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Islamic sources claim that there is historical evidence that an Islamic explorer visited America before Colombus and the Age of Discovery. An example. Columbus Was Not The First To Cross The Atlantic. The earliest evidence that this article claims was during Islamic rule in Spain.

Is there archaeological or independent literary evidence that suggest the possibility of Islamic explorers having visited America before the Age of Discovery?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 34 down vote accepted

Columbus was not, in fact, the first to cross the Atlantic. There were Norse communities living in Greenland from the 10th Century. They even had some temporary settlements in North America proper. However, the Norse weren't as good at eking out a living in the North Atlantic as the Inuit, and (after 500 years) eventually got wiped out by some combination of their attacks and climate change.

However, this was far before the printing press, and at the extremes of European settlement, so it wasn't well-known in Europe.

There are several other tales of possible transatlantic crossings. However, none of them left the physical evidence behind that the Vikings did, so they are all generally regarded as just tales.

To be fair, we should also note that Inuit peoples regularly crossed to America from Asia, as did all the other indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere at some point. The island chains between Siberia and Alaska aren't all that much of a barrier for people used to living in that ecosphere. There is also indirect evidence of Polynesian contact with South America across the tropical Pacific.

What was important about Columbus was not his primacy. It was that when he came back, all of Europe (and probably the educated all over the Old World eventually) heard about it in detail, thanks to the recently invented printing press. Additionally, the society he came back to had both the means and the motivation to follow up. This is what the Norse, and the folks behind any other tall tales of Atlantic crossings that may happen to be true, did not have.

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I'm starting a count of how many of your answers can be TL;DR-ed to "Printing press" :) – DVK Apr 15 '13 at 19:49
Did the printing press really have that important role? Or was it just because of the employer of Colombus had the means and the ambition to follow up the follow up regardless of the printing press? – Louis Rhys May 21 '13 at 1:44
@LouisRhys: Right. A very big difference is that the Norse vikings were looking for land to farm. Unfortunately for them, the native Americans didn't accept that. (This was in hindsight possibly unfortunate for the native Americans as well). Columbus and the Spanish wanted to get rich, and had the guns and funding to keep at it. – Lennart Regebro Aug 31 '13 at 8:32
@LouisRhys - Was tempted to post a counter-answer to Lennart's. Perhaps that makes this comment of yours worthy of its own question? – T.E.D. Aug 31 '13 at 14:43

Sure, it's possible. Many things are possible. Likely, however, is another question.

The link you posted describes a vague story of sailing west into the Atlantic, finding an island, trading with the locals, and returning home. Could the island be in the New World? It could, but it could just as easily be one of the islands in the Atlantic.

For me to consider the story at all plausible, I'd want to see an account of the journey that describes something you'd only find in the Americas and was definitely written before 1492. To move it from plausible to probable, I'd want to see physical evidence of the contact.

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Exactly. It seems far more likely, if the account contains accuracy at all, that they visited somewhere much closer, like the Canaries. In order to believe something more outlandish, I'd at least need evidence that the simpler explanation doesn't fit. See Occam's Razor – T.E.D. Apr 13 '13 at 13:42
This reads more like commentary on the question's sources than an actual answer to the question, and I think it should have been posted as a comment instead of an answer. There are a lot of things we can say about the story in the link, but is it really necessary? If the OP didn't doubt the source themselves, would they have asked the question in the first place? – Yannis Apr 13 '13 at 17:54
@YannisRizos I think that he offers his answer in the first sentence, i.e., "It's possibly, but unlikely". I don't think anybody who is unfamiliar with the basis for these claims can really answer this question factually. – coleopterist Apr 15 '13 at 16:12
@coleopterist You don't really need to be familiar with the basis for these claims to answer the question, all you need to be familiar with is if there are evidence to suggest Islamic presence in the Americas before Columbus. – Yannis Apr 15 '13 at 16:35
@coleopterist (and Joe) To clarify: I didn't flag the answer or anything drastic like that. My point is that an evaluation of the source, albeit helpful, is not a preferable answer. The OP already doubts the source (or they wouldn't have asked) and every future reader of this Q&A thread will probably not even have heard of the source. Visitors that'll find our site via searching the web for evidence of Islamic presence in the Americas will only care about that, and not about an evaluation of an article on some random website. – Yannis Apr 15 '13 at 17:49

Something that has not being mentioned here is Piri Reis map.

It used ten Arabian sources, four Indian maps sourced from the Portuguese and one map of Columbus

If accurate, most of the maps were previous to Columbus discovery, therefore someone "discovered" America before him, probably someone from Arabia or India...

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How do you infer "probably someone from Arabia or India"? We don't know what the Indian or Arabian maps were likely to contain. Also this map used Columbus's map as a source. This was compiled in 1513, seven years after Columbus was dead. – Rajib May 6 '14 at 18:10
Afaik, the map was compiled in 1513, but the maps are probably older, much older. I think it is worth for @ASandhiyudha to investigate who created the South America map as there are chances (that is the reason that I said probably) that was an Islamic explorer... – Oscar Foley May 7 '14 at 11:20
You are assuming that the parts of the map on the New World were on the older Arabic and Indian maps. Likely this is not the case, and the New World parts come from European sources like Columbus. – Oldcat May 7 '14 at 23:42
Not assuming. I think they might be in the Arabic and Indian maps... or might be in the Columbus map. Just trying to give a possible option to investigate to @ASandhiyudha. He asks for possibilities and here is a possible one... Just trying to help :) – Oscar Foley May 8 '14 at 10:07
I don't see any support whatsoever for the assertion made in the last paragraph. The map in question was made almost 20 years after Columbus, and the article you linked seems to assert that all the New World material came from Columbus' maps. – T.E.D. May 14 '14 at 15:26

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