1421 Did China really discover America before Columbus


Jeremy Lee

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Jun 12, 2003
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This might not be too appropriate here, but I would like to know what are the views of you guys out there. I have just finished reading the book 1421 - The Year China Discovered The World by Gavin Menzies. In the book, the author said that not only had China discovered America, they also discovered Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica , circumnavigated Greenland etc. Using a lot of deduction, including standing stones and traditional native DNA, he comes to a conclusion that indeed China was the first to discover the West, but unfortunately all records in China were destroyed during their 'closed door policy' years. Also it states that there are many unidentified wrecks off Florida that might be of wrecked Chinese junks. In my opinion, the story seems too good to be true. The book's website is at www.1421.tv .
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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Jeremy, you might like to go to http://www.asianreviewofbooks.com/arb/article.php?article=201 and read the review. Follow the links to other reviews, especially the one to The Independent.

There are some damning remarks by readers on Amazon.

I've not read the book, but if he claims that the Chinese could obtain longitude centuries before the Europeans, he is talking obvious twaddle. Longitude requires some kind of clock that can be used at sea, or perhaps on a handy shore. You must make a sea-going chronometer, which not even Menzies claims the Chinese did. Failing that, you must use methods that require precision optics. There are two ways of doing this. You can get time from observations of the moons of Jupiter, or you can get it from the angular distance of the moon from the fixed stars. Both methods require a clock that is very accurate when used on land in order to get the required data in the first place. Both methods were tried in the west with limited success, the lunar distance method being used until well into the 19th century. As the Chinese had neither chronometers nor optical instruments, they could not have obtained accurate longitudes.

In Australia, we have had quite a bit of this stuff before. Any old wreck found on our coast is likely to be turned into a Chinese junk, or more likely a Portugese caravel. The best-known is the "mahogany ship" that lies in sand somewhere on the Victorian coast. The ship was long ago shown to be made of local timber and souvenirs made of it still exist. In spite of this, it's still dragged out from time to time as evidence of previously unknown exploration.

I understand that the Chinese had some vague knowledge that Australia existed. They probably got it from traders to the south of China. I've read a little about the Chinese voyages and they were not voyages of exploration but were intended to show known countries the wealth and might of China. There's no doubt that the Chinese could have done a great deal of exploration in their large junks but as they say in the military, capability is not the same as intention.

There's no doubt that there were unrecorded voyages made by various nations. It's considered likely that Columbus used information from the Portugese on his first voyage, as he used the winds of the Atlantic as if he knew what to expect. We might learn more about them, if the problem is tackled by somebody without a predetermined theory.
 
May 31, 2003
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Zheng He came close in the late middle ages early renaissance, but then the Chinese government went to a more insular foreign policy and Zheng He's further voyages were cancelled. However, if you're looking for a pre-columbian discovery of the Americas, my Norwegian Viking ancestors made an okay living in Newfoundland at L'anse aux Meadows, around, oh saaaaaay, the 10th to 11th century AD
 

Jeremy Lee

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>>However, if you're looking for a pre-columbian discovery of the Americas, my Norwegian Viking ancestors made an okay living in Newfoundland at L'anse aux Meadows, around, oh saaaaaay, the 10th to 11th century AD<<

Isn't there Viking artifacts unearthed there?
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Easley South Carolina
>>Isn't there Viking artifacts unearthed there?<<

Yep....an entire settlement. As to who "discovered" America, that's not really all that difficult to figure out. The peoples now known as the American Indians did that, having inhabited the Americas for at least 20,000 years, having most probably come across the Bearing Straits when ocean levels were low enough in the last ice age to walk across the land bridge.

Anyone who came afterwards is an also-ran.
 
Nov 29, 2004
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I read in a book (I think it was Dr Peter Throckmorton's "The sea remember's") hints that Roman and Pheonician ships might one day be found on the east coast of America, so I guess if someone dredges up an amphorae you will have another contender for the title "DISCOVERER OF THE NEW WORLD!!"
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Not likely, Mithchell. This one has been floating around in one variation or another for some time now. The primary assertion by the people who assert this sort of thing (Known as "Difffusionists.) is that not only did the Romans and Phonicians find the new world, but also had trade links with same.

The problem with this is the utter lack of any supporting evidence for it. While it could be fairly pointed out that the lack of evidence is not evidence of lack, the silence in the archaeological record is a screamer. To carry on any sort of trade would require settlements with port facilities, warehouses and all of the usual accoutraments that come with same such as homes, temples or shrines to the culture's dieties and graveyards/tombs of some kind as well as garbage dumps. Humans leave all kinds of traces of their presence wherever they go and so far, the evidence located to support the diffusionist's claims is exactly zip.

While Greek/Roman artifacts have been found in the New World, this isn't quite as telling as some might believe. It was not uncommon for Medevial/Rennissaance ships to use such artifacts as ballast. Ballast which was either taken on or dumped depending on the need.
 
Nov 29, 2004
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Hi Mike,
I agree that It is very unlikely that the Romans or Pheonicians--or anyone else from that period had regular trade with the America's, the lack of reliable navigation equipment/practice's made working beyond site of the shore quite risky and therefore would normally act as a limiter on how far you would be willing to go to trade---sticking to the coast of africa--no prob, A quick dash across the med--easy, crossing the Atlantic-thats a biggy. the impracticalities of such trade are many and must have surely outweighed any profit in such a venture, I Think any classical shipwreck found on the American coast would be almost certainly from a ship that just got lost. Either ways I personally think it highly unlikely that anyone will find a roman wreck, but hey history makes fools of us all on a regular basis, so who knows?
I didn't know they used old Artifacts as ballast though, but it makes sense. thanks for the info.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>I Think any classical shipwreck found on the American coast would be almost certainly from a ship that just got lost.<<

I'm inclined to agree with that. Such a journey wouldn't have been impossible. Some of the craft used by both the Romans and the Pheonicians were surprisingly seaworthy. However, possible is a very different animal from Practical. In many respects, these people weren't any different from us in that they could do the math and business people need to be concerned with the bottom line. If what goes there is red ink, they wouldn't attempt it.
 

Wesley Burton

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Apr 22, 2004
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If we are talking about Europeans discovering America, then I would say the Vikings did that. It is the earliest proof of a European colony. And Columbus never even reached the mainland.
 

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