland'/ 'Marckalada' – mentioned by some Icelandic sources and identified by scholars as part of the Atlantic coast of North America (usually assumed to be Labrador or Newfoundland).
Published in the peer-reviewed journal Terrae Incognitae, the discovery comes ahead of Columbus Day 2021, alternatively celebrated as Indigenous Peoples' Day across many states in the US. The findings add more fuel to the fire for the continuing question of 'what, exactly, did Columbus expect to find when he set out across the ocean?' and come following a period in which his statues have been beheaded, covered with red paint, lassoed around the head and pulled down, set on fire and thrown into a lake.
"We are in the presence of the first reference to the American continent, albeit in an embryonic form, in the Mediterranean area," states Professor Chiesa, from the Department of Literary Studies, Philology and Linguistics at the University of Milan.
Galvaneus was a Dominican friar who lived in Milan and was connected to a family which held at the lordship of the city.
He wrote several literary works in Latin, mainly on historical subjects. His testimony is valuable for information on Milanese contemporary facts, about which he has first-hand knowledge.
Cronica universalis, which is analyzed here by Chiesa, is thought to be one of his later works—perhaps the last one—and was left unfinished and unperfected. It aims to detail the history of the whole world, from 'Creation' to when it was published.
In translating and analyzing the document, Professor Chiesa demonstrates how Genoa would have been a "gateway" for news, and how Galvaneus appears to hear, informally, of seafarers' rumors about lands to the extreme north-west for eventual commercial benefit—as well as information about Greenland, which he details accurately (for knowledge of the time).
Overall, Professor Chiesa says, we should "trust" Cronica universalis as throughout the document Galvaneus declares where he has heard of oral stories, and backs his claims with elements drawn from accounts (legendary or real) belonging to previous traditions on different lands, blended together and reassigned to a specific place.
"I do not see any reason to disbelieve him," states Professor Chiesa, who adds, "it has long been noticed that the fourteenth-century portolan (nautical) charts drawn in Genoa and in Catalonia offer a more advanced geographical representation of the north, which could be achieved through direct contacts with those regions.
Cronica universalis, written in Latin, is still unpublished; however, an edition is planned, in the context of a scholarly and educational program promoted by the University of Milan.
#Archaology; #FootPrints; #WhiteSandsNationalPark; #NewMexico
New Mexico/Canadian-Media: Footprints found at White Sands National Park in New Mexico provide the earliest unequivocal evidence of human activity in the Americas and offer insight into life over 23,000 years ago, phys.org/news reports said.
Thomas Urban conducts a magnetometer survey of mammoth footprints at White Sands. Image Credit: David Bustos / Cornell University
The footprints were formed in soft mud on the margins of a shallow lake that now forms part of Alkali Flat, a large playa at White Sands. Researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey dated these tracks using radiocarbon dating of seed layers above and below the footprint horizons. The dates range in age and confirm human presence over at least two millennia with the oldest tracks dating from around 23,000 years ago, which corresponds to the height of the last glacial cycle — making them the oldest known human footprints in the Americas.
The research, published in Science on Sept. 24, was conducted by scientists from Cornell, Bournemouth University, the National Park Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the University of Arizona. The tracks at White Sands were first discovered by David Bustos, resources manager at the park.
In order to investigate the site, the team pioneered non-invasive geophysical techniques led by Thomas Urban, a research scientist in the College of Arts and Sciences, and with the Cornell Tree Ring Laboratory.
Footprints found at White Sands National Park in New Mexico, providing the earliest evidence of human activity in the Americas. Credit: Cornell University
“Detection and imaging with nondestructive technology have greatly expanded our capacity to study these remarkable footprints in their broader context,” Urban said. “Now we have a unique window into life during the Pleistocene in North America, and this new study provides the first unequivocal evidence of a sustained human presence in the Americas thousands of years earlier than most archeologists thought was likely.”
The footprints tell an interesting tale of what life was like at this time, say the researchers. Judging by their size, the tracks were left mainly by teenagers and younger children, with the occasional adult. Animal tracks — mammoth, giant ground sloth, dire wolves, and birds — are present as well.
“It is an important site because all of the trackways we’ve found there show an interaction of humans in the landscape alongside extinct animals,” said co-author Sally Reynolds of Bournemouth University. “We can see the coexistence between humans and animals on the site as a whole, and by being able to accurately date these footprints, we’re building a greater picture of the landscape.”
Traditional archeology relies on the discovery of bones and tools but can often be difficult to interpret. Human footprints provide unequivocal evidence of the presence and also of behavior. It was previously thought that humans entered America closer to 16,000 years ago, after the melting of the North American ice sheets, which opened up migration routes. However, the footprints show a much earlier migration of humans into the Americas.
“The footprints left at White Sands give a picture of what was taking place, teenagers interacting with younger children and adults,” said Matthew Bennett, Bournemouth University, who helped lead the study. “We can think of our ancestors as quite functional, hunting and surviving, but what we see here is also activity of play, and of different ages coming together. A true insight into these early people.”
#Skis; #NorwegianArchaeologists; #mountaintop
New York/Canadian-Media: A lone wooden ski on a mountaintop, where it had been trapped in ice for 1300 years was found by Norwegian archaeologists in 2014. The ski made from birch rope and leather straps was well preserved down to an intact binding. As skis come in pairs, archaeologists monitored the ice patch for summertime thaws that might reveal the other one. Seven years later, their patience has paid off: In late September, a team found the second ski (pictured), 187 centimeters long and 17 centimeters wide, partially embedded in melting ice just 5 meters away from the first find spot.
Museum of Cultural History, Oslo. Image credit: https://www.science.org
The find makes this the best preserved prehistoric pair of skis on record, the scientists announced today. Ski fragments and rock art depicting skis have been found dating as far back as 6000 B.C.E., but never with intact bindings that show how the skis were used.
The skis, which would have been used as wintertime transportation tools, were extensively repaired, a sign they were too valuable to easily replace. They’re not identical, suggesting a set cobbled together from other pairs. And although researchers once thought the skis might have been lined with fur on the bottom for grip going uphill, a wide groove running down the center of the newly recovered ski would have no purpose if it was covered—suggesting fur wasn’t part of the design.
The find leaves one big question: What happened to their owner? Perhaps, the long-ago skier took them off to hunt and lost them in the snow, the researchers speculate. Or maybe an early skiing accident left the hunter too injured to descend to safety from the frozen heights. In that case, the ice might hold yet more surprises.