Mysterious text suggests Europeans knew America long before Columbus set sail

How and when exactly people settled in North America is a topic of a lot of fascination for experts, and now a new analysis of ancient documents sheds light on some lesser-known details of this long contested timeline.

A document written by a Milanese brother, dated around 1345, turned out to contain what looks like a reference to the Atlantic coast of North America – suggesting that Italian sailors already knew about the continent around 150 years before Christopher Columbus does not go there. .

Entitled Cronica universalis and written by Galvaneus Flamma, the work is written in Latin and is currently unpublished. In it, Galvaneus attempts to detail the history of the whole world, from its creation in the 14th century.

“We are in the presence of the first reference to the American continent, although in an embryonic form, in the Mediterranean space”, says Paolo Chiesa, professor in the Department of Literary Studies, Philology and Linguistics at the University of Milan.

Galvaneus speaks of a land called Marckalada, in the west of Greenland, which corresponds to the Markland region mentioned by several Icelandic sources. It most likely refers to modern times Labrador Where Newfoundland.

The idea is that the brother heard about Marckalada or Markland through contacts and information transmitted from Genoa, on the Italian coast just south of Milan. This begs the question of exactly what Columbus might have expected to find when he sailed west in 1492.

Although the document is limited by the knowledge of the time – it suggests that giants roam Marckalada, for example – it fits into other accounts of this North American region, such as the Groenlendinga saga, a significant Icelandic text.

“What makes the passage [about Marckalada] exceptional is its geographical origin: not the Nordic zone, as in the case of the other mentions, but the north of Italy “, Chiesa writes in the study.

“The Marckalada described by Galvaneus is ‘rich in trees’, much like the forested Markland of the Greenlendinga Saga, and animals live there.”

This contrasts with descriptions of other northern lands at the time, as Greenland was known to be “dark and barren”, although there is no evidence that Italian sailors ventured there.

Columbus himself was born in Genoa, although he embarked on his famous voyage from Spain, and it is not inconceivable that he collected stories of a North American land from the sailors who frequented the port.

Genoa was known to have good contacts with the north, as shown by the advanced geography of the maps drawn there during Galvaneus’ time, supporting the idea that the brother indeed knew what he was talking about.

It doesn’t appear that Italian or Catalan sailors ever landed in Iceland or Greenland, but they probably heard stories from these regions on trade routes – even though Marckalada or Markland weren’t well known enough to make any records of it. officials around the same time.

“These rumors were too vague to find a coherence in the cartographic or scholarly representations”, said Chiesa.

The research was published in Unknown lands.

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