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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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 »

“Savages Never Carved These Stones”

Magnificent Central American ruins, overgrown by the thickening jungle, testify to a sophisticated culture already ancient when Columbus sailed

On the afternoon of November 17, 1839, John Lloyd Stephens, a red-bearded New York lawyer, and Frederick Catherwood, an English artist, hacked their way through a jungle in Honduras and emerged at the edge of a broad river. Facing them across the wide ribbon of water was an ancient and massive stone wall, looming up a hundred feet out of the bush. As they crossed the river and explored the surroundings, they discovered stone altars, mysterious hieroglyphics, and giant idols richly carved; it was clear that they had come upon the ruins of an ancient city.