Exploration of North America

Exploration of North America

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The story of North American exploration spans an entire millennium and involves a wide array of European powers and uniquely American characters. It began with the Vikings’ brief stint in Newfoundland circa 1000 A.D. and continued through England’s colonization of the Atlantic coast in the 17th century, which laid the foundation for the United States of America. The centuries following the European arrivals would see the culmination of this effort, as Americans pushed westward across the continent, enticed by the lure of riches, open land and a desire to fulfill the nation’s manifest destiny.

The Vikings Discover the New World

The first attempt by Europeans to colonize the New World occurred around 1000 A.D. when the Vikings sailed from the British Isles to Greenland, established a colony, and then moved on to Labrador, the Baffin Islands and finally Newfoundland. There they established a colony named Vineland (meaning fertile region) and from that base sailed along the coast of North America, observing the flora, fauna and native peoples. Inexplicably, Vineland was abandoned after only a few years.

Although the Vikings never returned to America, other Europeans came to know of their accomplishments. Europe, however, was made up of many small principalities whose concerns were mainly local. Europeans may have been intrigued by the stories of the feared Vikings’ discovery of a “new world,” but they lacked the resources or the will to follow their path of exploration. Trade continued to revolve around the Mediterranean Sea, as it had for hundreds of years.

The Reformation, the Renaissance and New Trade Routes

Between 1000 and 1650, a series of interconnected developments occurred in Europe that provided the impetus for the exploration and subsequent colonization of America. These developments included the Protestant Reformation and the subsequent Catholic Counter-Reformation, the Renaissance, the unification of small states into larger ones with centralized political power, the emergence of new technology in navigation and shipbuilding, and the establishment of overland trade with the East and the accompanying transformation of the medieval economy.

The Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Church’s response in the Counter-Reformation marked the end of several centuries of gradual erosion of the power of the Catholic Church as well as the climax of internal attempts to reform the Church. Protestantism emphasized a personal relationship between each individual and God without the need for intercession by the institutional church. In the Renaissance, artists and writers such as Galileo, Machiavelli and Michelangelo adopted a view of life that stressed humans’ ability to change and control the world. Thus, the rise of Protestantism and the Counter-Reformation, along with the Renaissance, helped foster individualism and create a climate favorable to exploration.

At the same time, political centralization ended much of the squabbling and fighting among rival noble families and regions that had characterized the Middle Ages. With the decline of the political power and wealth of the Catholic Church, a few rulers gradually solidified their power. Portugal, Spain, France and England were transformed from small territories into nation-states with centralized authority in the hands of monarchs who were able to direct and finance overseas exploration.

As these religious and political changes were occurring, technological innovations in navigation set the stage for exploration. Bigger, faster ships and the invention of navigational devices such as the astrolabe and sextant made extended voyages possible.

A Faster Route to the East

But the most powerful inducement to exploration was trade. Marco Polo’s famous journey to Cathay signaled Europe’s “discovery” of Chinese and Islamic civilizations. The Orient became a magnet to traders, and exotic products and wealth flowed into Europe. Those who benefited most were merchants who sat astride the great overland trade routes, especially the merchants of the Italian city-states of Genoa, Venice, and Florence.

The newly unified states of the Atlantic–France, Spain, England, and Portugal–and their ambitious monarchs were envious of the merchants and princes who dominated the land routes to the East. Moreover, in the latter half of the fifteenth century, war between European states and the Ottoman Empire greatly hampered Europe’s trade with the Orient. The desire to supplant the trade moguls, especially the Italians, and fear of the Ottoman Empire forced the Atlantic nations to search for a new route to the East.

Portugal: Bartolomeu Dias, Vasco de Gama and Pedro Álvares Cabral

Portugal led the others into exploration. Encouraged by Prince Henry the Navigator, Portuguese seamen sailed southward along the African coast, seeking a water route to the East. They were also looking for a legendary king named Prester John who had supposedly built a Christian stronghold somewhere in northwestern Africa. Henry hoped to form an alliance with Prester John to fight the Muslims. During Henry’s lifetime the Portuguese learned much about the African coastal area. His school developed the quadrant, the cross-staff and the compass, made advances in cartography, and designed and built highly maneuverable little ships known as caravels.

After Henry’s death, Portuguese interest in long-distance trade and expansion waned until King John II commissioned Bartolomeu Dias to find a water route to India in 1487. Dias sailed around the tip of Africa and into the Indian Ocean before his frightened crew forced him to give up the quest. A year later, Vasco da Gama succeeded in reaching India and returned to Portugal laden with jewels and spices. In 1500, Pedro Álvares Cabral discovered and claimed Brazil for Portugal, and other Portuguese captains established trading posts in the South China Sea, the Bay of Bengal, and the Arabian Sea. These water routes to the East undercut the power of the Italian city-states, and Lisbon became Europe’s new trade capital.

Spain and Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus launched Spain’s imperial ambitions. Born in Genoa, Italy, around 1451, Columbus learned the art of navigation on voyages in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. At some point he probably read Cardinal Pierre d’Ailly’s early fifteenth-century work, Imago mundi, which argued that the East could be found by sailing west of the Azores for a few days. Columbus, hoping to make such a voyage, spent years seeking a sponsor and finally found one in Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain after they defeated the Moors and could turn their attention to other projects.

In August 1492, Columbus sailed west with his now famous ships, Niña, Pinta and Santa María. After ten weeks he sighted an island in the Bahamas, which he named San Salvador. Thinking he had found islands near Japan, he sailed on until he reached Cuba (which he thought was mainland China) and later Haiti. Columbus returned to Spain with many products unknown to Europe–coconuts, tobacco, sweet corn, potatoes–and with tales of dark-skinned native peoples whom he called “Indians” because he assumed he had been sailing in the Indian Ocean.

Although Columbus found no gold or silver, he was hailed by Spain and much of Europe as the discoverer of d’Ailly’s western route to the East. John II of Portugal, however, believed Columbus had discovered islands in the Atlantic already claimed by Portugal and took the matter to Pope Alexander II. Twice the pope issued decrees supporting Spain’s claim to Columbus’s discoveries. But the territorial disputes between Portugal and Spain were not resolved until 1494 when they signed the Treaty of Tordesillas, which drew a line 370 leagues west of the Azores as the demarcation between the two empires.

Despite the treaty, controversy continued over what Columbus had found. He made three more voyages to America between 1494 and 1502, during which he explored Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Jamaica, and Trinidad. Each time he returned more certain that he had reached the East. Subsequent explorations by others, however, persuaded most Europeans that Columbus had discovered a “New World.” Ironically, that New World was named for someone else. A German geographer, Martin Waldseemüller, accepted the claim of Amerigo Vespucci that he had landed on the American mainland before Columbus. In 1507 Waldseemüller published a book in which he named the new land “America.”

READ MORE: The Ships of Christopher Columbus Were Sleek, Fast—and Cramped

Spanish Explorers After Columbus

More Spanish expeditions followed. Juan Ponce de León explored the coasts of Florida in 1513. Vasco Núñez de Balboa crossed the Isthmus of Panama and discovered the Pacific Ocean in the same year. Ferdinand Magellan’s expedition (in the course of which he put down a mutiny and was later killed) sailed around the tip of South America, across the Pacific to the Philippines, through the Indian Ocean and back to Europe around the southern tip of Africa between 1519 and 1522.

Two expeditions led directly to Spain’s emergence as sixteenth-century Europe’s wealthiest and most powerful nation. The first was headed by Hernán Cortés, who in 1519 led a small army of Spanish and Native Americans against the Aztec Empire of Mexico. Completing the conquest in 1521, Cortés took control of the Aztecs’ fabulous gold and silver mines. Ten years later, an expedition under Francisco Pizarro overwhelmed the Inca Empire of Peru, securing for the Spaniards the great Inca silver mines of Potosí.

In 1535 and 1536, Pedro de Mendoza went as far as present-day Buenos Aires in Argentina, where he founded a colony. At the same time, Cabeza de Vaca explored the North American Southwest, adding that region to Spain’s New World empire. A few years later (1539-1542), Francisco Vásquez de Coronado discovered the Grand Canyon and journeyed through much of the Southwest looking for gold and the legendary Seven Cities of Cíbola. About the same time, Hernando de Soto explored southeastern North America from Florida to the Mississippi River. By 1650, Spain’s empire was complete and fleets of ships were carrying the plunder back to Spain.

Religious Motivations

As European powers conquered the territories of the New World, they justified wars against Native Americans and the destruction of their cultures as a fulfillment of the European secular and religious vision of the New World. The idea of “America” antedated America’s discovery and even Viking exploration. That idea had two parts: one paradisiacal and utopian, the other savage and dangerous. Ancient tales described distant civilizations, usually to the west, where European-like peoples lived simple, virtuous lives without war, famine, disease or poverty. Such utopian visions were reinforced by religious notions. Early Christian Europeans had inherited from the Jews a powerful prophetic tradition that drew upon apocalyptic biblical texts in the books of Daniel, Isaiah and Revelations. They connected the Christianization of the world with the second coming of Christ. Such ideas led many Europeans (including Columbus) to believe it was God’s plan for Christians to convert pagans wherever they were found.

If secular and religious traditions evoked utopian visions of the New World, they also induced nightmares. The ancients described wonderful civilizations, but barbaric, evil ones as well. Moreover, late medieval Christianity inherited a rich tradition of hatred for non-Christians derived in part from the Crusaders' struggle to free the Holy Land and from warfare against the Moors.

European encounters with the New World were viewed in light of these preconceived notions. To plunder the New World of its treasures was acceptable because it was populated by pagans. To Christianize the pagans was necessary because it was part of God’s plan; to kill them was right because they were Satan’s warriors.

France: Giovanni da Verrazano, Jacques Cartier and Samuel de Champlain

While Spain was building its New World empire, France was also exploring the Americas. In 1524, Giovanni da Verrazzano was commissioned to locate a northwest passage around North America to India. He was followed in 1534 by Jacques Cartier, who explored the St. Lawrence River as far as present-day Montreal. In 1562, Jean Ribault headed an expedition that explored the St. Johns River area in Florida. His efforts were followed two years later by a second venture headed by René Goulaine de Laudonnière. But the Spanish soon pushed the French out of Florida, and thereafter, the French directed their efforts north and west. In 1608 Samuel de Champlain built a fort at Quebec and explored the area north to Port Royal and Nova Scotia and south to Cape Cod.

Unlike Spain’s empire, “New France” produced no caches of gold and silver. Instead, the French traded with inland tribes for furs and fished off the coast of Newfoundland. New France was sparsely populated by trappers and missionaries and dotted with military forts and trading posts. Although the French sought to colonize the area, the growth of settlements was stifled by inconsistent policies. Initially, France encouraged colonization by granting charters to fur-trading companies. Then, under Cardinal Richelieu, control of the empire was put in the hands of the government-sponsored Company of New France. The company, however, was not successful, and in 1663 the king took direct control of New France. Although more prosperous under this administration, the French empire failed to match the wealth of New Spain or the growth of neighboring British colonies.

The Netherlands: Henry Hudson Leads the Dutch

The Dutch were also engaged in the exploration of America. Formerly a Protestant province of Spain, the Netherlands was determined to become a commercial power and saw exploration as a means to that end. In 1609, Henry Hudson led an expedition to America for the Dutch East India Company and laid claim to the area along the Hudson River as far as present-day Albany. In 1614 the newly formed New Netherland Company obtained a grant from the Dutch government for the territory between New France and Virginia. About ten years later another trading company, the West India Company, settled groups of colonists on Manhattan Island and at Fort Orange. The Dutch also planted trading colonies in the West Indies.

England: John Cabot and Sir Walter Raleigh

In 1497 Henry VII of England sponsored an expedition to the New World headed by John Cabot, who explored a part of Newfoundland and reported an abundance of fish. But until Queen Elizabeth’s reign, the English showed little interest in exploration, being preoccupied with their European trade and establishing control over the British Isles. By the mid-sixteenth century, however, England had recognized the advantages of trade with the East, and in 1560 English merchants enlisted Martin Frobisher to search for a northwest passage to India. Between 1576 and 1578 Frobisher as well as John Davis explored along the Atlantic coast.

Thereafter, Queen Elizabeth granted charters to Sir Humphrey Gilbert and Sir Walter Raleigh to colonize America. Gilbert headed two trips to the New World. He landed on Newfoundland but was unable to carry out his intention of establishing military posts. A year later, Raleigh sent a company to explore territory he named Virginia after Elizabeth, the “Virgin Queen,” and in 1585, he sponsored a second voyage, this time to explore the Chesapeake Bay region. By the seventeenth century, the English had taken the lead in colonizing North America, establishing settlements all along the Atlantic coast and in the West Indies.

Sweden and Denmark

Sweden and Denmark also succumbed to the attractions of America, although to a lesser extent. In 1638, the Swedish West India Company established a settlement on the Delaware River near present-day Wilmington called Fort Christina. This colony was short-lived, however, and was taken over by the Dutch in 1655. The king of Denmark chartered the Danish West India Company in 1671, and the Danes established colonies in St. Croix and other islands in the cluster of the Virgin Islands.

READ MORE: America's Forgotten Swedish Colony


Samuel Eliot Morison, The European Discovery of America: The Northern Voyages, a.d. 500-1600 (1971); John H. Parry, The Spanish Seaborne Empire (1966; 2nd ed., 1980); David B. Quinn, England and the Discovery of America, 1481-1620, from the Bristol Voyages of the Fifteenth Century to the Pilgrim Settlement at Plymouth: The Exploration, Exploitation, and Trial-and-Error Colonization of North America by the English (1974).

Exploration and Colonization of the North America

In 1493, an explorer in Spanish service named Christopher Columbus changed the course of world history when he unexpectedly discovered two entirely new continents during an expedition to reach Asia by sailing West from Europe. Over the following decades, Spanish and Portuguese discoveries in Central and South America astounded residents of the Old World. New foodstuffs like tomatoes, chili peppers, chocolate, and corn brought from the Americas radically altered cuisines around the globe. The gold, silver and other precious metals looted from the civilizations encountered there transformed Spain, only recently united through the marriage of Isabelle of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon, into one of the wealthiest kingdoms in Europe, fueling the Habsburg Dynasty’s increasingly lavish court life as well as their political and military ambitions. The desire to check Habsburg power and increase their own prestige in the process, therefore, became a prime motivation for Spain’s rivals to begin colonization efforts of their own in the New World, and while these rival powers grabbed whatever bits of the Caribbean and South America they could manage, much of their focus lay in exploring and settling the relatively unknown lands of North America.

Naturally, however, the first European explorers of the northern continent were still the Spanish, and while much of the lands they claimed remained unsettled for centuries, the writ of the Viceroyalty of New Spain (which also included Mexico and the Philippines) extended throughout much of the southern half of the modern United States, from Florida to the Pacific Coast. These early Spanish explorers, called conquistadors, privately financed their expeditions after acquiring royal authorization, and their objectives were much the same as their counterparts in Mesoamerica and Peru: finding gold to loot, souls to convert, and “devil-worshippers” to kill if they refused to do so. Their identities and outlook on the world was essentially medieval, based on religious and martial traditions developed over the years back home during the Reconquista, or effort to drive the Muslim Moors from the Iberian Peninsula, such as the hidalgo (meaning “Somebody”), the ideal landless aristocrat, which many of these explorers were, who comes into prosperity with plunder taken through force of arms against the infidels. According to historian Charles Hudson in his book Knights of Spain, Warriors of the Sun, these conquistadors “never doubted their own superiority over the native peoples they encountered in the New World. They saw themselves as specially favored people who were carrying out a divine mission,” and this attitude certainly affected Spanish behavior towards the “Indians.” Prominent conquistadors who launched expeditions into North America include Juan Ponce de Leon, the governor of Puerto Rico who gave the name La Florida to the peninsula that bears it today, Hernando de Soto, the first European to document and cross the Mississippi River before dying along its banks in 1541, and Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, one of the few survivors of a failed expedition, who wandered for eight years throughout the Southwestern United States before finally returning to Mexico City in 1536. He later chronicled his travels and the various peoples he encountered with a surprising amount of scholarly objectivity, and he is often referred to as one of the first modern anthropologists.

Private military expeditions were not the only tool of the Spanish colonial project, however. As one might expect from a society that so intensely identified with the Catholic Church, missionary efforts played an enormous role in the spread of Christianity throughout Latin America. Their methods varied wildly by monastic or priestly order, but in general, these new missions consisted of semi-autonomous communities centered around a town built along European models run by the clergy who provided religious education, often in local languages, in exchange for manual labor. Defenders of this system claimed that it was an effective barrier against indigenous exploitation, and many missions did clash with the colonial government over such issues, but it was certainly not free from abuse, and could often lead to rebellion if the clergy treated their charges too harshly or went too far in suppressing native cultural practices. Such was the case during the 1680 Pueblo Revolt that took place in modern-day New Mexico, where an alliance of Pueblo tribes rose up against the abuses of the missionaries and drove off more than 2,000 Spanish settlers from their homeland for more than a decade. Many mission communities survived, however, and today cities such as Pensacola, San Antonio and San Francisco all have their roots as either missionaries or Spanish military garrisons.

Though the Kingdom of France shared Spain’s Catholic faith, dynastic politics and constant military clashes over Italy had left them fierce rivals, and so King Francis I did not wait long to commission his own expeditions to North America after Spanish conquests on the mainland. Conflicts between both hostile natives and Spanish colonists prevented French adventurers from setting up permanent settlements throughout the 16th century, however, until Samuel de Champlain founded Quebec in 1608 and claimed the surrounding area. Decades later, René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle explored the Mississippi River Delta, claiming the entire river valley for France and naming it Louisiana after Louis XIV. In spite of the huge amount of territory claimed, settlement in French North America remained sparsely populated, requiring the support of allied Natives for both defense as well as securing sources for the fur trade and other commodities, for which they competed fiercely with both Europeans as well as the powerful Iroquois Confederacy the course of the 17th century during the so-called Beaver Wars. To maintain ties with their allies, as they lacked the capacity to subjugate them as the Spanish could in Latin America, the French also authorized missionary activities, typically Jesuit priests, to convert Indians to Catholicism. These priests faced strong competition with native religious traditions and were often blamed for misfortunes, particularly the European diseases that continued to ravage native communities, and so found little success with their official duties, but many acted effectively as explorers and diplomats. One such man, Father Jacques Marquette, was one of the first Europeans to travel through modern-day Illinois and Michigan, for example. Explorers from the Dutch Republic also settled in North America around this time, most famously founding the city of New Amsterdam on Manhattan Island, later New York City, as well as other settlements along the Hudson River Valley. For the Dutch, exploration in the New World coincided with their War of Independence against Habsburg Spain, and so as a relatively new state, colonization initiatives were not just a source of enrichment, but also to mark its legitimacy to imperial rivals. Like the French, the Dutch mainly sought to profit from the fur trade, and though they were far less successful in this regard, their provincial capital of New Amsterdam proved to be far better located geographically than Quebec, giving it better access to markets in across the Caribbean and spurring economic development that continued well after its annexation by England.

Jamestown, Virginia

Many other European states also attempted to found colonies in the New World during the 17th century, including Sweden in Delaware as well as Russia, which actually arrived in Alaska from the East, but by far the most successful to settle North America proved to be England, another Protestant rival of Spain, which founded colonies across the Atlantic coast. The first successful English expedition to North America, which founded the tiny settlement of Jamestown, Virginia in 1607, originally sought only to find precious metals and other valuable materials that could allow its main patron, the Virginia Company of London, to make a return on their investment. As such, many of the colonists consisted mostly of gentry and artisans with very few experienced farmers, and there were no women amongst them until the next year. Furthermore, relations with the neighboring Powhatan Confederacy were icy at the best of times, and the location the settlers had chosen for their new home was swampy and mosquito-ridden, making agriculture even more difficult and disease a constant threat. These combined factors did make a recipe for success, and for their first few years the settlers faced one unmitigated disaster after another. Fortunes finally turned around when settler John Rolfe convinced his fellow colonists to switch emphasis from exporting precious metals to cash crops, starting with tobacco in 1613. This success in Virginia was soon repeated by future colonies in the Chesapeake and southern Atlantic Coast but also brought the first African slaves to British North America in 1619. Far to the north, however, English colonies took on a rather different character. Starting with the famous landing of the Mayflower at Plymouth Rock, the colonies of New England characterized themselves not economic ventures but places of refuge, specifically for Separatists and Puritan dissenters who believed that the Church of England had not gone far enough in upholding the ideals of the Protestant Reformation, and so left Europe to create their vision of an ideal Christian community in the New World, formally organized as the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1629. As in Jamestown, the early settlers in New England faced a myriad of challenges, with many dying off in the first few years and others later deciding that living amidst what they saw as a “savage wilderness” was simply too much of a struggle and to return home, but those who remained continued to persevere and grow and attract further immigrants from Europe, though the colony continued to struggle with civil and external instability. As in Virginia, New England settlers did not seek close connections with surrounding Native American groups. Though they adopted many of their survival techniques, Massachusetts residents made very little official overtures to their indigenous neighbors, believing that their constant displays of English civility and Christian virtue, “A City Upon a Hill” as colony founder John Winthrop put it, could naturally win them over in contrast to Spanish tyranny. This failed to materialize, however, and tensions between natives and colonists remained high before exploding into armed conflicts, such as during King Philips’ War of 1675. The colony’s theocratic government also caused a great deal of internal strife over ideas of religious liberty, as dissenters from the official Puritan theology could face exile, which sometimes led to the founding of several neighboring colonies, or even death, culminating in the infamous Witch Trials of 1692.

Towards the end of the 17th century, there was little doubt in regards to Britain’s success in colonizing North America. Though they started much later than their imperial rivals and had claimed far less territory than either Spain or France, the settlements they did create were far more developed and populous than their neighbors, giving Britain a distinct edge in any future struggles over control of the new continent


In A. D. 458, a Chinese adventurer named Hwui Shan crossed the Pacific to Mexico, and then followed the Japan current north to Alaska. Centuries later, in September 1513, Vasco Nunez de Balboa "discovered" the Pacific after struggling across the swampy Isthmus of Panama. Following that momentous event, Spain dispatched a number of legendary captains to the West Coast of North America, including Hernando Cortez, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, and Bartolome Ferrelo. In 1579, Britain's pirate Francis Drake sailed off the Oregon coast during the early 1740s, Vitus Bering opened the North Pacific to Imperial Russia during the late 1700s, English captains James Cook and George Vancouver charted the Pacific including the bays and inlets of Puget Sound (Vancouver) and in 1786, Comte de La Perouse, representing France, sailed to the Queen Charlotte islands.

The First Explorers

Before human curiosity and imperial edicts brought Europeans to the Pacific Northwest, a Chinese adventurer named Hwui Shan crossed the Pacific to Mexico in A.D. 458, and then followed the Japan current north to Alaska.

Centuries later, in September 1513, Vasco Nunez de Balboa "discovered" the Pacific after struggling across the swampy Isthmus of Panama. Following that momentous event, Spain dispatched a number of legendary captains to the West Coast of North America, including Hernando Cortez, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, and Bartolome Ferrelo. Ferrelo was the first European to sail north to a point near Oregon's Rogue River.

The flood gates now opened. In 1579, Britain's pirate Francis Drake sailed off the Oregon coast during the early 1740s, Vitus Bering opened the North Pacific to Imperial Russia during the late 1700s, English captains James Cook and George Vancouver charted the Pacific including the bays and inlets of Puget Sound (Vancouver) and in 1786, Comte de La Perouse, representing France, sailed to the Queen Charlotte islands.

These mariner exploits were followed by a number of breathtaking overland expeditions, mostly British, to the Canadian and American West Coast seeking New Albion, land of the fabled Northwest Passage.

Spain Takes the Lead

With the rise of imperialism, European governments vied for dominance of the earth's known and mythical lands. After Balboa's 1513 encounter with the Pacific Ocean, Spain sent naval expeditions from Mexico northward along the Pacific Coast. In 1542-1543, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo and Bartolome Ferrelo sailed the Pacific Coast in search of the Seven Cities of Cibola, described tantalizingly by their countryman Cabeza de Vaca. Ferrelo continued north, experiencing a harrowing, storm-tossed trip to Oregon's mid-point, but kept few records of his adventure.

Discouraged by the great distance between her investments and the Pacific Northwest, Spain lost interest in the Pacific Northwest for more than a half century. Eventually, in 1602-1603, after Spain had conquered the Philippines, Sebastian Vizcaino sailed as far north as Cape Mendocino, California.

Was Juan de Fuca Telling it Straight?

In April 1596, Englishman Michael Lok met an old Greek sailor in Venice. The seasoned mariner's name was Apostolos Valerianos, but took the Spanish name of Juan de Fuca. Valerianos boasted of his sailing adventures aboard Spanish ships in search of the Strait of Anian, better known as the Northwest Passage or River of the West. He also gave credible descriptions of what could have been the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound.

Lok and Valerianos, both down on their luck, were seeking money and new opportunities. Lok's letter outlining his conversations with Valerianos did not resuscitate the careers of either man, but the Greek's tall tale gave impetus to the legend of a great uninterrupted waterway across the North American continent. Debate continues today about whether the Lok-Valerianos story is myth or fact.

The Pirate Drake

During the late 1500s, English pirates preyed on Spanish and other vessels off North America's West Coast. One of those freebooters, Francis Drake, was so accomplished and brazen that Queen Elizabeth I knighted him. Drake also became the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe by piloting his ship, the Golden Hind to England via the stormy Stait of Magellan.

Enter Russia

Peter the Great, Russia's enlightened leader and a confirmed imperialist, sent Danish captain Vitus Bering to search for the Strait of Anian and to find new commercial opportunities. Bering's two Pacific expeditions, in 1728 and 1741, were relative disasters except that they led to the creation of profitable Russian fur companies, especially, in the early 1800s, the long-running Russian American Company under Alexander Baranov.

Besides establishing trading posts, often in competition with Great Britain's Hudson's Bay Company, Baranov sent his minions to explore the Washington, Oregon, and California coasts. The crew of one of his ships was massacred by Washington coastal tribesmen, but the establishment of Fort Ross at Bodega Bay, California, resulted in a mildly successful Russian agricultural and cattle-raising station.

Spain Again

Russian incursions prompted Spain to take another look at the Pacific Northwest. In 1774, Juan Perez reached 55 degrees North, near today's Canada-U.S. border, followed in 1775 by Bruno de Heceta (or Hezeta) and Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra. Heceta, who felt a strong current and saw discolored water, missed discovering the Columbia River because his men were down with scurvy.

Despite his own scurvy-miserable crew, Bodega y Quadra crept along the British Columbian and Alaskan coasts, making charts and naming points of land. (The Spanish returned one last time to local waters. In 1790, an expedition led by Lt. Francisco Eliza and Sub-Lt. Manuel Quimper charted and named most of the San Juan Islands.)

English Captain James Cook, trader-geographer-explorer, may have been one of the world's greatest sailors. Parliament offered 20,000 pounds for the discovery of the Strait of Anian. Cook's friends encouraged him to give it a try, and he made three scientific and commercial trips to the Pacific Ocean. On the third trip Cook reached what the British called New Albion, or the Pacific Northwest. Having established a base at Friendly Cove in Nootka Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island, he proceeded north to chart the rugged Alaskan coastline. Cook was killed by enraged Sandwich (Hawaiian) Islanders on February 13, 1779.

Many other Europeans, such as Comte de La Perouse, John Meares, and Alexander Mackenzie, belong in this pantheon of Pacific Northwest explorers and seekers of the Northwest Passage, but one individual -- George Vancouver -- stands alone because of his investigations of Admiralty Inlet, Hood Canal, and Puget Sound.

Vasco Nuñez de Balboa (1475-1517)

Courtesy Museo Naval de Madrid

Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo

Sir Francis Drake, 1577

Engraving by Jodocus Hondius


Gordon Speck, Northwest Explorations (Portland, Oregon: Binfords & Mort, Publishers, 1970). Also see: Clarence B. Bagley, History of King County, Washington (Chicago-Seattle: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1929) Edmond S. Meany, History of the State of Washington (New York: The Macmillan Company, Publishers, 1950) Lucille McDonald, Search for the Northwest Passage (Portland, Oregon: Binfords & Mort, Publishers., 1958) Neta Lohnes Frazier, Five Roads to the Pacific (New York: David McKay Company, Inc., Publishers, 1964).

The French have a rich history of exploration in North America

France in the Middle Ages was divided into a number of small feudal regions. The counts and dukes controlled these little principalities and were virtually independent, but gave nominal allegiance to the French king.

France grows strong

By the end of the 15th century, the King of France had consolidated his power and extended authority over the whole of France. The monarchy gradually increased its sovereignty until it was the strongest in Europe and eager to challenge England, Spain and the Netherlands for leadership in the New World.

In the early 1600s, France was ready to undertake the serious business of establishing settlements in present-day Canada. Giovanni Verrazano (1524) and Jacques Cartier (1534-1542) had done the preliminary work of staking French claims in the New World. Two failed attempts at colonization in Florida (1562-67) and South Carolina had taught the French lessons that were to prove valuable in later colonizing attempts.


With the coronation of Henry IV, a strong-willed king, France was eager to “flex her muscles.” The King found a super-agent in Samuel de Champlain who earned the title “Father of New France.”

In March 1603, Champlain set out, with royal approval, for the North American coast. Entering the St. Lawrence at the mouth of the river, where fur traders had been bartering since the days of Cartier, he made his first contact with the natives. For several years, he crisscrossed the Atlantic attempting to secure permanent settlers for colonization and finally established Port Royal at Acadia and Quebec.

In time, other settlements appeared at Three Rivers and Montreal. In 1615, Champlain made his farthest trip west and reached the lower end of Lake Huron. Appointed governor of New France, he cultivated the friendship of the Algonquin Indians who dominated the great fur-bearing region in America, resided in Quebec and died there in 1635.

Hard living

The location of New France was not a happy one. The colonists had a highly centralized government of state and church, controlled from home, with no popular representation and a land policy semi-feudalistic in nature. The soil was poor, and the climate was hard. The seacoast was far away, and for fully half a year, ice flowed in the St. Lawrence River blocking communications and trade with the mother country.

But the way to the west was temptingly easy. No such formidable barrier existed as the mountains that lay back of the English settlements, and the pathway of the Great Lakes and rivers invited exploration.


Meanwhile a new force entered the colonial life of New France. The 17th century in Europe witnessed a revival of the Roman Catholic Church and revival meant missionary spirit and activity.

The passionate order of Jesuits, untiring missionaries who were always looking for new worlds to conquer, took an interest in New France and its Indian allies. In 1613, two Jesuits, the forerunner of a devoted army of clergymen, sailed to the French outpost. They came in dribbles, then in a stream and finally in a flood.

Strange partnership

The Jesuit missionary and fur traders formed a strange partnership in America’s backcountry. The Jesuits were primarily interested in saving the souls of the natives and in lifting them to a higher standard of living. To accomplish this mission, the Jesuits underwent all sorts of hardships and suffering and asked for no material rewards in return.

The traders, on the other hand, were usually concerned only with the profits afforded by their business and their daily life. In pursuit of these aims, they would stoop to what unscrupulous methods were available at the time. This was usually selling the Indians brandy and setting an example of licentiousness that tended to debase the tribal morals.

The Jesuits protested strongly against these practices but feared the Indians would take the English rum if they complained too much and all would be lost.

The French proved to be better at exploration and fur trade with the Indians than at colonization. In contract with the English, they were slow in persuading their countrymen to settle the area in large numbers on the seacoast and along the St. Lawrence River. The economy was based on the fur trade and fisheries, not on mineral wealth as in Spanish America or on agricultural products as among the 13 colonies. Because they did not try to take away the Indians’ land and had smaller settlements, except for Quebec, the French had better relations with the native tribes than the Spanish and English.

Further exploration

With Catholic missionaries, fur traders and explorers, the French penetrated into the Great Lakes region and the Mississippi River valley. These bold leaders like Louis Joliet and Father Marquette appeared in the Wisconsin backcountry and explored the beginning of the “Big Muddy” in some swampy grasslands.

In 1673, they sailed their tiny craft through 450 miles of roaring water to present-day Arkansas. Much to their sorrow, they discovered that the great river did not enter the Pacific Ocean but the Spanish-controlled Gulf of Mexico.

La Salle

The greatest of all the French explorers in the West was Rene Robert Cavalier, better known as Sieur de La Salle, who after several attempts crossed the Great Lakes, found the Illinois River, and drifted down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico. On April 9, 1682, he claimed this vast interior for King Louis XIV and named it Louisiana.

Despite the failure of La Salle’s early adventures, the French government was unwilling to forgo the advantages of colonies in the lower Mississippi and the backcountry of the English colonies and in the face of the Spanish. In 1699, they erected a fort at Biloxi, but later moved it to present-day Mobile.

New Orleans

In 1718, New Orleans became the capital of the province and the southern anchor for a continuous chain of forts that connected France’s settlement all along the Mississippi. The New Orleans colony prospered and had a population of some 7,000 by 1731. The French continued their active efforts to occupy the West right up to the French and Indian War (1756-1763).

French and Indian War

By the middle of the 18th century, their explorers and trappers had reached the Rocky Mountains, and a number of forts had been constructed in strategic places both east and west of the Mississippi. The overlapping of French and English claims in America was the occasion for the Seven Years War which embroiled Europe.

Called the French and Indian War in America and unlike earlier intercolonial wars, this war started in the New World. Years of exploring, of trading for furs, of fishing in Acadia, of draining the coffers of money, was all in vain. By the Treaty of Paris in 1763, France had lost all of her possessions on the continent of North America. England was suddenly the leading colonial and naval power in the world. That’s your history!

Ancient Copper Mines and Carthaginian Coins

In 1787, workman employed in the construction of a road from Cambridge to Malden in Massachusetts unearthed a large number of Carthaginian coins. They were brought to the attention of president John Quincy Adams. Surviving specimens of the copper and silver pieces were identified as coins minted in the third century BC.

They bore short inscriptions in Kufic, a script used by the Carthaginians. Other Carthaginian coins were found in Waterbury, Connecticut in more recent times. They belonged to an earlier issue of Carthage and were minted for military use in Punic, the Carthaginian language, and bore the image of a horse’s head.

Punic-type jars, used to carry olives, liquids, and other items in ancient times, were dragged up by a Newburyport, Massachusetts fisherman in 1991, and two or more were dug up in Boston proper. Others were found at Castine and Jonesboro, Maine.

Approximately 5000 ancient copper mines have been found around the northern shore of Lake Superior and adjacent Isle Royale. Radiocarbon dating indicates the mines were in operation 6,000 to 1,000 BC, corresponding to the Bronze Age in Europe. Likewise, tin was needed since bronze requires both copper and tin - and it was mined high up in the Andes mountains in Bolivia .

World Exploration

Chinese records apparently claim that America (called Fusang) had been first visited by Hoei-Shin in 499. There is some possible additional controversial evidence of possible later Chinese colonisation efforts in the Americas. These latter Chinese efforts preceded the known European colonial settlements, but final historical judgement has not yet been made.[4]

The Arctic

The early Viking Sagas and Irish histories seem to carry the European exploration into the West back further than is generally supposed. Farley Mowat has made a comprehensive documentation of sources in his book WestViking and it seems possible that apart from an occasional European Greek, or even Carthaginian, the Irish were the first historical Europeans to visit North America. They are supposed to have sailed under religious motivation and zeal to explore God's world. They would have had to have used the curragh: a 10-20' open boat, consisting of skins stretched over a frame. Remarkably these boats are still in use and seem quite seaworthy. Moreover, distances from Ireland are measured in mere days - if one sails accurately from island to island. No doubt the later Viking raids may have added some motivation to leave Ireland and travel to out-of-the-way islands for sanctuary.

Much of history is military in nature: the Conquistadores explored, fought and claimed much of the new world. The Spanish set the European pattern for future exploration and colonisation. The outlined explorations below and their migration to early military forts give a sense of the breadth of European interest in their search for access to Cathay (China) and the fabulous profits to be made in trade. Having landed in the ‘Indies’ men stayed to profit from the land itself and created the trade in African slaves and later social problems. The reader will find continual references to military affairs are embedded in the following explorations.

My interest here is not to document, but rather to sketch the temper of the times. Led to America by a variety of motives, but perhaps principally greed, many European governments claimed land to expand their settlement. The Spanish again led the way in bringing God (also disease, and the Inquisition) to the natives. In competition with European diseases God did not do well: up to 90% of the 'New World' natives died on exposure to European-born sicknesses. The Europeans were also quick to settle on African slavery as a solution to exploit natural wealth in the New World. Many European nations made New World claims war became a means to affirmation. The French islands of St Pierre and Michelon off Eastern Canada, and Dutch, English, and French Caribbean islands continue this European mix.

The following table identifies many of the European and other explorations of North America.[5] Much of our knowledge of this history is based in significant part on the 1589 book The Voyages, by Richard Hakluyt: without his collection of details we would not be so well informed. These data are organised chronologically.




Arctic Exploration and Asian migration

Commanders: Asian and Polynesian migrants

Asian hunters explored the Arctic Ocean and peripheral coastal areas. Migrants used the Bering Strait and also sailed directly to the Western Seaboard. The Bering Strait access was closed during the last Ice Age (c15000 BC), so clearly other routes were required.

Skeletal evidence confirms a pre-ice age presence on the west coast north of MesoAmerica by people with non-mongoloid cranial features. These latter people are expected to have sailed from south-east Asia and Micronesia.

First Settlement in Yukon, Canada

These people were Asians, no doubt migrating from Siberia where Russian scientists have found evidence of human occupation c30,000-years old.

Commander: Pytheas, The Greek

Pytheas was a Greek merchant, navigator, and explorer from Massalia (Marseille, France). Carthaginians and others had been trading with Spain and Britain since c700 BC and Pytheas wrote a 'book' (On the Ocean) describing a trip c325 BC.

A recent conjectural reconstruction of the trip suggests a route: Marseille, Bordeaux, Nantes, Land's End, Plymouth, the Isle of Man, Outer Hebrides, Orkneys, Iceland, English east coast, Kent, Helgoland, returning finally to Marseille.

Pytheas described the Aurora Borealis, polar ice, and Germanic tribes. He may have used the pole star for navigation and he accurately estimated Britain's circumference. He called Britain the "Isles of the Pretani." Pytheas visited an island six days sailing north of Great Britain, which he called Thule. He said he was shown the place where the sun went to sleep, and he noted that the night in Thule was only two to three hours. One day further north the congealed sea began, he claimed.

He apparently finished his trip with a visit to the North Sea German tribes - perhaps in the Baltic.

Ptolemy created a world map and recorded the geographic coordinates in his book Geographia. Ptolemy introduced longitudes and latitudes and related locations to celestial observations. His concept of global coordinates created a scientific and numerical basis for European world mapping.

Ptolemy identified the Mediterranean, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans, as well as Europe, Africa, China, India, and Sri Lanka.

Iceland, Labrador and Newfoundland

Commanders: Irish Faeroe Islanders

The Picts and Celts expanded their summer fishing and hunting further afield with the warming climate by c650. The later explorers were guided by local tradition and economic patterns to find their way to new lands.

Both Iceland and Greenland were inhabited and then abandoned by different peoples over a thousand year period.

Exploration of Pacific Mexico, Panama and Nicaragua

Hoei-Shin was a Chinese Buddhist priest who visited 'Fusang'. The description he gave - which included 'no iron' suggests that Fusang might possibly have been Central America and that the people he met might possibly have been Olmecs. DNA analysis has reportedly shown unique Chinese diseases amongst the Mexican Indians.

The Chinese developed later mapping, navigation, and sailing skills, which culminated in the later voyages of Zheng He in the early 1400s.

Hebrides, Shetlands, Orkneys, Faeroes, Iceland

Commander: Abbot Brendan St, with 18 monks

A curragh in 2002

Travel was made by Irish curragh and Snorri records Irish in Iceland prior to Viking settlement in c870. Morison discounts stories of early Irish travel beyond the Hebrides, Shetlands, Orkneys, Faeroes, and possibly Iceland. St Brendan traveled as a younger man in company with a group of his monks.

Commanders: Irish Faeroe Islanders and Celtic clergy

Commanders: Celtic and Norse settlers

First Scandinavian settlement in Iceland. Major immigration c880. Althing (parliament) established and Iceland fully colonised

Commander: Ari Marsson

In 981, Eirik the Red followed up Ari Marsson's tale and sailed from Iceland to establish a winter camp on Greenland. In 982 Eirik explored the Greenland area. Having organised a camp he returned to Iceland and established a colonial venture.

In 985 Eirik led 35 ship-loads of colonists from Iceland to Greenland: 14 ships arrived. Eirik became the chief of Greenland.

Greenland, Labrador and Newfoundland

Commander: Bjarni Herjulfsson

Bjarni Herjulfsson sailed from Iceland to Greenland but was blown of course to the southwest near Newfoundland and Labrador, before reaching Greenland. His report of new land inspired Eirik's son Leifr (Leif) to make an exploratory search.

Labrador and Newfoundland

L'Anse Aux Meadows Site

Leif also may have been seeking a source for timber as none was available on Greenland.

Leif apparently assessed Vineland as a good place for further colonisation as he organised further visits. (Historical records show that in c1000 Newfoundland's climate was significantly warmer. Grapes grew there then, and apparently now.)

Viking Exploration of Newfoundland

c1004 four ships and 140 Norsemen
c1008 two ships

Space on Greenland and Iceland became crowded and a four-ship expedition established a camp at the Strait of Belle Isle. After a year of exploration (apparently based at a separate site) Thorfinn Karlsefni returned to Greenland. Thorvald Eirikson was killed by 'Skraelings' (apparently Beothuk Indians).

Freydis Eiriksdottir continued to attempt to colonise Vineland at l&rsquoAnse Aux Meadows, in Newfoundland for another winter. Evidently she returned to Greenland after a stay in Vineland of about three years. Thorfinn Karlsefni probably explored Nova Scotia, perhaps Prince Edward Island, and probably some of the St Lawrence River. There is some speculation that Thorfinn may have sailed farther south, but there is no evidence.

Thorfinn Karlsefni and Freydis made a further trip to Vineland and took Hegli, and Finnbogi and their crew in a second ship. Freydis seems to have taken command and insisted that Hegli, and Finnbogi build a separate house and not stay at l&rsquoAnse Aux Meadows. During the winter tempers rose, apparently Freydis was responsible for ordering the killing of the entire second crew, including Freydis' personal killing of their women. Freydis led the remaining last contingent back to Greenland.

Thorfinn's wife Gudrid's child, Snorri, was apparently born in Newfoundland c1008 on this trip. Snorri was probably the first European born in the Americas.

The Vinland camp remained in occasional use by later Norse explorers and traders until c1350.

Travel to, Exploration and Documentation of China (Cathay)

Commanders: Maffeo, Marco, and Niccolò Polo

Polos in China

The elder Polos met Kublai Khan, the Mongol emperor. The Polos were then commissioned to escort an ambassador back to the pope. Papal vacancies kept them until their return in 1271, with young Marco. Marco Polo became a favorite and explored and traded in China until 1291.

The Polos returned to Venice in 1295, where their stories were not believed. Marco dictated a book 'Il Milione' recounting his travels. Although disbelieved at the time, later academics supported his claims as the geographical data proved accurate.

As the existence of China and the Polos' stories of incredible wealth were accepted, the Europeans began to explore for a short route to trade with China. Much of the subsequent Atlantic exploration excitement was motivated by the Polos' stories of great wealth.

Caribbean, Malian Expedition, 400 Ships

Commander: Abubakari II, King of Mali

No ships returned from this trip, some men may have reached MesoAmerica. Mali was assured by professors from Timbuktu’s university and by Arab geographers that the world was round and that new lands lay on the other side of the great green ocean.

An attempt to discover and explore new lands was probably made in c1307.

Caribbean, Second Malian Expedition, 2,000 Ships

Commander: Abubakari II, King of Mali

No ships returned from final trip, some men may have reached MesoaMerica. King Abubakari led the second expedition himself in 1312, having organised his empire from his capital at Timbuktu.

Abubakari took his best sailors and navigators, captains and cooks. The ships carried colonists and trade goods - just in case. On the deck of one ship was a throne, apparently covered by a royal parasol.

Norse Exploration via Hudson Bay to Minnesota

Commander: Paul Knutson, a Swede?

In 1354 King Magnus IV Eirikson of Sweden commissioned Paul Knutson to sail to Greenland. It appears that Knutson returned in c1364 via Minnesota. The translated text reads.

"8 Geats (South Swedes) and 22 Norwegians on acquisition venture from Vinland far to the west We had traps by 2 shelters one day's travel to the north from this stone We were fishing one day. After we came home found 10 men red with blood and dead AVM (Ave Maria) Deliver from evils.

I have 10 men at the inland sea to look after our ship 14 days travel from this property Year of our Lord 1362."

Indian Ocean, Indian Coast, African Coast, Philippines, Indonesian Archipelago, Moluccas, Korea, Japan Exploration

1405 - East China Sea Indian Ocean Africa, 1421 - 800+ ships and 27,870 men (plus concubines and merchant traders)

Dated 1763, Chinese map purported copy of Mo Yi Tong's Ming-dynasty 1418 map of the Americas, Africa, Australia, and Europe**

Commander: Chinese Admiral Zheng He (Cheng Ho)

Ming emperor Zhu Di (also called Yong Le, or Chéng zsǔ) used his closest advisor the eunuch Zheng He to build power. Zhu Di seized power in China in 1403 and ordered Zheng He to build a new fleet of 1,681 ships and '. proceed all the way to the ends of the earth. '

In 1405-1430, Zheng He apparently organised and commanded seven expeditions of up to 800+ ships and 27,870 men (plus concubines) on voyages of world discovery.[8] Zheng He spent the next 25 years on various expeditions to South-east Asia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, the Indian Ocean, South Atlantic, and East African coast and then in organising other Chinese admirals to lead further world expeditions. He first sailed to Java, Sumatra, Ceylon, India, the Persian Gulf, and East Africa. The reputed 1421 sixth trip is alleged to have gone further - to Australia, Western Africa, Antarctica, the Americas, Greenland, and along northern Russia. (Considerable academic disagreement disputes the suggestion of the sixth trip and its area of exploration.) The principal Chinese commander was Admiral Zheng He, whose sixth expedition stone memorial apparently records a voyage of 160,000 kms.

The largest Chinese ships were called 'treasure ships' - because of their enormous cost. The fleets were well equipped with navigators, surveyors, astronomers, engineers, cartographers, and historians - as well as diplomats and translators. Several types of specialists were included like mathematicians, stone masons, and metallurgists (China and India led the world in mining and smelting minerals.) He's ships had compasses, 36' stern post rudders, watertight compartments & the largest were 480' x 180' and 3,000+ tons. (Columbus' ships were 100- tons.) The Chinese ships were armed with cannons and gunpowder, plus flaming arrows, and may have carried regiments of de-facto marines. The main ships were triple-hulled with 16 watertight compartments. Each massive 'treasure' ship '. consumed the wood of three hundred acres of prime teak forest.[9]

In the early 1400s Ming China was a powerful nation with a navy of c3,000 warships and c800 transport and large 'long-distance' ships. There were an additional 3,000 merchantmen, plus smaller specialty ships. (See Gavin Menzies 1421, p. 511.) The Chinese thus had the resources to undertake world exploration and charting. The fleets were reportedly self-contained for up to three months, carried thousands of horses, pigs, chickens, and dogs and were replenished by special water and grain supply ships. Menzies notes that because the fleets were protected by fast, manoeuverable war ships they were joined by trading ships from: Japan, Korea, Burma, Vietnam, and India .Between 1421 and 1426, Zheng He's Chinese fleets reportedly sailed and visited throughout the world (less Europe) and fulfilled the mandate of their emperor Zhu Di. Menzies claims that the Chinese successfully conducted major mining operations in Australia, South America, America, and on Ellesmere Island in northern Canada. (Essentially many academics say '. hogwash didn't happen.[10])

The reputed motive for this exploration was to extend wealthy China's trade empire by re-creating the peaceful world environment of the pre-Mongol period. (In 1237 the Chinese navy deployed 52,000 men in 20 squadrons armed with mines, cannon, and bombs.)[11] This was to be achieved by extending the empire through friendly visits resulting in submission: those states not accepting Chinese suzerainty 'were to be over-awed by a show of armed might'. All the states visited in the first voyage allegedly submitted. [12] The enormous fleets (c800 ships) visited and charted much of the world and every continent, including the Antarctic and northern Greenland coastal waters. Most of the principal 'treasure' ships were lost in the dangerous, unexplored inland waterways. Although the key astral reference points (Polaris, the Southern Cross, and Canopus) had been accurately located and their mapping and navigation charts recorded the enormous amount of survey detail the mandarins destroyed many of the formal records and reortedly now only copies of copies remain of the Chinese world coastal maps. Many of the world's principal rivers are included in these maps, accurately portrayed perhaps exceeding casual map representation - even if then known by others. (North American rivers portrayed on early maps include the: Mississippi, Brazos, Alabama, Roanoke, Delaware, Hudson, and possibly the St Lawrence.) A number of early Japanese and European maps may contain information derived from the remnant Chinese maps. These European maps are alleged to include information which was derived from the Chinese.[13]

By the time the combined fleets reached the Chinese trading base at Calicut India, the fleet allegedly carried the largest single population between China and Japan. The flagship alone is described by Menzies as having 60 staterooms just for foreign ambassadors and their staffs. The reason for the vast fleet was to enable the survey and capture of the world's geographic details to support world charting. Additionally, the diplomats were to make contact with newly discovered 'Barbarians' (the rest of the world) and invite them to send envoys with the fleet to the emperor in Beijing. The emperor and his advisors had reportedly understood that they could not create a world trading empire without creating and sharing world sailing charts and diplomatic contacts.

Why did we not know about this altruistic Chinese enterprise previously? Zheng He's general explorations have been known for centuries, but only recently has Menzie's attempted to compile an extensive record. According to Menzies, sadly, Chinese timing was bad and the maps and a succession of weak emperors merely enabled the Portuguese and others to exploit the charts and seize the trade. Reportedly the last Chinese ships probably returned in 1426. Sadly the visionary emperor died discredited in 1424 and his sailors' alleged triumph was muted: they returned to a different world and the mandarins destroyed most of the records. Historically, China then turned away from external trade and the outside world.

Zheng He's last and Seventh voyage was despatched in 1430, during which he died. Reportedly the fleet carried 27,500 men and travelled to Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Ceylon and reached Calicut India. The fleet then divided and sailed to Persia and the African coast, trading with the local Arabs. When the fleet finally returned some of the ships were burned while others were left to rot.

Basque and Bristol seamen began fishing and whaling off eastern Canada. Numerous sea stories have been recorded of European fishermen off eastern Canada.

The first recorded English voyage into Atlantic coastal Canadian water was made by John Day in 1480. Day was a Bristol merchant and there are stories of Bristol men finding Brasile that Day claimed to be the same land Cabot claimed.

Chinese Sixth Voyage of Circumnavigation, Charting of Southern and Northern Asia, Africa, Australia, Antarctica, the Americas, the Caribbean, and Greenland

This entire trip is disputed as is the claim to have visited all the places alleged

800+ ships and 27,870 Chinese envoys, sailors and passengers (including concubines)

Commanders: Chinese Admiral Zheng He, Fleet Vice Admirals Zhou Man, Zhou Wen, Hong Bao, Yang Qing

According to Menzies, o n 5 March 1421, after years of planning, Zheng He led the fleets into the Yellow Sea and around Korea and Thailand to the Chinese base at Calicut, India. From there they reportedly sailed across to the Horn of Africa and then south around the Cape of Good Hope and up the west coast past the Bulge to the Cape Verde Islands where Menzies says He raised a stone monument. At Cape Verde the fleets reportedly began to separate on their imperial missions.

Zhou Wen allegedly sailed west with the Trade Winds to the Antilles and began serious charting while losing ships and men to the hidden coral reefs. Zhou Wen then allegedly sailed up Florida to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, where he got caught in the winds and currents and looped back to Cape Verde and repeated his trip to the Caribbean and the American coast. Fixing Polaris as a baseline reference allegedly required sailing north though the Davis Strait around Greenland and Iceland. Zhou Wen allegedly returned home by sailing north of Europe and along the Russian Siberian coast, via Japan to Tanggu (Tianjin) in late 1423 .[14]

Hong Bao also allegedly sailed west, but more to the south to Brazil: evidently he traveled up the Amazon, since Chinese DNA, a possible stone city, porcelain, jade carvings, and other Chinese items have been found there. Hong Bao then sailed south via Patagonia, transited the Strait of Magellan and then further south to the South Shetlands. In this area he fixed the Southern Cross and Canopus for surveying in the Southern Hemisphere. Hong Bao then mapped the ice limits and Antarctica's mountain peaks and then sailed to the western and southern coasts of Australia. and home to Tanggu (Tianjin) carrying the Ambassador of Callicut in October 1423.

Zhou Man allegedly made a stupendous trip from Cape Verde, sailing around South America via the Strait of Magellan and then caught the Humbolt current up the Chilean and Peruvian coasts. Zhou Man was then allegedly swept across the Pacific to Australia, where he followed the coast and allegedly landed for mining explorations mounted on horses. There were several alleged wrecks along the Australian coast and people were left behind. After exploring along the Australian coast to the west, Zhou Man allegedly returned to the north and then sailed towards Japan, catching the winds and current back to the American coast allegedly near Vancouver.[15] He then allegedly sailed south along California and Mexico to catch the Humbolt again off Peru and allegedly returned to Australia, New Zealand (more wrecks), and then finally home to Beijing.

Yang Qing received orders to sail as the first of the fleets on 13 January 1421. He apparently sailed along the coast to India, then down that eastern coast and across the Indian Ocean to the African Cape of Good Hope. Yang Qing followed the East African coast to Persian port of Hormuz. He then continued along the coast and returned past India to Nanking and then Beijing in September 1422. His trip was short, but he brought back 17 African and Indian envoys and determined how to calculate longitude (three centuries prior to Europe).

(Later emperors tried to destroy all the records of these voyages and refocus Chinese attention inward on the 'Middle Kingdom'. The Portuguese, Spanish, and other Europeans allegedly exploited the hard won charts without crediting their source. Individuals (like Columbus) were motivated to claim discovery and credit for themselves.)

Portuguese Exploration of the Caribbean

Commander: Capitão Gonzalo Velho Cabral

In 1431, Prince Henry sent his senior sea captain to find Antilia, which was then marked on a variety of old maps. Antilia was what is now called Puerto Rico

Not only did Cabral find it - the claimed Chinese data was accurate - but he settled some colonists there, who later greeted Columbus in 1493. When Columbus arrived, he reported being met in Portuguese.[16] The Portuguese had another allegedly ship blown off course in 1447, which touched at Puerto Rico and on return confirmed to Portuguese authorities that the colonists were there.

Labrador, Newfoundland, America

Commanders: Capitão João Corte Real Captain Didrich Pining Captain Hans Pothorst Navigator Johannes Scolvuus

Caravels had triangular sails

João Corte Real rewarded for finding &lsquoStockfish Land&rsquo (Newfoundland). João Corte Real&rsquos sons &hellip &ldquoGaspar and Miguel disappeared in Newfoundland waters in 1502.[17]

Henry had pushed the design of sailing ships to create the state-of-the-art Caravel design (above). because, unlike his captains Henry knew of the Cape of Good Hope, he knew the courses to find Indian and Chinese silks, and he knew where to find the spices - the key to fabulous wealth and world power. Henry's goal was indeed to grab world trade and he took the spice trade away from the very Chinese who had given him the critical information on how to find it

Spanish Discovery of America

1492 - three ships and 100 men, 1493 - 17 ships and 1,200 men, 1498 - six ships, 1502 - four ships

Commander: Capitán General, Chistóbal Colón, Almirante de Océano, Virrey de las Indias,[18]

The New World

In 1493, Columbus returned (including Juan Ponce de León) to colonise Hispaniola. He explored Cuba, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Bahamas, Hispaniola, In the period 1493-1496, He named Jamaica where he was shipwrecked for a year. Columbus returned to Spain with 225 Spaniards of the orginal 1,200. Columbus reported meeting Chinese in Cuba, and prior Chinese visits to Greenland and the Azores. In a secret report he described meeting Chinese miners in a ship.

1498, Explored Trinidad and Venezuela.

1502-1504, Explored Central America.

Spanish Conquest of Puerto Rico, Exploration of Florida

1513 - three ships, 1521 - two ships,

Commander: Juan Ponce de León, Gobernador de Puerto Rico

1493, With Columbus on his second voyage. Settled on Hispaniola and appointed governor of the Province of Higuey.

1508, Conquered San Juan de Puerto Rico , and established Caparra colony. 1509, Appointed Governor of Puerto Rico and brought European diseases to the 'New World'.

In 1512, Ponce de León was stripped of his governorship, but was authorised to search for and claim land north of Cuba. 27 March 1513, Explored 'La Florida' (flowery). In 1514, Ponce was authorised to conquer Guadalupe and colonize the Island of Florida. He failed in Guadalupe.

1521, Ponce de León failed to colonise Florida due to Indian attacks.

English Exploration and Claim of Newfoundland, Canada

1497 - one ship and 18 men, 1498 - five ships

Commander: Captain John Cabot (Giovanni Caboto)

On 5 March 1496, Henry VII of England authorised Cabot to sail for England and claim lands. He was authorised five ships, but only used one. A false start in 1496 was turned back at Iceland because of trouble with his crew.

On 24 June 1497, Cabot landed on the coast and named and claimed New Found Land for England. He left to return on 20 July and arrived back in Bristol on 6 August 1497. He was the first modern European to claim land on continental North America.

Cabot left with five ships in 1498, but Cabot and four ships never returned.

Explored Africa to Asia Sea-Route

1498 - four ships and 170 men, 1502 - 20 warships, 1524

Capitão Vasco da Gama

Da Gama was a Portuguese explorer, authorised by King Manuel I of Portugal to sail in the East. In 1498, Da Gama discovered the sea route from Europe to Calicut India around Africa. Da Gama established a safe route for trading access to Asian silks. He returned with only two ships and 54 men, but cemented a 450-year Portuguese colonial trading relationship with western India. He left Lisbon on 18 July 1497 and arrived in India on 20 May 1498.

Da Gama returned to India as an admiral in 1502, and to force Calcutta to allow Portuguese access he defeated an Indian fleet.

In 1524 Da Gama died, while en route to India again to replace the Portuguese viceroy.

Explored Colombia, Venezuala and Brazil

Documented the Americas as being continents

Amerigo Vespucci and Capitáns Juan de la Cosa, Alonso de Ojeda, and CapitãoGonçalo Coelho

Vespucci sailed for King Fernando, of Spain, who wanted to know how far Hispaniola was from a mainland, as an Italian merchant on exploration voyages to South America. He made his reputation by grasping and documenting that South America was a continent.

Vespucci sailed with Juan de la Cosa in May 1497 to Colombia, or possibly Nicaragua, and returned to Spain via the Strait of Florida.

Vespucci joined Alonso de Ojeda sailing for Spain in 1499. The two men parted company after reaching Guyana (and probably Venezuela). Vespucci then sailed to the mouth of the Amazon and Orinoco Rivers on the coast of Brazil. Vespucci returned to Spain via Hispaniola.

Vespucci sailed again, this time with Coelho for King Manuel I of Portugal, in 1501-1502 to the area of Rio de Janeiro: he may have reached Agentina. On return to Lisbon in 1502, Vespucci wrote to Lorenzo de Medici and suggested that the land was too big to be Asia and must be a New World.

In 1507, Martin Waldseemüller produced a world map on which he named the new continent "America" after Vespucci's first name, Amerigo.

Find out more

In The Vikings Uncovered Dan Snow tracks their expansion west, first as raiders and then as settlers and traders. He travels through Britain, to Iceland, Greenland and Canada to see what could be the most westerly Viking settlement ever discovered. The programme will be on BBC One on Monday 4 April at 20:30.

In 1960, a site on the very northernmost tip of Newfoundland in Canada, Lɺnse aux Meadows, was investigated and archaeologists were convinced that it was a Viking settlement. The world woke up to the fact that the Vikings had reached North America before any other Europeans. But no other site has been identified, the search for Viking America stalled. Until now.

Sarah Parcak uses satellite imagery to look for irregularities in the soil, potentially caused by man-made structures which lie beneath. She has used this technique to find ancient sites in Egypt and a few years ago she scoured the Roman Empire where she identified the site of the great lighthouse at Portus near Rome and several other buildings, from a fort in Tunisia to ramparts in Romania. Last year, she decided to search for the Vikings.

It wasn't easy. They travelled light and left nothing behind. No massive stone theatres for them. They voyaged in longships with a strong oak keel, and thin overlapping planks fanning out to form the iconic, graceful hull - the gaps between the planks stuffed with animal hair and tar. The rudder was fixed on with a twisted birch sapling. Sails spun from wool. Food was pickled herring, lamb smoked using reindeer droppings, fermented salmon. Almost everything on a Viking ship would get recycled or rot away. But they did leave a trace, and Parcak's team were determined to pick it up, however faint.

They scanned satellite pictures from across the east coast of America. Several sites appeared worth following up, but they had to decide on one for a dig. In the end they opted for a headland, almost the very western tip of Newfoundland, 400 miles further south and west than the only known Viking site in North America.

It overlooked two bays, offering protection for ships from any wind direction. Parcak saw oddities in the soil that stood out - patterns and discolourations that suggested artificial, man-made structures, possibly even Viking longhouses, once stood there.

It was time to leave the lab, and head out into the field. For a couple of weeks Parcak led the team as they carefully probed the ground that she had first spotted thanks to a satellite hundreds of miles away in space.

Newfoundland's climate is as brutal as ours in the British Isles with hail, gales, sweltering sun and driving rain. Exploratory trenches were flooded, equipment blew away, but they toughed it out and found something tantalising.

Months before, in her lab, Sarah had shown me an image that she thought might be the site of burning or metalwork. Sure enough, when she started to dig on the exact spot, she found something. Something that might prove to be a breakthrough. Carefully peeling back the layers of earth, she found what seemed to be a hearth.

A blackened rock testified to intense temperatures. Beneath it were piles of charcoal mixed with cooked bog iron - an iron deposit that needs to be baked to drive off impurities and allow the iron to be extracted for smelting. Surrounding the hearth appeared to be a turf wall of the kind built by Viking settlers across the North Atlantic.

"I am absolutely thrilled," says Parcak. "Typically in archaeology, you only ever get to write a footnote in the history books, but what we seem to have at Point Rosee may be the beginning of an entirely new chapter.

"This new site could unravel more secrets about the Vikings, whether they were the first Europeans to 'occupy' briefly in North America, and reveal that the Vikings dared to explore much further into the New World than we ever thought."

She immediately checked that there could be no other explanation for these deposits. Newfoundland historian Olaf Janzen was certain, no other groups of settlers roasted bog iron in Newfoundland. Nothing has been proven yet, but it looks like Parcak might have found evidence for Viking exploration in North America that goes much further than just that one site discovered in the 60s.

This find "has the potential to change history" says Douglas Bolender, an expert on Viking settlement who has spent 15 years tracking the Vikings across the north Atlantic. "Right now the simplest answer is that it looks like a small activity area, maybe connected to a larger farm that is Norse." He is excited and can't wait to see what further excavation reveals. He's hoping that seeds or other organic matter that can be carbon dated will be unearthed.

If Parcak has found evidence of another Viking site, it will ignite a new search for Viking settlements across eastern Canada and New England, perhaps as far south as New York and even beyond. Technology has unlocked long forgotten stories from our past, and that technology is getting ever more sophisticated. For those of us who are fascinated by the travels of the intrepid Norsemen, the next few years will provide ever more inspiration.


1 For maps see Houghton Mifflin map, http://www.reisenett.no/ekstern.html?url=http://www.eduplace.com/ss/ssmaps/wrldcont.html, and http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/islands_oceans_poles/arctic_region_pol02.jpg.

2 General exploration sources and some specific internet citations include: Richard, David Hakluyt's Voyages, A Selection, Andrew Taylor, The World of Gerard Mercator Ole Klindt-Jensen, The World of the Vikings SE Morison, both The European Discovery of America, The Northern Voyages, AD 500-1600 and The European Discovery of America, The Southern Voyages AD 1492-1616, Lee Miller, Solving the Mystery of the Lost Colony of Roanoke Richard Middleton, Colonial America, A History, 1607-1760 Peter C, Newman, Company of Adventurers Michael Wood, Conquistadors, Peter Winn, Americas David Beers Quinn, Set Fair For Roanoke, Voyages and Colonies, 1584-1606, Farley Mowat, WestViking, The Ancient Norse in Greenland and North America, Gavin Menzies, 1421 The Year China Discovered America,Nora Chadwick, The Celts FR Cruikshank, The Life of Sir Henry Morgan, With an Account of The English Settlement of The Island of Jamaica (1655-1688) Jan Rogoziñski, A Brief History of the Caribbean, From the Arawak and Carib to the Present Barry Gough, First Across the Continent, Sir Alexander Mackenzie Gertrude Kerman, Cabeza de Vaca, Defender of the Indians William H Prescott, History of the Conquest of Mexico, & History of the Conquest of Peru Thor Heyerdahl, Early Man and The Ocean, A Search For the Beginnings Of Navigation and Seaborne Civilizations Charles C Mann, 1491, New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve, The Sioux Stephen Coote, Drake, The Life and Legend of an Elizabethan Hero Reader&rsquos Digest, Heritage Canada Jan Rogoziñski, A Brief History of the Caribbean http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juan_Ponce_de_Leon Samuel Bawalf, The Secret Voyage of Sir Francis Drake, 1577-1580 Nick Hazelwood, The Queen's Slave Trader.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juan_Rodriguez_Cabrillo Andrew Taylor, The World of Gerard Mercator. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacques_Marquette Felipe Fernández-Armesto, Pathfinders, A Global History of Exploration Pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact at, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pre-Columbian_trans-oceanic_contact.http://www.pbs.org/opb/conquistadors/home.htm http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marco_Polo http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Franklin http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medard_des_Groseilliers http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_de_Champlain http://www.biographi.ca/EN/ShowBio.asp?BioId=34160 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kensington_Runestone http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%89tienne_Br%C3%BBl%C3%A9 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferdinand_Magellan http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Raleigh http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Captain_James_Cook#Third_voyage_.281776-1779.29 http://www.si.umich.edu/CHICO/UMS/Drummers/oralmstory.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Columbus http://www.enchantedlearning.com/explorers/1700.shtml http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acadian#History http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amerigo_Vespucci http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antonio_de_Ulloa http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bartolomeu_Dias http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre_Le_Moyne_d'Iberville http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pedro_%C3%81lvares_Cabral http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francisco_V%C3%A1squez_de_Coronado http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Drake http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Frobisher http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hernando_de_Soto_%28explorer%29 http://www.famousamericans.net/franciscodeulloa1/ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Jolliet http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hern%C3%A1n_Cort%C3%A9s http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hispaniola http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Cabot http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre-Esprit_Radisson http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juan_Rodriguez_Cabrillo http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francisco_Pizarro htp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_de_Champlain http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sebasti%C3%A1n_Vizca%C3%ADno http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sir_Henry_Morgan http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vasco_da_Gama http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pytheas http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruno_de_Hezeta http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucas_V%C3%A1squez_de_Ayll%C3%B3n http://www.1421.tv/ http://www.nebraskastudies.org/0300/frameset_reset.html?http://www.nebraskastudies.org/0300/stories/0301_0113.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vasco_N%C3%BA%C3%B1ez_de_Balboa http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viceroy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitus_Bering http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Edward_Parry http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Verendrye http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woodes_Rogers http://encarta.msn.com/ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inuit#Anthropological_analysis http://encyclopedia.jrank.org/AUD_BAI/AYLLON_LUCAS_VASQUEZ_DE_c_t475_.html http://fcit.usf.edu/florida/docs/e/english.htm http://www.blupete.com/Hist/BiosNS/1600-00/Champlain.htm http://www.collectionscanada.ca/explorers/h24-1460-e.html http://www.collectionscanada.ca/explorers/h24-1530-e.html http://www.enchantedlearning.com/explorers/namerica.shtml http://columbia.thefreedictionary.com/Nicolet,+Jean http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Captain_John_Smith http://www.enchantedlearning.com/explorers/page/l/lasalle.shtml http://www.fact-index.com/j/jo/john_beaufort__1st_earl_of_somerset.html http://www.famousamericans.net/pierrelemoyneiberville/ http://www.gallica.co.uk/celts/timeline.htm http://www.paulnoll.com/China/Dynasty/Ming-1403-Cheng-Zu.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Ross_%28Arctic_explorer%29 http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/AA/fag2_print.html http://www.nationalcenter.org/ColonyofRoanoke.html

3 Portuguese Discoveries in North America, //www.thornr.demon.co.uk/kchrist/portam.html.

4 Mexico was known as España Nueva (New Spain) until the Mexican Revolution. Cortés made allies of the Tlaxcaltec Indians &ndash enemies of the Aztecs, and won Mexico by defeating the Aztec Empire. Curiously New Mexico was always known as ' Nueva Mexico'.

5 Paul I Wellman, Glory, God and Gold, pp. 3-65. Coronado was also Governor of Nueva Galicia.

6 Gavin Menzies, 1421 The Year China Discovered America, p . 549.

7 Nick Hazelwood, The Queen's Slave Trader, provides a good account of the little known origins of English slaving.

8 Samuel Bawlf, The Secret Voyage of Sir Francis Drake, 1577-1580. pp. 292-304.

10 Wellman, op. cit. pp. 65-77.

11 New Mexico was thus created officially in c1595.

12 Paul I Wellman, Glory, God and Gold, pp. 148-154. Villasur&rsquos men were massacred and Spain withdrew colonising activity into New Mexico.

New Evidence Ancient Chinese Explorers Landed in America Excites Experts

John A. Ruskamp Jr., Ed.D., reports that he has identified an outstanding, history-changing treasure hidden in plain sight. High above a walking path in Albuquerque’s Petroglyph National Monument, Ruskamp spotted petroglyphs that struck him as unusual. After consulting with experts on Native American rock writing and ancient Chinese scripts to corroborate his analysis, he has concluded that the readable message preserved by these petroglyphs was likely inscribed by a group of Chinese explorers thousands of years ago.

On the fringe of archaeology have long been claims that the Chinese reached North America long before Europeans. With some renowned experts taking interest in Ruskamp’s discovery, those claims may be working their way from the fringe to the core.

It doesn’t mean our history textbooks will change tomorrow. Anything short of discovering an undisturbed early Asiatic relic or village in the Americas may fail to convince those archaeologists who have dogmatically rejected evidence of an ancient Chinese presence in the New World, said Ruskamp.

But, the disparate and widespread symbols he has found show many indications of authenticity. They have the potential to inspire a more serious investigation into early trans-Pacific interaction. To date, Ruskamp has identified over 82 petroglyphs matching unique ancient Chinese scripts not only at multiple sites in Albuquerque, New Mexico, but also nearby in Arizona, as well as in Utah, Nevada, California, Oklahoma, and Ontario. Collectively, he believes that most of these artifacts were created by an early Chinese exploratory expedition, although some appear to be reproductions made by Native people for their own purposes.

One of Ruskamp’s staunchest supporters has been David N. Keightley, Ph.D., a MacArthur Foundation Genius Award recipient who is considered by many to be the leading analyst in America of early Chinese oracle-bone writings. Keightley has helped Ruskamp decipher the scripts he has identified. One ancient message, preserved by three Arizona cartouche petroglyphs, translates as: “Set apart (for) 10 years together declaring (to) return, (the) journey completed, (to the) house of the Sun (the) journey completed together.” At the end of this text is an unidentified character that may be the author’s signature.

Cartouche 1, which reads “Set apart (for) 10 years together.”(Courtesy of John Ruskamp)

Cartouche 2, which reads, “Declaring (to) return, (the) journey completed, (to the) house of the Sun.” (Courtesy of John Ruskamp)

Cartouche 3, which reads, “(The) journey completed together.” (Courtesy of John Ruskamp)

The Arizona glyph site on what has always been, and still is, very private ranch property located miles from any public access or road. (Courtesy of John Ruskamp)

The oracle-bone style of writing employed for creating a number of these ancient petroglyph scripts disappeared by royal decree from mankind’s memory around 1046 B.C., following the fall of the Shang Dynasty. It remained an unknown and totally forgotten form of writing until it was rediscovered in A.D. 1899 at Anyang, China. Ruskamp thus concluded that the mixed styles of Chinese scripts found in these Arizona petroglyphs indicates that they were made during a transitional period of writing in China, not long after 1046 B.C.

Ruskamp gives the following translation for the Albuquerque petroglyphs: “Gēng (a date the seventh Chinese Heavenly Stem) Jié (to kneel down in reverence) Da (great—referring to a superior) Quăn (dog—the sacrificial animal) Xiàn (offering worship to deceased ancestors) and Dà Jiă (the name of the third king of the Shang dynasty).”

Albuquerque petroglyphs (Courtesy of John Ruskamp)

The Albuquerque petroglyphs use both Seal era and Bronze era Chinese scripts, suggesting they were also written during a transitional period in Chinese calligraphy, likely between 1046 B.C. and 475 B.C. The use of the title “Da” before the name “Jiă,” suggests a date close to the end of the Shang Dynasty in 1046 B.C., as this appellation emerged during that time period and was replaced shortly thereafter.

A comparison of scripts over time. (Courtesy of John Ruskamp)

Michael F. Medrano, Ph.D., chief of the Division of Resource Management for Petroglyph National Monument, studied the petroglyphs at that location upon Ruskamp’s request. He said that, based on his more than 25 years of experience with local Native cultures, “These images do not readily appear to be associated with local tribal entities,” and “based on repatination appear to have antiquity to them.”

It is difficult to physically date petroglyphs with absolute certainty, notes Ruskamp. Yet the syntax and mix of Chinese scripts found at these two locations correspond to what experts would expect explorers from China to use some 2,500 years ago.

For example, the Arizona ranch petroglyphs are divided into three sections each enclosed in a square known as a cartouche. Two of the cartouches are numbered one with the Chinese script for “one” placed beneath it and in a similar manner the second cartouche has the ancient Chinese script meaning “second” inscribed beneath it. Together these numeric figures indicate the order in which these images should be read. Importantly, the cartouches are thus shown to be read in the traditional Chinese manner, from right to left.

The first two cartouches are rotated 90 degrees to the left of vertical and the third is rotated 90 degrees to the right. “The deliberate rotation of these writings, both to the left and right of vertical by an equal number of degrees, endorses their authenticity, for the rotation of individual scripts by Chinese calligraphers is well-documented,” wrote Ruskamp.

Some of the symbols found in the petroglyphs are common to both Chinese script and ancient Native American writing. For instance, “The Chinese petroglyph figure of Jiu conveys the idea of “togetherness,” in much the same manner as the Nakwach symbol is now, and has been in the past, understood by the Hopi,” wrote Ruskamp.

Left: Hopi Nakwách symbol. Right: Chinese petroglyph figure of Jiu. (Sears Courtesy of John Ruskamp)

Another similarity is the use of a rectilinear spiral to convey the concept of a “round-trip journey.”

A rectilinear spiral similarly used by the Chinese and the Hopi to convey the concept of a “round-trip journey.”(Wieger Courtesy of John Ruskamp)

Though these similarities could be conceived as supporting a Native American origin for Ruskamp’s petroglyphs, Ruskamp stated: “The extensive Chinese vocabulary evidenced at each location advocates against the authorship of the figures evaluated in this study being credited to Native Americans. None of the more complex Chinese figures identified in this report are known to have any Native tribal affiliation.”

The conclusion of his paper titled “Ancient Chinese Rock Writings Confirm Early Trans-Pacific Interaction,” reads: “In contrast to any previous historical uncertainty, the comparative evidence presented in this report, which is supported by both analytical evaluation and expert opinion, documenting the presence of readable sequences of old Chinese scripts located upon the rocks of North America, establishes that prior to the extinction of oracle-bone script from human memory, approximately 2,500 years ago, trans-Pacific exchanges of epigraphic intellectual property took place between Chinese and North American populations.”

He published the paper on his website, Asiaticechoes.org, in April and it is currently under peer review. Last October, he began presenting his findings in speaking engagements, including most recently to the Association of American Geographers in Chicago. He will next present at a meeting of the Little Colorado River Chapter of the Arizona Archaeology Society in Springerville, Arizona, on May 18. The editors of the journal Pre-Columbiana have confirmed they will soon publish Ruskamp’s article. The journal is edited by Professor Emeritus Stephen C. Jett, Ph.D., University of California–Davis, with the assistance of an editorial board of distinguished professional scholars, and is dedicated to exploring Pre-Columbian transoceanic contact.

A retired educator, statistician, and analytical chemist, Ruskamp pursued his study of petroglyphs as a hobby—little expecting to find what may lead to a great shift in how we view both American and Chinese history.

Featured image: Arizona cartouche petroglyphs. (Courtesy of John Ruskamp)

The article ‘ New Evidence Ancient Chinese Explorers Landed in America Excites Experts ’ was originally published on The Epoch Times and has been republished with permission.

Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón

Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón was a Spanish explorer born around 1475. He owned a lucrative sugar plantation and served as a government official on the island of Hispaniola. After hearing from slave traders about a territory in North America that contained a large native population, he petitioned the Spanish crown for permission to explore and settle the area in hopes of enslaving the native population to grow cash crops such as sugar cane. He obtained a license in June of 1523 that instructed him to explore the area, learn about the region, search for valuable resources, and find out how the Spanish could conquer the territory.

De Ayllón set out to explore the region in 1525. He and his crew created a rough map of the land between modern day Florida and Delaware by sailing along the Atlantic coast of North America. The creation of this map fulfilled the exploration portion of his contract with the crown. After seeing the area, de Ayllón decided to fund and organize his own expedition to create a settlement. In 1526, he embarked for North America with approximately 600 colonists (including women and children) and six ships. They initially landed in Winyah Bay, South Carolina, but de Ayllón determined that this area was unsuitable for a settlement due to its acidic soils and relatively small native population.

The expedition then ventured south. They eventually found an area de Ayllón determined fit for their settlement. Although the exact location is not known, some historians believe that it was on one of Georgia’s barrier islands, Sapelo. There, de Ayllón established San Miguel de Gualdape on October 8, 1526, which became the first Spanish settlement in La Florida. The colonists built a community complete with houses and a church. However, they were unable to plant crops due to the lateness of the year. Colonists, including de Ayllón, soon began falling sick and dying at a relatively rapid rate. Three months after the colony was established, the remaining colonists began a deadly winter voyage back to Hispaniola. Only 150 out of the original 600 colonists returned alive.

To learn more about Lucas Vásquez de Ayllón’s settlement in Georgia, watch the Today in Georgia History episode.

France defeated in French and Indian War

The French and Indian Wars, which lasted from 1689 until 1763, were a series of conflicts between the French, their Native American allies, and the British over territories bordering the British colonies in North America. Both sides blocked seaports, attacked forts, and raided frontier settlements. The colonial wars were directly linked to French and British struggles for worldwide dominance. Therefore, three major European conflicts—King William's War (1689–97), Queen Anne's War (1702–13), and King George's War (1744–48)—are usually considered part of the French and Indian Wars. However, the French and Indian War of 1754 to 1763 had the most direct impact on France. Throughout this complex and prolonged confrontation, the French and Native Americans resisted westward expansion of British settlers. Hostilities began at the end of King George's War, in 1748, when the British-owned Ohio Company wanted to claim the area around present-day Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers join to form the Ohio River. The English started building a fort on the spot but were driven out by the French, who then built Fort Duquesne in 1754.

Watch the video: European conquest of America


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