History is never more intriguing than when we are faced with questions for which there are no definitive answers, allowing us the luxury to research, question, and speculate on our own. One of those great unsolved questions will be examined Tuesday night, June 22nd at 8 pm when the History Channel presents “Who Really Discovered America?”. This new documentary, narrated by James Lurie, will explore many of the various theories and possibilities regarding the discovery of America, and will detail all of the different cultures that may or may not have successfully reached the Western Hemisphere much earlier than previously believed.
For many generations, Americans were satisfied with the idea that Christopher Columbus was the first European to reach the “New World” when he sailed to the West Indies in 1492. Later historians began to research the voyages of Leif Ericson, concluding that the Norse explorer completed an Atlantic crossing sometime around 1000 AD, visiting areas in and around Newfoundland. Other scholars have theorized that Ericson may have been beaten to North America by early Welsh and Irish sailors, or even ancient Hebrews, in some cases, by hundreds of years. There is an equal amount of speculation concerning pre-Columbus Pacific Ocean voyages. Gavin Menzies’ book, 1421: The Year the Chinese Discovered America makes its case for Chinese explorers making it to the western coastline of the Americas, while others maintain that Japanese and Polynesians may have accomplished this as well. “Who Really Discovered America” will examine each theory by tracing the probable routes, and recreating the technology available to the various cultures to determine the validity of possible successful early ocean crossings.
Of course, the notion of America actually being “discovered” by any of those early groups is a dubious one, when one considers that the entire Western Hemisphere was already populated by Native Americans, who probably made the actual discovery thousands of years earlier. In any case, “Who Really Discovered America” should provide an excellent starting point for anyone looking to study alternate ideas in the area of exploration.