Islamic sources claim that there is historical evidence that an Islamic explorer visited America before Columbus 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?


5 Answers 5


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
    Commented Apr 15, 2013 at 19:49
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    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
    Commented May 21, 2013 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. Commented Aug 31, 2013 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.
    Commented Aug 31, 2013 at 14:43
  • Pre-Columbia trans-oceanic contact theories
    – user2850
    Commented Jul 13, 2017 at 16:50

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.
    Commented Apr 13, 2013 at 13:42
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    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
    Commented Apr 13, 2013 at 17:54
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    @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. Commented Apr 15, 2013 at 16:12
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    @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
    Commented Apr 15, 2013 at 16:35
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    @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
    Commented Apr 15, 2013 at 17:49

There is absolutely no evidence that various Islamic Caliphates "visited America before Columbus".

Now of course Islamic civilization has been present in Morocco for 1300 years and the Iberian Caliphate was present in Southwest Europe for nearly 800 years. The Medieval Muslims of the greater Iberian peninsula, as well as Morocco would have known about the Atlantic Ocean, since it was their backyard-(certainly in the cases of Western Morocco, as well as the Portuguese coast). However, in all likelihood, the Atlantic Ocean, for the Muslims, would have been just that..... an Ocean; a large, seemingly eternal waterway with no imaginable peoples or tangible lands in distant sight.

I am doubtful that the Medieval Muslims would have known about the Incas, Aztecs or the Cherokee and Mohawk nations within the Eastern region of Ancient America. If they had any knowledge of their existence, it did not appear to be a high priority for future conquest and conversion. However, the Medieval Muslims would have been aware of the Canary Islands-(West of Morocco), as well as the Atlantic coastal regions of Spain, France and Britain, though probably not beyond the West European coast. As far as I know, there are no maps, travel writings, historical texts or other primary sources which document, state or sketch a Muslim expedition to the Americas during Medieval times. Of course, with advancements in archaeological technology, as well as Geographic Information Systems/GIS, one may discover a retrieve a lost history that would prove the existence of such expeditions. However, until such a discovery materializes, there is currently no evidence that the Medieval Muslims "visited America before Columbus".


It's technically not impossible, but extremely unlikely. Thor Heyerdahl proved Polynesians could travel to South America. It still is an open question if they ever did that.

Claims of Mohammedans crossing the Atlantic I take with a grain (read: ton) of salt. Claiming is easy enough. Proving those claims is a very different matter. There is absolutely no proof at all they ever did.

That doesn't say it didn't happen. We have found evidence the Vikings did set up camps in Newfoundland. So far that is only evidence they visited America. Not that they settled down permanently. Until that proof of mohammedans visiting America is found, I don't think they ever went there.

  • Its Muslims not Mohammedans... Commented Oct 2, 2017 at 15:31
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    It's both. Muslims is correct and mohammedans is correct. Kindly check your dictionary.
    – Jos
    Commented Oct 3, 2017 at 0:36
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    I don't need to use a dictionary, 'Mohammedans' is used by people not au fait with Islam and in analogy with Christ, Christianity and Christians; Muslims themselves don't generally approve of this usage as it implies Mohammed occupies the same role in their theology as Christ, whereas their role is very different; hence, Muslims call themselves Muslims. Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 8:17

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
    Commented May 6, 2014 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... Commented May 7, 2014 at 11:20
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    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
    Commented May 7, 2014 at 23:42
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    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.
    Commented May 14, 2014 at 15:26
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    Is there anything that would tie this answer to the question? Any evidence that the map was connected to Islamic sources?
    – MCW
    Commented Oct 1, 2017 at 19:28

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