Podcasts de historia

¿Existe la posibilidad de que la civilización islámica visitara América antes que Colón?

¿Existe la posibilidad de que la civilización islámica visitara América antes que Colón?

Las fuentes islámicas afirman que existe evidencia histórica de que un explorador islámico visitó América antes de Colón y la Era de los Descubrimientos. Un ejemplo. Colón no fue el primero en cruzar el Atlántico. La evidencia más temprana que afirma este artículo fue durante el gobierno islámico en España.

¿Existe evidencia arqueológica o literaria independiente que sugiera la posibilidad de que exploradores islámicos hayan visitado América antes de la Era de los Descubrimientos?


Colón no fue, de hecho, el primero en cruzar el Atlántico. Había comunidades nórdicas que vivían en Groenlandia desde el siglo X. Incluso tenían algunos asentamientos temporales en América del Norte propiamente dicha. Sin embargo, los nórdicos no eran tan buenos para ganarse la vida en el Atlántico norte como los inuit, y (después de 500 años) finalmente fueron eliminados por alguna combinación de sus ataques y el cambio climático.

Sin embargo, esto fue mucho antes de la imprenta y en los extremos del asentamiento europeo, por lo que no era muy conocido en Europa.

Hay varias otras historias de posibles cruces transatlánticos. Sin embargo, ninguno de ellos dejó la evidencia física de que los vikingos lo hicieron, por lo que generalmente se los considera solo cuentos.

Para ser justos, también debemos tener en cuenta que los pueblos inuit cruzaron regularmente a América desde Asia, al igual que todos los demás pueblos indígenas del hemisferio occidental en algún momento. Las cadenas de islas entre Siberia y Alaska no son una gran barrera para las personas acostumbradas a vivir en esa ecosfera. También hay evidencia indirecta del contacto polinesio con América del Sur a través del Pacífico tropical.

Lo importante de Colón no fue su primacía. Fue que cuando regresó, toda Europa (y probablemente los educados en todo el Viejo Mundo eventualmente) se enteró en detalle. gracias a la imprenta recientemente inventada. Además, la sociedad a la que regresó tenía tanto los medios como la motivación para hacer un seguimiento. Esto es lo que los nórdicos y la gente detrás de otros cuentos de cruces del Atlántico que pueden ser ciertos, no tenían.


Claro, es posible. Son posibles muchas cosas. Probablemente, sin embargo, es otra cuestión.

El enlace que publicó describe una historia vaga de navegar hacia el oeste en el Atlántico, encontrar una isla, comerciar con los lugareños y regresar a casa. ¿Podría estar la isla en el Nuevo Mundo? Podría, pero fácilmente podría ser una de las islas del Atlántico.

Para me Para considerar la historia plausible, me gustaría ver un relato del viaje que describa algo que solo encontrarás en las Américas y fue definitivamente escrito antes de 1492. Para moverlo de plausible para probable, Me gustaría ver evidencia física del contacto.


No hay absolutamente ninguna evidencia de que varios califatos islámicos "visitaron América antes de Colón".

Ahora, por supuesto, la civilización islámica ha estado presente en Marruecos durante 1300 años y el Califato Ibérico estuvo presente en el suroeste de Europa durante casi 800 años. Los musulmanes medievales de la gran península ibérica, así como Marruecos, habrían sabido del océano Atlántico, ya que era su patio trasero (ciertamente en los casos de Marruecos occidental, así como en la costa portuguesa). Sin embargo, con toda probabilidad, el Océano Atlántico, para los musulmanes, habría sido solo eso ... un Océano; una vía fluvial grande, aparentemente eterna, sin pueblos imaginables ni tierras tangibles a la vista.

Dudo que los musulmanes medievales supieran sobre los incas, los aztecas o las naciones cherokee y mohawk dentro de la región oriental de la antigua América. Si tenían algún conocimiento de su existencia, no parecía ser una alta prioridad para la futura conquista y conversión. Sin embargo, los musulmanes medievales habrían estado al tanto de las Islas Canarias (oeste de Marruecos), así como de las regiones costeras atlánticas de España, Francia y Gran Bretaña, aunque probablemente no más allá de la costa de Europa occidental. Hasta donde yo sé, no hay mapas, escritos de viajes, textos históricos u otras fuentes primarias que documenten, declaren o bosquejen una expedición musulmana a las Américas durante la época medieval. Por supuesto, con los avances en la tecnología arqueológica, así como en los Sistemas de Información Geográfica / SIG, uno puede descubrir y recuperar una historia perdida que probaría la existencia de tales expediciones. Sin embargo, hasta que tal descubrimiento se materialice, actualmente no hay evidencia de que los musulmanes medievales "visitaron América antes que Colón".


Técnicamente no es imposible, pero es extremadamente improbable. Thor Heyerdahl demostró que los polinesios podían viajar a Sudamérica. Todavía es una pregunta abierta si alguna vez hicieron eso.

Las afirmaciones de mahometanos que cruzan el Atlántico las tomo con un grano (léase: tonelada) de sal. Reclamar es bastante fácil. Probar esas afirmaciones es un asunto muy diferente. No hay absolutamente ninguna prueba de que lo hayan hecho.

Eso no dice que no sucedió. Hemos encontrado evidencia de que los vikingos establecieron campamentos en Terranova. Hasta ahora, eso es solo una prueba de que visitaron Estados Unidos. No es que se establecieran de forma permanente. Hasta que no se encuentre la prueba de que los mahometanos visitan Estados Unidos, no creo que hayan ido nunca allí.


Algo que no se ha mencionado aquí es el mapa de Piri Reis.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piri_Reis_map

Utilizó diez fuentes árabes, cuatro mapas indios procedentes de los portugueses y un mapa de Colón.

Si son precisos, la mayoría de los mapas fueron anteriores al descubrimiento de Colón, por lo tanto, alguien "descubrió" América antes que él, probablemente alguien de Arabia o India ...


No está claro cuándo llegaron los primeros musulmanes a la tierra que se convertiría en Estados Unidos. Muchos historiadores afirman que los primeros musulmanes vinieron de la región africana de Senegambian a principios del siglo XIV. Se cree que eran moros, expulsados ​​de España, que se dirigieron al Caribe y posiblemente al Golfo de México.

Cuando Colón hizo su viaje a los Estados Unidos, se dice que se llevó un libro escrito por musulmanes portugueses que habían navegado hacia el Nuevo Mundo en el siglo XII.

Otros afirman que hubo musulmanes, sobre todo un hombre llamado Istafan, que acompañó a los españoles como guía del Nuevo Mundo a principios del siglo XVI en su conquista de lo que se convertiría en Arizona y Nuevo México.

Lo que está claro es la composición de la primera ola real de musulmanes en los Estados Unidos: esclavos africanos de los cuales se decía que entre el 10 y el 15 por ciento eran musulmanes. Mantener su religión fue difícil y muchos se convirtieron a la fuerza al cristianismo. Cualquier esfuerzo por practicar el Islam y mantener vivos la vestimenta y los nombres tradicionales tenía que hacerse en secreto. Hubo un enclave de afroamericanos en la costa de Georgia que logró mantener su fe hasta principios del siglo XX.

Entre 1878 y 1924, llegaron en gran número inmigrantes musulmanes de Oriente Medio, en particular de Siria y el Líbano, y muchos se establecieron en Ohio, Michigan, Iowa e incluso en las Dakotas. Como la mayoría de los demás migrantes, buscaban mayores oportunidades económicas que en su país de origen y, a menudo, trabajaban como trabajadores manuales. Uno de los primeros grandes empleadores de musulmanes y negros fue la Ford Company y, a menudo, estas eran las únicas personas dispuestas a trabajar en las difíciles y calurosas condiciones de las fábricas.

Al mismo tiempo, la Gran Migración de negros hacia el Norte ayudó a alentar el resurgimiento del Islam afroamericano y el crecimiento del Movimiento Nacionalista Musulmán Afroamericano que todavía existe hasta el día de hoy. Queda la esperanza de restaurar la cultura y la fe que fueron destruidas durante la era de la esclavitud.

Durante las décadas de 1930 y 1940, los inmigrantes árabes comenzaron a establecer comunidades y construir mezquitas. Los musulmanes afroamericanos ya habían construido sus propias mezquitas, y en 1952 había más de 1.000 en América del Norte.

Después de 30 años de excluir a la mayoría de los inmigrantes, Estados Unidos volvió a abrir sus puertas en 1952 y un grupo completamente nuevo de musulmanes llegó de lugares como Palestina (muchos habían llegado en 1948 después del establecimiento de Israel), Irak y Egipto. La década de 1960 vio oleadas de musulmanes del sudeste asiático que también se dirigían a Estados Unidos. Los musulmanes también vinieron de África, Asia e incluso América Latina.

El número estimado de musulmanes en este país varía, según la fuente. El Consejo Musulmán Estadounidense afirma tener 5 millones, mientras que el Centro de Estudios de Inmigración, que no es partidista, cree que la cifra se acerca más a entre 3 y 4 millones de seguidores del Islam. El Estudio de Identificación Religiosa Estadounidense de la Universidad de la Ciudad de Nueva York, completado en 2001, situó el número de musulmanes en 1.04.000.

A lo largo de los años, la nación ganó prominencia pública gracias a miembros famosos como Malcolm X y Muhammad Ali. Hoy en día, hay más de 1500 centros islámicos y mezquitas en todo el país.

Las cifras varían, pero los expertos estiman que entre cuatro y siete millones de estadounidenses son musulmanes.

Se espera que el Islam sea pronto la segunda religión más grande de Estados Unidos. Desde los ataques del 11 de septiembre, el prejuicio contra los musulmanes ha aumentado drásticamente.

Muchos musulmanes han respondido volviéndose más activos en el proceso político estadounidense, esforzándose por educar a sus vecinos sobre su religión e historia.


Zheng He de China, descubrió América en 1418 EC antes de Colón

En 1405, un eunuco musulmán chino, Zheng He, lanzó el primero de siete viajes hacia el oeste desde China a través del Océano Índico. Durante los siguientes 30 años (hasta 1445 EC), estuvo al mando de la flota más grande del mundo, financiada por el emperador Ming, navegó hacia la costa este de África hacia el Golfo Pérsico.
Ésta es historia conocida. Pero el mapa titulado "Cuadro general del mundo integrado”, Muestra que viajó mucho más al oeste e incluso llegó a América, 74 años antes que Cristóbal Colón.
Esta es una copia del siglo XVIII de un mapa de 1418 EC que pretende mostrar el mundo que descubrió Zheng He.

Este mapa salió a la luz en el año 2001 cuando un abogado de Shanghai, Liu Gang, afirmó haberlo comprado a un comerciante local por alrededor de $ 500. Él cree que Zheng navegó por las aguas alrededor de ambos polos, América, el Mediterráneo y Australia también. En 2003 Gavin Menzies este mapa como evidencia para su libro "1421: el año en que China descubrió el mundo”.
El mapa muestra dos hemisferios del mundo, una convención para representar la Tierra redonda en papel plano. Los contornos de América del Norte y del Sur son claros, al igual que los ríos que corren desde tierra adentro. Ártico, Himalaya, entre cuyas estribaciones Zheng He nació, están marcados como la cordillera más alta del mundo.
Los continentes son reconocibles. Algunos aspectos son característicamente chinos: las ondas azules en forma de abanico son parte de la tradición cartográfica de China, al igual que las anotaciones con descripciones textuales de lugares.

Los europeos no quieren creer en este mapa, ya que solo sus mapas tenían tales detalles.
A los marineros europeos les tomó muchos años viajar por todo el mundo y hacer tales mapas, mientras que Zheng He lo hizo en 30 años.
Además, el Ártico aparece primero en un mapa chino Ming solo en 1593 EC.
Aunque tanto Colón como Zheng He navegaron por los mares, sus propósitos eran bastante diferentes. La misión de Colón era comercial, Zheng He, diplomática: fue enviado a traer enviados de otros países para rendir homenaje al nuevo emperador Yongle, que había usurpado el poder de su sobrino y necesitaba encontrar una manera de afirmar su legitimidad.

Con el final de la vida de Zheng He, las exploraciones de China en alta mar también terminaron. En ese momento había un nuevo emperador con menos necesidad de financiar costosas expediciones. Durante los siguientes cientos de años, China se volvió en gran medida sobre sí misma.
Los europeos continúan sus expediciones y registran su historia, mientras que los chinos permanecen en su tierra.
Pero el hecho de que los indios fueran los primeros en desembarcar en América y desarrollar una civilización allí, fue registrado en puranas, pero los historiadores lo descuidaron.


Extracto: '¿Quién fue el primero?'

Lea un extracto de ¿Quién fue el primero? por Russell Freedman:

Antes de colón

Durante mucho tiempo, la mayoría de la gente creyó que Cristóbal Colón fue el primer explorador en "descubrir" América, el primero en hacer un exitoso viaje de ida y vuelta a través del Atlántico. Pero en los últimos años, a medida que salieron a la luz nuevas pruebas, nuestra comprensión de la historia ha cambiado. Ahora sabemos que Colón fue uno de los últimos exploradores en llegar a América, no el primero.

Quinientos años antes de Colón, una atrevida banda de vikingos liderada por Leif Eriksson puso un pie en América del Norte y estableció un asentamiento. Y mucho antes de eso, dicen algunos estudiosos, las Américas parecen haber sido visitadas por viajeros marineros de China, y posiblemente por visitantes de África e incluso de la Europa de la Edad de Hielo.

Una leyenda popular sugiere un evento adicional: según un manuscrito antiguo, una banda de monjes irlandeses liderada por San Brendan navegó en un bote de piel de buey hacia el oeste en el siglo VI en busca de nuevas tierras. Después de siete años regresaron a casa e informaron que habían descubierto una tierra cubierta de exuberante vegetación, que algunas personas creen que hoy en día era Terranova.

Desde luego, los dos continentes que ahora llamamos América del Norte y América del Sur ya habían sido "descubiertos". Antes de la llegada de los exploradores europeos, las Américas eran el hogar de decenas de millones de pueblos nativos. Si bien esos grupos de nativos americanos diferían mucho entre sí, todos realizaban rituales y ceremonias, canciones y bailes que recordaban a la mente y al corazón los recuerdos de los antepasados ​​que los precedieron y les dieron su lugar en la Tierra.

¿Quiénes fueron los antepasados ​​de esos nativos americanos? ¿De dónde vinieron, cuándo llegaron a América y cómo hicieron sus épicos viajes?

A medida que profundizamos más y más en el pasado, descubrimos que las Américas siempre han sido tierras de inmigrantes, tierras que han sido "descubiertas" una y otra vez por diferentes pueblos procedentes de diferentes partes del mundo a lo largo de incontables generaciones. se remonta al pasado prehistórico, cuando un grupo de cazadores de la Edad de Piedra pisó por primera vez lo que realmente era un Nuevo Mundo inexplorado.

1. Admiral of the Ocean Sea

Cristóbal Colón estaba teniendo problemas con su tripulación. Su flota de tres pequeños veleros había salido de las Islas Canarias casi tres semanas antes, en dirección oeste a través del inexplorado Mar Océano, como se conocía al Atlántico. Había esperado llegar a China o Japón a estas alturas, pero todavía no había señales de tierra.

Ninguno de los marineros había estado nunca tanto tiempo lejos de la vista de la tierra y, a medida que pasaban los días, se volvían cada vez más inquietos y temerosos. El Océano Mar también se conocía como el Mar de las Tinieblas. Se decía que horribles monstruos acechaban bajo las olas: serpientes marinas venenosas y cangrejos gigantes que podían surgir de las profundidades y aplastar un barco junto con su tripulación. Y si la Tierra fuera plana, como muchos de los hombres creían, entonces podrían caer desde el borde del mundo y sumergirse en ese abismo de fuego donde el sol se pone por el oeste. Es más, Colón era un extranjero, un italiano pelirrojo al mando de una tripulación de rudos españoles marineros, y eso significaba que no se podía confiar en él.

Finalmente, los hombres exigieron que Colón se volviera y se dirigiera a casa. Cuando se negó, algunos de los marineros murmuraron juntos sobre un motín. Querían matar al almirante tirándolo por la borda. Pero, por el momento, la crisis pasó. Colón logró calmar a sus hombres y persuadirlos de que tuvieran paciencia un poco más.

"Estoy teniendo serios problemas con la tripulación ... quejándome de que nunca podrán regresar a casa", escribió en su diario. "Han dicho que es una locura y un suicidio por su parte arriesgar sus vidas siguiendo la locura de un extranjero ... Me han dicho unos pocos hombres de confianza (¡y estos son pocos en número!) Que si persisto en ir en adelante, el mejor curso de acción será arrojarme al mar alguna noche ".

Todo el tiempo, Colón había estado guardando dos juegos de registros. Uno, que guardó en secreto y no mostró a nadie, era exacto, registrando la distancia realmente navegada cada día. El otro registro, que mostró a su tripulación, con la esperanza de asegurarles que no estaban ni cerca del fin del mundo, subestimó deliberadamente las millas que habían recorrido desde que dejaron España.

Navegaron durante otras dos semanas y todavía no vieron nada. Hubo más rugidos de protesta y quejas por parte de la tripulación. Los hombres parecían dispuestos a no aguantar más. El 10 de octubre, Colón anunció que le regalaría un fino abrigo de seda al hombre que avistó tierra por primera vez. Los marineros acogieron esa oferta con sombrío silencio. ¿De qué le servía un abrigo de seda en medio del Mar de las Tinieblas?

Más tarde ese día, Colón vio una bandada de pájaros volando hacia el suroeste, una señal de que la tierra estaba cerca. Ordenó a sus barcos que siguieran a los pájaros.

La noche siguiente, la luna salió por el este poco antes de la medianoche. Aproximadamente dos horas después, a las dos de la madrugada. el 12 de octubre, un marinero de uno de los barcos de Colón, el Pinta, vio un tramo blanco de playa y gritó: "¡Tierra! ¡Tierra!" y disparó un cañón. Al amanecer, los tres barcos anclaron en las tranquilas y azules aguas cerca de la costa. Habían llegado a una isla en lo que ahora llamamos las Bahamas.

Los miembros de la tripulación emocionados abarrotaron las cubiertas. La gente estaba parada en la playa, esperando recibirlos. Los nativos no tenían más armas que lanzas de madera para pescar y estaban prácticamente desnudos. ¿Quiénes eran estas personas? ¿Y qué lugar era este?

Colón supuso que su flota había desembarcado en una de las muchas islas que Marco Polo había informado que se encontraba frente a la costa de Asia. Debían haber llegado a las Indias, pensó, islas supuestamente cercanas a la India y conocidas hoy como las Indias Orientales. Así que decidió que esas personas en la playa debían ser "indios", nombre con el que se les conoce desde entonces. China y Japón, creía, estaban un poco más al norte.

Aunque Cristóbal Colón era un italiano nacido en Génova, había vivido durante años en Portugal, donde trabajó como librero, cartógrafo y marinero. Había navegado en viajes portugueses hasta Islandia en el Atlántico norte y por la costa de África en el Atlántico sur. Durante sus días en el mar, leyó libros sobre historia, geografía y viajes.

Como la mayoría de las personas educadas de la época, Colón creía que la Tierra era redonda, no plana, como todavía insistían algunas personas ignorantes. El Océano Mar era visto como una gran extensión de agua que rodeaba la masa terrestre de Eurasia y África, que se extendía desde Europa en el oeste hasta China y Japón en el lejano este. Si un barco abandonaba la costa de Europa, navegaba hacia el oeste hacia el sol poniente y daba la vuelta al globo, llegaría a las costas de Asia, o eso pensaba Colón.

En el pasado, los exploradores y comerciantes europeos habían tomado la ruta terrestre hacia el Lejano Oriente, con sus preciosas sedas y especias. Viajaron durante meses a caballo y en camello por la Ruta de la Seda, un antiguo sendero de caravanas que atravesaba desiertos y escalaba vertiginosos picos montañosos. Marco Polo había seguido la Ruta de la Seda en su famoso viaje a China dos siglos antes. Pero recientemente, esta ruta terrestre a Asia, controlada en parte por los turcos, había sido cerrada a los europeos. Y en cualquier caso, Colón estaba convencido de que podía encontrar una ruta más fácil y rápida a Asia navegando hacia el oeste.

En esos años circulaban muchas historias sobre la posibilidad de navegar directamente desde Europa a Asia, una idea que los antiguos griegos consideraron por primera vez. Colón poseía un libro llamado Imago Mundi, o Imagen del mundo, por un erudito francés, Pierre d'Ailly, quien argumentó que el Océano Mar no era tan ancho como parecía y que un barco impulsado por vientos favorables podría cruzarlo en unos pocos días. Junto a ese pasaje en el margen del libro, Colón había escrito: "No hay razón para pensar que el océano cubre la mitad de la tierra".

En 1484, propuso su audaz plan de navegar hacia el oeste a China al rey Juan II de Portugal, un monarca que había prestado mucha atención al descubrimiento de nuevas tierras. Portugal era la principal potencia marítima de Europa. Los exploradores portugueses en busca de esclavos, marfil y oro ya habían descubierto ricos reinos y ríos colosales en África occidental y pronto llegarían al Cabo de Buena Esperanza en el extremo sur de África. Desde allí, podrían navegar a través del Océano Índico hasta las famosas Islas de las Especias del sudeste asiático.

El rey Juan escuchó lo que Colón tenía que decir y luego presentó el plan del marinero italiano a un comité de cartógrafos, astrónomos y geógrafos. Los distinguidos expertos declararon que Asia debe estar mucho más lejos de lo que pensaba Colón. Dijeron que ninguna expedición podría estar equipada con suficiente comida y agua para navegar a través de una extensión de mar tan enorme.

Rechazado por el rey portugués, Colón decidió acercarse al rey Fernando y a la reina Isabel de España, un país que nunca antes había visitado. Amigos bien conectados le dieron cartas de presentación al círculo íntimo de la corte real española. Fernando e Isabel parecían tener curiosidad por la ruta a Asia que propuso Colón. Al igual que el rey Juan, también designaron un comité de investigación para considerar el asunto, pero esos expertos llegaron a la misma conclusión negativa: la afirmación de Colón sobre la distancia a China y la facilidad para navegar allí no podía ser cierta.

Colón insistió. Habló largamente con miembros de la corte española y convenció a algunos de ellos, pero Fernando e Isabel rechazaron dos veces su apelación de barcos. Finalmente, enojado e impaciente después de seis años desalentadores en España, amenazó con buscar el apoyo del rey de Francia. De hecho, Colón partió hacia Francia, montado en una mula por un polvoriento camino español.

Con eso, los consejeros reales persuadieron a Fernando e Isabel para que cambiaran de opinión. Si otro rey patrocinaba a Colón y su expedición resultaba un éxito, los monarcas españoles se sentirían avergonzados. Serían criticados en España. Dejemos que Colón arriesgue su vida, dijeron los asesores. Que busque "las grandezas y los secretos del universo". Si lo conseguía, España ganaría mucha gloria y superaría el liderato portugués en la carrera por explotar las riquezas de Asia.

Y así, Ferdinand e Isabella decidieron arriesgarse. Enviaron un mensajero para interceptar a Colón en el camino y traerlo de regreso a la corte. Estaban dispuestos a otorgarle un título hereditario de Almirante del Mar del Océano y el derecho a la décima parte de las riquezas —perlas, oro, plata, sedas, especias— que trajera de su viaje. Y acordaron suministrar dos barcos para su expedición. El propio Colón reunió el dinero para contratar un tercer barco.

Media hora antes del amanecer del 3 de agosto de 1492, el Nina, los Pinta, y el Santa Maria zarpó desde el puerto de Palos, España, con unos noventa tripulantes en total. Eran barcos pequeños y ligeros llamados carabelas, rápidos y maniobrables, cada uno con tres mástiles, sus velas blancas con grandes cruces rojas ondeando ante el viento. Tenían a bordo alimentos que durarían: bacalao salado, tocino y galletas, junto con harina, vino, aceite de oliva y mucha agua, suficiente para un año. En su pequeña cabaña, Colón guardaba varios relojes de arena para marcar el paso del tiempo, una brújula y un astrolabio, un instrumento para calcular la latitud mediante la observación del movimiento del sol.

La pequeña flota se detuvo para reparaciones en La Gomera en las Islas Canarias, una posesión española frente a las costas de Marruecos. El 6 de septiembre, después de rezar en la iglesia parroquial de San Sebastián (que aún hoy mira hacia el océano), Colón y sus tres barcos zarparon de nuevo con rumbo oeste, avanzando ahora por las desconocidas aguas del Océano Mar. Cinco semanas después, el 12 de octubre, su preocupada tripulación finalmente avistó tierra.

Colón llamó al lugar donde desembarcaron San Salvador, la primera de muchas islas caribeñas que nombraría. Los nativos que lo saludaron llamaron a su isla Guanahani. Ellos mismos eran un pueblo conocido como los taínos, el grupo más grande de nativos que habitaba las islas de lo que hoy llamamos las Indias Occidentales.

Colón nos dice algunas cosas sobre estas personas ahora extintas. Estaba impresionado por su buena apariencia y aparente salud robusta. "Son personas muy bien formadas, con cuerpos hermosos y rostros muy finos", escribió en su diario. "Sus ojos son grandes y muy bonitos ... Son personas altas y sus piernas, sin excepciones, son bastante rectas, y ninguna de ellas tiene barriga". Muchos de los taínos se habían pintado la cara o todo el cuerpo de negro, blanco o rojo. Y como Colón y sus hombres notaron de inmediato, algunos de ellos usaban aretes de oro y aros en la nariz. Ofrecieron obsequios a los visitantes europeos: loros, jabalinas de madera y bolas de hilo de algodón.

Desde San Salvador, Colón navegó hacia varias islas más, todavía creyendo que estaba cerca de Japón "porque todos mis globos terráqueos y mapas del mundo parecen indicar que la isla de Japón está en esta vecindad". Se detuvo en Cuba y en Hispaniola (la isla que hoy contiene Haití y República Dominicana). Y escribió con entusiasmo en su diario sobre la exuberante belleza tropical de las islas, el dulce canto de los pájaros "que puede hacer que un hombre desee no salir nunca de aquí" y la hospitalidad de la gente: "A mis hombres les dieron pan y pescado y lo que sea que tuvieran ". Y luego, "Nos trajeron todo lo que tenían en este mundo, sabiendo lo que quería, y lo hicieron con tanta generosidad y voluntad que fue maravilloso".

Los taínos vivían en casas de madera grandes y aireadas con techos de palma. Dormían en hamacas de algodón, se sentaban en sillas de madera talladas con elaboradas formas de animales y tenían perros pequeños sin ladrar y pájaros domesticados como mascotas. Eran agricultores, pescadores y constructores de botes hábiles que viajaban de isla en isla en largas canoas pintadas de colores brillantes talladas en troncos de árboles, cada una de las cuales transportaba hasta 150 personas.

Le dijeron a Colón que se llamaban a sí mismos taínos, palabra que significa "buenos", para distinguirse de los "malos" caribes, sus vecinos feroces y belicosos que asaltaban las aldeas taínos, se llevaban a sus niñas como novias y, insistían los taínos, comían carne humana. Para defenderse de los ataques caribes, los taínos se pintaron de rojo y se defendieron con garrotes, arcos y flechas, y lanzas propulsadas por palos arrojadizos.

Los taínos mismos no eran guerreros, informó Colón a sus monarcas: "Son un pueblo cariñoso, libre de avaricia y complaciente con todo. Certifico a Vuestras Altezas que en todo el mundo no creo que haya un pueblo mejor ni mejor". país. Aman a sus vecinos como a sí mismos, tienen las voces más suaves y amables del mundo y siempre están sonriendo ".

Un jefe de aldea le dio a Colón una máscara con ojos dorados y grandes orejas de oro. Y los españoles ya sabían que muchos de los taínos usaban joyas de oro. Seguían preguntando de dónde venía el oro. Después de mucho buscar, encontraron un río en la isla de Hispaniola donde "la arena estaba llena de oro, y en tal cantidad, que es maravillosa ... llamé a este El Rio del Oro"(El río de oro).

Colón construyó un pequeño fuerte cerca y dejó a treinta y nueve hombres para recolectar muestras de oro y esperar la próxima expedición española. Aún creyendo que había descubierto islas desconocidas cerca de las costas de Asia, zarpó de regreso a España con algo de oro de La Española y con diez indios que había secuestrado para capacitarlos como intérpretes y exhibirlos en la corte real. Uno de los indios murió en el mar.

Regresó a una bienvenida triunfal. Se decía que cuando Fernando e Isabel lo recibieron en su corte de Barcelona, ​​"había lágrimas en los ojos reales". Recibieron a Colón como a un héroe, invitándolo a cabalgar con ellos en procesiones reales. Se planeó un segundo viaje. Esta vez, los monarcas le dieron a Colón diecisiete barcos, unos mil quinientos hombres y algunas mujeres para colonizar las islas. Recibió instrucciones de continuar sus exploraciones, establecer minas de oro, instalar colonos, desarrollar el comercio con los indios y convertirlos al cristianismo.

Colón regresó a La Española en el otoño de 1493. Esperaba encontrar grandes cantidades de oro en la isla. Pero las minas produjeron mucho menos oro de lo esperado y las cosechas europeas plantadas por los colonos se marchitaron en el clima tropical. Algunos colonos comenzaron a dominar a los indios, robando sus posesiones, secuestrando a sus esposas y capturando cautivos para enviarlos a España y venderlos como esclavos. Miles de taínos huyeron a las montañas para escapar de la captura. Otros, prometiendo vengarse, atacaron a los españoles que encontraron en pequeños grupos y prendieron fuego a sus chozas.

Si bien Colón fue un marinero valiente y emprendedor, demostró ser un mal gobernador, incapaz de controlar la codicia de sus seguidores. En 1496, fue llamado a España para responder a las quejas sobre su gestión de la colonia. Cuando apareció en la corte ante Fernando e Isabel, descubrió que el rey y la reina todavía estaban dispuestos a apoyar sus exploraciones. Colón les dio una "buena muestra de oro ... y muchas máscaras, con ojos y orejas de oro, y muchos loros". También presentó a los monarcas a "Diego", el hermano de un cacique taíno, que llevaba un pesado collar de oro. Estos indicios de que podría haber más oro alentaron a Fernando e Isabel a enviar a Colón de regreso a las Indias, esta vez con ocho barcos.

Cuando regresó a La Española en su tercer viaje en 1498, encontró la isla en un estado de confusión, desgarrada por rivalidades y desacuerdos entre los colonos. Muchos colonos, incapaces de ganarse la vida con las minas de oro o la agricultura, clamaban por regresar a España. Otros, rivales de Colón que querían hacerse con el control de la colonia, se rebelaron contra su gobierno. Cuando la noticia del conflicto llegó a España, el rey y la reina enviaron a un emisario, Francisco de Bobadilla, para investigar el levantamiento y hacerse cargo del gobierno.

Al parecer, Colón cometió el error de discutir con el emisario real y desafiar sus credenciales. Fue arrestado de inmediato y con sus dos hermanos fue enviado de regreso a España para enfrentar cargos por irregularidades. "Bobadilla me envió aquí encadenado", escribió a Ferdinand e Isabella cuando aterrizó en España. "Te juro que no sé, ni puedo pensar por qué". Aunque los monarcas españoles perdonaron rápidamente a Colón, quienes sintieron que lo habían tratado con demasiada dureza, se le despojó de su derecho a gobernar las islas que había descubierto y perdió su título de Almirante del Mar Océano.

Aun así, se le permitió hacer un viaje más, navegando por el Caribe y explorando la costa de Centroamérica. Esta última expedición estuvo maldecida por la mala suerte. Dos de los barcos de Colón quedaron tan infestados de termitas que se hundieron. Cuando regresó a España, tuvo que varar los barcos que le quedaban en St. Ann's Bay en Jamaica, donde estuvo abandonado durante un año antes de ser rescatado en el otoño de 1504. Regresó a España enfermo y decepcionado.

Mientras tanto, los colonos españoles se habían establecido en La Española, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Jamaica y otras islas de las Indias Occidentales. Los indios locales fueron puestos a trabajar como trabajadores forzados en los yacimientos de oro o en los ranchos españoles. Indians who resisted were killed, sometimes with terrible brutality, or were shipped to Spain to be sold as slaves. Spanish missionaries denounced this mistreatment, but with little effect. "I have seen the greatest cruelty and inhumanity practiced on these gentle and peace-loving [native peoples]," Father Bartolomé de Las Casas would say a half century later, "without any reason except for insatiable greed, thirst, and hunger for gold."

As the number of Spanish colonists increased, the native population of the West Indies quickly declined. Tens of thousands of native people were worked to death or died of smallpox, measles, and other European diseases to which they had no immunity. As the Tainos died off, the colonists brought in black slaves from Africa to labor on ranches and in the spreading sugar-cane fields.

Within fifty years, the Tainos had ceased to exist as a distinct race of people. A few Taino words survive today in Spanish and even in English, including hammock, canoe, hurricane, savannah, barbecue, y cannibal.

Columbus died in a Spanish monastery on May 20, 1506, at the age of fifty-seven, still believing that he had found a new route to Asia, and that China and Japan lay just beyond the islands he had explored. By then, other explorers were following the sea route pioneered by the Admiral of the Ocean Sea, and Europeans were already speaking of Columbus's discoveries as a "New World."

The first map of the world to show these newly discovered lands across the Ocean Sea appeared in 1507, a year after Christopher Columbus's death. The mapmaker, Martin Waldseemüller, named the New World "America," after the Italian Amerigo Vespucci, who had explored the coastline of South America and was the first to realize that it was a separate continent, not part of Asia.

Columbus wasn't the first explorer to "discover" America. His voyages were significant because they were the first to become widely known in Europe. They opened a pathway from the Old World to the New, paving the way for the European conquest and colonization of the Americas, changing life forever on both sides of the Atlantic.

Extraído de Who Was First? Copyright © 2007 by Russell Freedman.


7 The Knights Templar


The Knights Templar were dissolved in the 14th century on charges of heresy, though many historians believe the real reason for the persecution was jealousy. Thanks to their banking system, the order of warrior monks was remarkably well off. Of course, being burned at the stake does tend to put a damper on business.

During the fight against persecution, some knights supposedly escaped to Scotland, where they received help from Henry Sinclair, Prince of Orkney Islands. In 1393, Sinclair had carried out a survey of Greenland through a Venetian admiral. Now, in 1398, he was ready to lead an expedition to the New World by following old Viking routes. Twelve ships carried Sinclair and hundreds of Templar refugees to Nova Scotia, Canada, where the knights allegedly hid their treasure. Sinclair is then said to have explored as far south as present-day Massachusetts.

Sinclair and the refugees may have assimilated with the natives instead of returning to Scotland. One outlandish claim is that the alleged gnostic beliefs of the Templar had a massive influence on Native American religion, while another states that the founding fathers were influenced by Templar teachings. The cited evidence includes a portrait of a medieval knight on a stone in Westford, Massachusetts and an old tower in Newport, Rhode Island that looks fairly European. The remains of an old castle, a cannon, and a stone wall in Nova Scotia are supposedly further evidence of the theory.


Columbus’ Confusion About the New World

In the year 1513, a group of men led by Vasco Núñez de Balboa marched across the Isthmus of Panama and discovered the Pacific Ocean. They had been looking for it—they knew it existed—and, familiar as they were with oceans, they had no difficulty in recognizing it when they saw it. On their way, however, they saw a good many things they had not been looking for and were not familiar with. When they returned to Spain to tell what they had seen, it was not a simple matter to find words for everything.

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For example, they had killed a large and ferocious wild animal. They called it a tiger, although there were no tigers in Spain and none of the men had ever seen one before. Listening to their story was Peter Martyr, member of the King's Council of the Indies and possessor of an insatiable curiosity about the new land that Spain was uncovering in the west. How, the learned man asked them, did they know that the ferocious animal was a tiger? They answered "that they knewe it by the spottes, fiercenesse, agilitie, and such other markes and tokens whereby auncient writers have described the Tyger." It was a good answer. Men, confronted with things they do not recognize, turn to the writings of those who have had a wider experience. And in 1513 it was still assumed that the ancient writers had had a wider experience than those who came after them.

Columbus himself had made that assumption. His discoveries posed for him, as for others, a problem of identification. It seemed to be a question not so much of giving names to new lands as of finding the proper old names, and the same was true of the things that the new lands contained. Cruising through the Caribbean, enchanted by the beauty and variety of what he saw, Columbus assumed that the strange plants and trees were strange only because he was insufficiently versed in the writings of men who did know them. "I am the saddest man in the world," he wrote, "because I do not recognize them."

We need not deride Columbus' reluctance to give up the world that he knew from books. Only idiots escape entirely from the world that the past bequeaths. The discovery of America opened a new world, full of new things and new possibilities for those with eyes to see them. But the New World did not erase the Old. Rather, the Old World determined what men saw in the New and what they did with it. What America became after 1492 depended both on what men found there and on what they expected to find, both on what America actually was and on what old writers and old experience led men to think it was, or ought to be or could be made to be.

During the decade before 1492, as Columbus nursed a growing urge to sail west to the Indies—as the lands of China, Japan and India were then known in Europe—he was studying the old writers to find out what the world and its people were like. He read the Ymago Mundi of Pierre d'Ailly, a French cardinal who wrote in the early 15th century, the travels of Marco Polo and of Sir John Mandeville, Pliny's Historia Natural y el Historia Rerum Ubique Gestarum of Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini (Pope Pius II). Columbus was not a scholarly man. Yet he studied these books, made hundreds of marginal notations in them and came out with ideas about the world that were characteristically simple and strong and sometimes wrong, the kind of ideas that the self-educated person gains from independent reading and clings to in defiance of what anyone else tries to tell him.

The strongest one was a wrong one—namely, that the distance between Europe and the eastern shore of Asia was short, indeed, that Spain was closer to China westward than eastward. Columbus never abandoned this conviction. And before he set out to prove it by sailing west from Spain, he studied his books to find out all he could about the lands that he would be visiting. From Marco Polo he learned that the Indies were rich in gold, silver, pearls, jewels and spices. The Great Khan, whose empire stretched from the Arctic to the Indian Ocean, had displayed to Polo a wealth and majesty that dwarfed the splendors of the courts of Europe.

Polo also had things to say about the ordinary people of the Far East. Those in the province of Mangi, where they grew ginger, were averse to war and so had fallen an easy prey to the khan. On Nangama, an island off the coast, described as having "great plentie of spices," the people were far from averse to war: they were anthropophagi—man-eaters—who devoured their captives. There were, in fact, man-eating people in several of the offshore islands, and in many islands both men and women dressed themselves with only a small scrap of cloth over their genitals. On the island of Discorsia, in spite of the fact that they made fine cotton cloth, the people went entirely naked. In one place there were two islands where men and women were segregated, the women on one island, the men on the other.

Marco Polo occasionally slipped into fables like this last one, but most of what he had to say about the Indies was the result of actual observation. Sir John Mandeville's travels, on the other hand, were a hoax—there was no such man—and the places he claimed to have visited in the 1300s were fantastically filled with one-eyed men and one-footed men, dog-faced men and men with two faces or no faces. But the author of the hoax did draw on the reports of enough genuine travelers to make some of his stories plausible, and he also drew on a legend as old as human dreams, the legend of a golden age when men were good. He told of an island where the people lived without malice or guile, without covetousness or lechery or gluttony, wishing for none of the riches of this world. They were not Christians, but they lived by the golden rule. A man who planned to see the Indies for himself could hardly fail to be stirred by the thought of finding such a people.

Columbus surely expected to bring back some of the gold that was supposed to be so plentiful. The spice trade was one of the most lucrative in Europe, and he expected to bring back spices. But what did he propose to do about the people in possession of these treasures?

When he set out, he carried with him a commission from the king and queen of Spain, empowering him "to discover and acquire certain islands and mainland in the ocean sea" and to be "Admiral and Viceroy and Governor therein." If the king and Columbus expected to assume dominion over any of the Indies or other lands en route, they must have had some ideas, not only about the Indies but also about themselves, to warrant the expectation. What had they to offer that would make their dominion welcome? Or if they proposed to impose their rule by force, how could they justify such a step, let alone carry it out? The answer is that they had two things: they had Christianity and they had civilization.

Christianity has meant many things to many men, and its role in the European conquest and occupation of America was varied. But in 1492 to Columbus there was probably nothing very complicated about it. He would have reduced it to a matter of corrupt human beings, destined for eternal damnation, redeemed by a merciful savior. Christ saved those who believed in him, and it was the duty of Christians to spread his gospel and thus rescue the heathens from the fate that would otherwise await them.

Although Christianity was in itself a sufficient justification for dominion, Columbus would also carry civilization to the Indies and this, too, was a gift that he and his contemporaries considered adequate recompense for anything they might take. When people talked about civilization—or civility, as they usually called it—they seldom specified precisely what they meant. Civility was closely associated with Christianity, but the two were not identical. Whereas Christianity was always accompanied by civility, the Greeks and Romans had had civility without Christianity. One way to define civility was by its opposite, barbarism. Originally the word "barbarian" had simply meant "foreigner"—to a Greek someone who was not Greek, to a Roman someone who was not Roman. By the 15th or 16th century, it meant someone not only foreign but with manners and customs of which civil persons disapproved. North Africa became known as Barbary, a 16th-century geographer explained, "because the people be barbarous, not onely in language, but in manners and customs." Parts of the Indies, from Marco Polo's description, had to be civil, but other parts were obviously barbarous: for example, the lands where people went naked. Whatever civility meant, it meant clothes.

But there was a little more to it than that, and there still is. Civil people distinguished themselves by the pains they took to order their lives. They organized their society to produce the elaborate food, clothing, buildings and other equipment characteristic of their manner of living. They had strong governments to protect property, to protect good persons from evil ones, to protect the manners and customs that differentiated civil people from barbarians. The superior clothing, housing, food and protection that attached to civilization made it seem to the European a gift worth giving to the ill-clothed, ill-housed and ungoverned barbarians of the world.

Slavery was an ancient instrument of civilization, and in the 15th century it had been revived as a way to deal with barbarians who refused to accept Christianity and the rule of civilized government. Through slavery they could be made to abandon their bad habits, put on clothes and reward their instructors with a lifetime of work. Throughout the 15th century, as the Portuguese explored the coast of Africa, large numbers of well-clothed sea captains brought civilization to naked savages by carrying them off to the slave markets of Seville and Lisbon.

Since Columbus had lived in Lisbon and sailed in Portuguese vessels to the Gold Coast of Africa, he was not unfamiliar with barbarians. He had seen for himself that the Torrid Zone could support human life, and he had observed how pleased barbarians were with trinkets on which civilized Europeans set small value, such as the little bells that falconers placed on hawks. Before setting off on his voyage, he laid in a store of hawk's bells. If the barbarous people he expected to find in the Indies should think civilization and Christianity an insufficient reward for submission to Spain, perhaps hawk's bells would help.

Columbus sailed from Palos de la Frontera on Friday, August 3, 1492, reached the Canary Islands six days later and stayed there for a month to finish outfitting his ships. He left on September 6, and five weeks later, in about the place he expected, he found the Indies. What else could it be but the Indies? There on the shore were the naked people. With hawk's bells and beads he made their acquaintance and found some of them wearing gold nose plugs. It all added up. He had found the Indies. And not only that. He had found a land over which he would have no difficulty in establishing Spanish dominion, for the people showed him an immediate veneration. He had been there only two days, coasting along the shores of the islands, when he was able to hear the natives crying in loud voices, "Come and see the men who have come from heaven bring them food and drink." If Columbus thought he was able to translate the language in two days' time, it is not surprising that what he heard in it was what he wanted to hear or that what he saw was what he wanted to see—namely, the Indies, filled with people eager to submit to their new admiral and viceroy.

Columbus made four voyages to America, during which he explored an astonishingly large area of the Caribbean and a part of the northern coast of South America. At every island the first thing he inquired about was gold, taking heart from every trace of it he found. And at Haiti he found enough to convince him that this was Ophir, the country to which Solomon and Jehosophat had sent for gold and silver. Since its lush vegetation reminded him of Castile, he renamed it Española, the Spanish island, which was later Latinized as Hispaniola.

Española appealed to Columbus from his first glimpse of it. From aboard ship it was possible to make out rich fields waving with grass. There were good harbors, lovely sand beaches and fruit-laden trees. The people were shy and fled whenever the caravels approached the shore, but Columbus gave orders "that they should take some, treat them well and make them lose their fear, that some gain might be made, since, considering the beauty of the land, it could not be but that there was gain to be got." And indeed there was. Although the amount of gold worn by the natives was even less than the amount of clothing, it gradually became apparent that there was gold to be had. One man possessed some that had been pounded into gold leaf. Another appeared with a gold belt. Some produced nuggets for the admiral. Española accordingly became the first European colony in America. Although Columbus had formally taken possession of every island he found, the act was mere ritual until he reached Española. Here he began the European occupation of the New World, and here his European ideas and attitudes began their transformation of land and people.

The Arawak Indians of Española were the handsomest people that Columbus had encountered in the New World and so attractive in character that he found it hard to praise them enough. "They are the best people in the world," he said, "and beyond all the mildest." They cultivated a bit of cassava for bread and made a bit of cottonlike cloth from the fibers of the gossampine tree. But they spent most of the day like children idling away their time from morning to night, seemingly without a care in the world. Once they saw that Columbus meant them no harm, they outdid one another in bringing him anything he wanted. It was impossible to believe, he reported, "that anyone has seen a people with such kind hearts and so ready to give the Christians all that they possess, and when the Christians arrive, they run at once to bring them everything."

To Columbus the Arawaks seemed like relics of the golden age. On the basis of what he told Peter Martyr, who recorded his voyages, Martyr wrote, "they seeme to live in that golden worlde of the which olde writers speake so much, wherein menne lived simply and innocently without enforcement of lawes, without quarreling, judges and libelles, content onely to satisfie nature, without further vexation for knowledge of things to come."

As the idyllic Arawaks conformed to one ancient picture, their enemies the Caribs conformed to another that Columbus had read of, the anthropophagi. According to the Arawaks, the Caribs, or Cannibals, were man-eaters, and as such their name eventually entered the English language. (This was at best a misrepresentation, which Columbus would soon exploit.) The Caribs lived on islands of their own and met every European approach with poisoned arrows, which men and women together fired in showers. They were not only fierce but, by comparison with the Arawaks, also seemed more energetic, more industrious and, it might even be said, sadly enough, more civil. After Columbus succeeded in entering one of their settlements on his second voyage, a member of the expedition reported, "This people seemed to us to be more civil than those who were in the other islands we have visited, although they all have dwellings of straw, but these have them better made and better provided with supplies, and in them were more signs of industry."

Columbus had no doubts about how to proceed, either with the lovable but lazy Arawaks or with the hateful but industrious Caribs. He had come to take possession and to establish dominion. In almost the same breath, he described the Arawaks' gentleness and innocence and then went on to assure the king and queen of Spain, "They have no arms and are all naked and without any knowledge of war, and very cowardly, so that a thousand of them would not face three. And they are also fitted to be ruled and to be set to work, to cultivate the land and to do all else that may be necessary, and you may build towns and teach them to go clothed and adopt our customs."

So much for the golden age. Columbus had not yet prescribed the method by which the Arawaks would be set to work, but he had a pretty clear idea of how to handle the Caribs. On his second voyage, after capturing a few of them, he sent them in slavery to Spain, as samples of what he hoped would be a regular trade. They were obviously intelligent, and in Spain they might "be led to abandon that inhuman custom which they have of eating men, and there in Castile, learning the language, they will much more readily receive baptism and secure the welfare of their souls." The way to handle the slave trade, Columbus suggested, was to send ships from Spain loaded with cattle (there were no native domestic animals on Española), and he would return the ships loaded with supposed Cannibals. This plan was never put into operation, partly because the Spanish sovereigns did not approve it and partly because the Cannibals did not approve it. They defended themselves so well with their poisoned arrows that the Spaniards decided to withhold the blessings of civilization from them and to concentrate their efforts on the seemingly more amenable Arawaks.

The process of civilizing the Arawaks got underway in earnest after the Santa Maria ran aground on Christmas Day, 1492, off Caracol Bay. The local leader in that part of Española, Guacanagari, rushed to the scene and with his people helped the Spaniards to salvage everything aboard. Once again Columbus was overjoyed with the remarkable natives. They are, he wrote, "so full of love and without greed, and suitable for every purpose, that I assure your Highnesses that I believe there is no better land in the world, and they are always smiling." While the salvage operations were going on, canoes full of Arawaks from other parts of the island came in bearing gold. Guacanagari "was greatly delighted to see the admiral joyful and understood that he desired much gold." Thereafter it arrived in amounts calculated to console the admiral for the loss of the Santa Maria, which had to be scuttled. He decided to make his permanent headquarters on the spot and accordingly ordered a fortress to be built, with a tower and a large moat.

What followed is a long, complicated and unpleasant story. Columbus returned to Spain to bring the news of his discoveries. The Spanish monarchs were less impressed than he with what he had found, but he was able to round up a large expedition of Spanish colonists to return with him and help exploit the riches of the Indies. At Española the new settlers built forts and towns and began helping themselves to all the gold they could find among the natives. These creatures of the golden age remained generous. But precisely because they did not value possessions, they had little to turn over. When gold was not forthcoming, the Europeans began killing. Some of the natives struck back and hid out in the hills. But in 1495 a punitive expedition rounded up 1,500 of them, and 500 were shipped off to the slave markets of Seville.

The natives, seeing what was in store for them, dug up their own crops of cassava and destroyed their supplies in hopes that the resulting famine would drive the Spaniards out. But it did not work. The Spaniards were sure there was more gold in the island than the natives had yet found, and were determined to make them dig it out. Columbus built more forts throughout the island and decreed that every Arawak of 14 years or over was to furnish a hawk's bell full of gold dust every three months. The various local leaders were made responsible for seeing that the tribute was paid. In regions where gold was not to be had, 25 pounds of woven or spun cotton could be substituted for the hawk's bell of gold dust.

Unfortunately Española was not Ophir, and it did not have anything like the amount of gold that Columbus thought it did. The pieces that the natives had at first presented him were the accumulation of many years. To fill their quotas by washing in the riverbeds was all but impossible, even with continual daily labor. But the demand was unrelenting, and those who sought to escape it by fleeing to the mountains were hunted down with dogs taught to kill. A few years later Peter Martyr was able to report that the natives "beare this yoke of servitude with an evill will, but yet they beare it."

The tribute system, for all its injustice and cruelty, preserved something of the Arawaks' old social arrangements: they retained their old leaders under control of the king's viceroy, and royal directions to the viceroy might ultimately have worked some mitigation of their hardships. But the Spanish settlers of Española did not care for this centralized method of exploitation. They wanted a share of the land and its people, and when their demands were not met they revolted against the government of Columbus. In 1499 they forced him to abandon the system of obtaining tribute through the Arawak chieftains for a new one in which both land and people were turned over to individual Spaniards for exploitation as they saw fit. This was the beginning of the system of repartimientos o encomiendas later extended to other areas of Spanish occupation. With its inauguration, Columbus' economic control of Española effectively ceased, and even his political authority was revoked later in the same year when the king appointed a new governor.

For the Arawaks the new system of forced labor meant that they did more work, wore more clothes and said more prayers. Peter Martyr could rejoice that "so many thousands of men are received to bee the sheepe of Christes flocke." But these were sheep prepared for slaughter. If we may believe Bartolomé de Las Casas, a Dominican priest who spent many years among them, they were tortured, burned and fed to the dogs by their masters. They died from overwork and from new European diseases. They killed themselves. And they took pains to avoid having children. Life was not fit to live, and they stopped living. From a population of 100,000 at the lowest estimate in 1492, there remained in 1514 about 32,000 Arawaks in Española. By 1542, according to Las Casas, only 200 were left. In their place had appeared slaves imported from Africa. The people of the golden age had been virtually exterminated.

¿Por qué? What is the meaning of this tale of horror? Why is the first chapter of American history an atrocity story? Bartolomé de Las Casas had a simple answer, greed: "The cause why the Spanishe have destroyed such an infinitie of soules, hath been onely, that they have helde it for their last scope and marke to gette golde." The answer is true enough. But we shall have to go further than Spanish greed to understand why American history began this way. The Spanish had no monopoly on greed.

The Indians' austere way of life could not fail to win the admiration of the invaders, for self-denial was an ancient virtue in Western culture. The Greeks and Romans had constructed philosophies and the Christians a religion around it. The Indians, and especially the Arawaks, gave no sign of thinking much about God, but otherwise they seemed to have attained the monastic virtues. Plato had emphasized again and again that freedom was to be reached by restraining one's needs, and the Arawaks had attained impressive freedom.

But even as the Europeans admired the Indians' simplicity, they were troubled by it, troubled and offended. Innocence never fails to offend, never fails to invite attack, and the Indians seemed the most innocent people anyone had ever seen. Without the help of Christianity or of civilization, they had attained virtues that Europeans liked to think of as the proper outcome of Christianity and civilization. The fury with which the Spaniards assaulted the Arawaks even after they had enslaved them must surely have been in part a blind impulse to crush an innocence that seemed to deny the Europeans' cherished assumption of their own civilized, Christian superiority over naked, heathen barbarians.

That the Indians were destroyed by Spanish greed is true. But greed is simply one of the uglier names we give to the driving force of modern civilization. We usually prefer less pejorative names for it. Call it the profit motive, or free enterprise, or the work ethic, or the American way, or, as the Spanish did, civility. Before we become too outraged at the behavior of Columbus and his followers, before we identify ourselves too easily with the lovable Arawaks, we have to ask whether we could really get along without greed and everything that goes with it. Yes, a few of us, a few eccentrics, might manage to live for a time like the Arawaks. But the modern world could not have put up with the Arawaks any more than the Spanish could. The story moves us, offends us, but perhaps the more so because we have to recognize ourselves not in the Arawaks but in Columbus and his followers.

The Spanish reaction to the Arawaks was Western civilization's reaction to the barbarian: the Arawaks answered the Europeans' description of men, just as Balboa's tiger answered the description of a tiger, and being men they had to be made to live as men were supposed to live. But the Arawaks' view of man was something different. They died not merely from cruelty, torture, murder and disease, but also, in the last analysis, because they could not be persuaded to fit the European conception of what they ought to be.

Edmund S. Morgan is a Sterling Professor emeritus at Yale University.


Ancient Egyptian artifacts discovered in the Grand Canyon

While this is a heavily criticized subject, there is evidence that suggests that in the 1900s, researchers belonging to the Smithsonian institute stumbled across ancient Egyptian artifacts deep within the Grand Canyon.

According to an article published by the Arizona Gazette, the discovery of a series of mysterious caves and artifacts in the Marble Canyon region of the Gand Canyon would forever change our history. The report claimed that two Smithsonian-funded researchers Prof. S. A. Jordan and G.E. Kinkaid were responsible for the groundbreaking discovery:

Discoveries which almost conclusively prove that the race which inhabited this mysterious cavern, hewn in solid rock by human hands, was of oriental origin, possibly from Egypt, tracing back to Ramses. If their theories are borne out by the translation of the tablets engraved with hieroglyphics, the mystery of the prehistoric people of North America, their ancient arts, who they were and whence they came, will be solved. Egypt and the Nile, and Arizona and the Colorado will be linked by a historical chain running back to ages which staggers the wildest fancy of the fictionist.

See more about this story from Beyond Science:


Archaeology: Book about America's discovery gets it all wrong

Numerous popular books and television programs claim that America was discovered by a variety of Old World civilizations centuries before Columbus.

Numerous popular books and television programs claim that America was discovered by a variety of Old World civilizations centuries before Columbus.

In the current issue of the journal American Antiquity, Larry Zimmerman, an archaeologist from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, reviews one of those books, The Lost Colonies of Ancient America: A comprehensive Guide to the Pre-Columbian Visitors Who Really Discovered America, written by Frank Joseph.

Joseph writes that there were pre-Columbian visits by Sumerians, Egyptians, Hebrews, Celts and others. An apparently non-facetious blurb on the book s cover asks, Who didn t discover America?"

He wrote that it was this cosmopolitan parade of visitors from the Old World and not the indigenous cultures of America who created virtually all the wonders of this New World, from Ohio s Newark Earthworks, which encode in their earthen walls a sophisticated knowledge of geometry and astronomy, to the monumental masonry of Machu Picchu.

Why don t archaeologists take these claims seriously?

Joseph says they cannot deviate from an academic party line without jeopardizing their professional careers, and so accept only those facts that support mainstream opinion.

The idea that archaeologists might ignore or even hide evidence that deviates from some academic party line would be laughable if it weren t so insulting.

Scientists have a long tradition of challenging the academic party line. Take the motto of London s Royal Society, which was founded in 1660 nullius in verba, which means take nobody s word for it.

As a graduate student, I submitted a paper to a major journal arguing that two of Ohio s most famous and influential archaeologists were wrong in how they interpreted the statewide distribution of 13,000-year-old flint spear points. After the paper was peer-reviewed, the journal published it.

Opinions, mainstream or otherwise, don t count for much in science. Evidence is what s important.

Most archaeologists don t dismiss the possibility of pre-Columbian contacts. In the June issue of the journal Antiquity, University of Calgary archaeologist Richard Callaghan presented the results of computer simulations of 1,200 voyages of small boats drifting with the currents from northern Africa to the Americas.

About 82 percent of Callaghan s simulated boats made landfall in the Americas, many in 70 to 120 days. Since watercrafts have been around for at least 8,000 years, Callaghan says there could have been a significant number of successful pre-Columbian voyages to America.

Do Callaghan's simulations lend credence to Joseph s extraordinary claims about who discovered America? No. Regardless of how likely such voyages might have been, archaeologists require evidence before accepting that they actually happened.

So far, there is no credible evidence for pre-Columbian contacts beyond the short-lived Norse settlement at L Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland.

In the early 19th century, some archaeologists believed that American Indians were too savage and ignorant to have built Ohio s ancient earthworks.

They speculated that the great mounds and enclosures were the work of a lost race of presumably white-skinned mound-builders. By 1890, however, systematic archaeological investigations conclusively showed that the true mound-builders were the ancestors of America s Indians.

Zimmerman argues that the racism underlying this mound-builder myth also is behind Joseph s claims, and it s still being used to rationalize injustice to American Indians.


America before Columbus -- a theory full of holes Saga America, by Barry Fell. New York: Times Books. $15.

In this sequel to "America, B.C.," Barry Fell expands upon his claim to have discovered linguistic and archaeological proof that the Americas were colonized by a vast range of Europeans, Africans, and Asians a thousand years before Columbus.

This is contrary to established evidence, but Fell more or less ignores all of the counterevidence and even suggests that most of the establishment has come around to his side since his first book was published.

In fact, scholars in linguistics, archaeology, and history have scorned his conclusions and methods -- reinforcing a tinge of martyrdom which Fell and his friends wear like a badge of honor. After all, they laughed at Galileo and Pasteur, too. But of course, they also laughed at Laurel and Hardy.

Like Tolkien, Fell has invented a self-contained fantasy world, but Fell represents his scientific reality. On the whole, I find Fell's fantasy less consistent and believable.

IT is certainly possible that there is an ancient site or inscription or remote colony of Old World origin to be found in America, but Fell portrays pre-Columbian America as a hotbed of trade, settlement, and semi-urbanization, which simply could not have escaped the archaeologists' notice were there any evidence for it. A partial Fell chronology for America: 325-250 B.C.: Carthaginian and Phoenician trade 264-241 B.C.: Libyan Greeks integrate Carthage trade ends 250-100 B.C.: European trade interrupted, North America mapped, token coins issued because of coin shortage 400 B.C.-A.D.400: Iberian-Roman traders Roman currency adopted A.D. 69 and 132: Two waves of Jewish refugees A.D.450: North African Christians arrive A.D.500: Libyan science and math flourish in Western US A.D.700 onward: Islamic inscriptions and Christian Celts in West A.D.1000: Vikings explore much of the US 1341: Vinland Norse revert to "paganism" and "barbarism" 1398: Last Norse-Celtic voyage to America 1524: Verrazano finds blonds in Rhode Island

But except for ephemeral Viking settlement in Canada, this all seems to be poppycock.

Fell's evidence consists of stone structures, ancient coins, and "inscriptions" on tablets, boulders, cliffs, etc., found in America. Jeremiah Epstein of the University of Texas recently traced virtually all american coin reports in January's "Current Anthropology." He showed them to be explainable as recently lost collectors items, mistaken identities, or hoaxes. Fell's "megalithic stone structures" were investigated in 1978 by Vermont State Archaeologist Giovanna Neudorfer and in 1979 by my Univeristy of Massachusetts crew, and we found nom evidence for ancient-voyager origins and considerable evidence for historic construction as chimney supports, spring houses, and root cellars.

Inscriptions such as the Kensington Stone, Spirit Pond Stones, and Iowa Tablets have long been exposed as hoaxes, but Fell cites them as if they had never been challenged.

Fell traces a hodgepodge of supposedly "borrowed" European words in "Algonquian" (actually a family of different languages) and other Native American tongues, but linguists have shown him wrong. On Page 187 he notes a Smithsonian publication by "Goddard and Fitzhugh 1978" but does not include it in his bibliography, thus keeping more or less intact his record of ignoring critics. It is available from Ives Goddard, curator of linguistics at the Smithsonian in Washiington, and interested readers should request a copy.

Matter-of-factly writing of the "Wyoming Iberian Bank" and its branches, Fell claims evidence for Gaelic settlers in Oklahoma, Jews in Arkansas, and Greeks in Colorado. That ancient Christians settled America is "unimpeachable," he says, devoting a chapter to America's Christianization long before Columbus. He then writes on the fall back into "paganism," implying that once-Christian America was simply reclaimed by later European conquerors.

His "Wyoming bank" consists of some round petroglyphs quite in the local Native American tradition. He claims to match them up with Old World coins.Like most of his comparisons, they do not even look similar except for the simplest, easily-reinvented designs -- except to true believers.

Fell is a prophet in an archaeological cult. In the name of science he tells people they should believe in him and share in the secrets of civilization. Disdainful of the experts, he gives easy answers to complex questions. His evidence is illusory, erroneous, and unsubstantiated, but he raises a powerful call to belief.

"Saga America" is either a delusion or a cynical exploitation of people's honest enthusiasm for the romance of archaeology. To the considerable extent the book camouflages or denigrates the accomplishments of Native Americans (and serious scholars), it is regrettable indeed. If it sparks interest in America's past sufficient to inspire readers to seek out better accounts, suspicions aroused, the book may have some value, at least as a counterexample.

Read "The Mound-Builders" by Robert Silverberg, "Lost Tribes and Sunken Continents" by Robert Wauchope, "exploring the Unknown" by Charles Cazeau and Stuart Scott, and Martin Gardner's "Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science" as antidotes.

"Saga America" belongs in library collections next to Bermuda Triangle, Bridey Murphy, and fad and cult items. It is a serious, if anadvertent, sociological document of a peculiar genre of wishful thinking, and it is worth reading only in that extent. Thoughtful will come to Barry Fell not to praise him.


Timing of First Contact

Researchers believe that Polynesian seafarers must have discovered the Americas first, long before Europeans did. The new DNA evidence, taken together with archaeological and linguistic evidence regarding the timeline of Polynesian expansion, suggests that an original contact date between 500 CE and 700 CE between Polynesia and America seems likely. That means that Polynesians would have arrived in South America even before the Norse had landed in Newfoundland.

The findings show that the technological capabilities of ancient peoples and cultures from around the world should not be underestimated and that the history of human expansion across the globe is probably far more complicated than anyone could have previously imagined.


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