Was America Discovered Before Columbus?

This nautical chart, lost for five centuries, gives evidence that Portuguese captains had found the New World by 1424

The last issue of AMERICAN HERITAGE reported the publication in Europe of an ancient map giving evidence that the Western Hemisphere was discovered by Portuguese explorers before Columbus. This map, whose history and meaning are discussed in the following article, is here reproduced in color for the first time in the United States.

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Everything You Need To Know About Columbus

EXACTLY A YEAR FROM NOW THE WORLD WILL BE MARKING THE FIVE HUNDREDTH ANNIVERSARY OF THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT EVENT OF THE PAST MILLENNIUM. THE ZEAL OF ONE MAN BROUGHT ABOUT THAT EVENT, AND HIS NAME AND TALK OF HIS ACHIEVEMENTS WILL BE OMNIPRESENT HERE, THEN, IS A COLUMBUS CATECHISM TO HELP YOU THROUGH THE MONTHS AHEAD: WAS HE REALLY THE FIRST? IF HE SAILED FOR SPAIN, WHY DO ITALIANS MAKE SUCH A FUSS ABOUT HIS BIRTHDAY? HOW COME AMERICA ISN’T NAMED FOR HIM? WHY IS HE BEING CALLED A VILLAIN NOW? Read more »

Columbus’ La Navidad

The Fate of the New World’s First Spanish Settlement

Two ships of Columbus’ fleet of discovery idled languidly in flat water along the treacherous north coast of the island of Haiti, their sails slack in the luminous starlight of a tropical night. It was Christmas Eve, 1492. Read more »

Puffing Through The American Past

Within a century after Columbus and his crew first encountered Cuban natives “with a firebrand in the hand and herbs to drink the smoke thereof,” much of Western civilization had taken to tobacco in all its forms—an addiction brought back to the New World in which the sotweed had been discovered. Tobacco was colonial America’s chief export and it remains— pace the Surgeon General—a steadily expanding, multibillion-dollar industry.Read more »

The Way I See It

A new column

The great job of the historian is to enable people to understand how things were and why they happened so in a time and at a place that are gone forever. Somehow he has to reach the irrecoverable past. Living in one era, he must work in another, trying his best to lay his hands on something that is forever beyond his grasp, to hear voices that have been stilled for generations and to interpret the aspirations and motivations of minds and hearts that returned to their elements long since in the mists beyond the Jordan.Read more »

The Man Behind Columbus

Martín Pinzón of Palos

As you approach the village of Palos de la Frontera, some fifty miles west of Seville in Spain’s Analgesía, the squat little church of San J’orge looms in the foreground at the base of a rocky cliff that overlooks the tidal flats created by the mingling of the rivers Tinto and Odiel. The shallow estuary where the two rivers converge, known of old as the Saltés, is undistinguished scenically, an obscure corner of Spain virtually unknown to American tourists. Read more »

America Illusion And Reality

No event in the history of Western man provided so profound a shock as the discovery of America

America was an experience man could only have once. Knowledge of China, knowledge of Africa, festooned as it was with the Spanish moss of myth and legend, had penetrated Europe from the days of Imperial Rome and beyond. When discovered, the animals of Australasia were stranger by far than America’s, and the aborigines and the bushmen of Tasmania were more primitive, even more uniformly naked than the Caribs whose appearance was so startling to Columbus. By then the strangeness of the Americas had destroyed the sense of novelty. There could only be one New World. Read more »

Columbus And Genocide

The discoverer of the New World was responsible for the annihilation of the peaceful Arawak Indians

On April 17, 1492, Ferdinand and Isabella, the Catholic monarchs of Castile, signed the Capitulations of Santa Fe, the agreement by which Christopher Columbus, one-time wool-weaving apprentice in Savona, Italy, undertook a voyage of discovery to the western Atlantic. Read more »

Viking America: A New Theory

Was Columbus motivated by Norse discoveries, concealed over the centuries in misinterpreted maps?

In 1965 widespread interest was excited by the first publication of a fifteenth-century map showing “Vinland” and purporting to be the earliest cartographic representation of any part of the North American continent. [See “Vinland the Good Emerges from the Mists,” AMERICAN HERITAGE, October, 1965.] The Vinland Map tended to reinforce the conclusion long held by many historians that Leif Eiriksson (or Ericson) and other Vikings landed on the northeast coast of the continent around A.D.1000.Read more »