10 Civilizations That Might Have Beaten Columbus To America

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4. The Knights Templar

The Knights Templar were dissolved in the 14th century on charges of heresy, though many historians believe the real reason for the persecution was jealousy. Thanks to their banking system, the order of warrior monks was remarkably well off. Of course, being burned at the stake does tend to put a damper on business.

During the fight against persecution, some knights supposedly escaped to Scotland, where they received help from Henry Sinclair, Prince of Orkney Islands. In 1393, Sinclair had carried out a survey of Greenland through a Venetian admiral. Now, in 1398, he was ready to lead an expedition to the New World by following old Viking routes. Twelve ships carried Sinclair and hundreds of Templar refugees to Nova Scotia, Canada, where the knights allegedly hid their treasure. Sinclair is then said to have explored as far south as present-day Massachusetts.

Sinclair and the refugees may have assimilated with the natives instead of returning to Scotland. One outlandish claim is that the alleged gnostic beliefs of the Templar had a massive influence on Native American religion, while another states that the founding fathers were influenced by Templar teachings. The cited evidence includes a portrait of a medieval knight on a stone in Westford, Massachusetts and an old tower in Newport, Rhode Island that looks fairly European. The remains of an old castle, a cannon, and a stone wall in Nova Scotia are supposedly further evidence of the theory.

5. Malians

The empire of Mali was a West African superpower in the late Middle Ages. Mali was stupendously wealthy, and its leader, Mansa Musa, was the richest man of all time. So mighty was his economic power that when he visited Egypt in 1324, he crashed the Egyptian gold market.

While he was wreaking financial havoc on Egypt, Musa also told the story of his predecessor, Mansa Abubakari II. Abubakari had supposedly commissioned a voyage to the end of the Atlantic Ocean. He sent a fleet of 200 ships across the Atlantic, and after a lengthy waiting period, only one returned. Its sailors told Abubakari about a giant whirlpool that had swallowed the other ships. Abubakari was intrigued. He more or less abdicated the throne, then he assembled an absolutely monstrous fleet of 2,000 ships and set sail.

He and his fleet never returned, and some speculated that he landed in Brazil in 1312. When Columbus arrived over 100 years later, he allegedly encountered African traders and spears tipped in African gold. The giant stone carvings of heads found in southern Mexico, called the Olmec Heads, have also been cited as evidence of Africans in pre-Columbian America. The Olmec are regarded as one of the first civilizations in Mexico, preceding other Mesoamerican empires, and their stone heads display decidedly African features.

6. Romans

In 1933, archaeologists stumbled upon a genuine miniature Roman bust on a dig in Mexico. How or why it was there has yet to be fully explained, but the bust seems to predate the arrival of Cortes, eliminating the possibility that the Spanish brought it with them on an expedition. Roman coins have also been found at several dig sites in the United States, and in Rome, inexplicable images of pineapples have shown up in ancient art.

The Romans may have learned how to navigate the oceans from the ancient Greeks. Many Greek city-states, like Athens, excelled in seafaring, and the Greeks knew that the world was round. Italian physicist Lucio Russo has suggested that a map by Ptolemy includes the Antilles, and Greek-Canadian scientist Dr. Minas Tsikritsis has suggested that a document by Plutarch describes in detail a journey from Carthage to Canada in A.D. 86.

The Carthage-Canada journey was not just a one-time thing, according to Tsikritsis. Greeks (and Carthaginians) visited Canada as part of a Cronus worship ritual and to get some sweet copper from Lake Superior and Royale Island. About 50,000 tons of copper may have been mined from these areas between 2400 and 1200 B.C.

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