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Author Topic: Did the Chinese discover America?
Steve
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Check out your use of quotation marks. Then get back to me. Okay?

You wrote:
"You commented about it being "odd" that we don't read about the discovery of Europe in history text books. I explained why. If the reason was that obvious, then I am not sure what about it you found so "odd." "

It's simple. Either by discovery we mean the first person to find something, in which case Columbus discovered nothing. Or we mean the first of a certain group of people to discover something. In which case Europe was discovered in 1492, though you throw the word discover in quotes for some reason. It's one or the other, though I don't get why you threw the word discover in quotes.

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Linden
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quote:
Originally posted by NobbyNobbs:
If this is truly a copy of a map from 1418, that means that this Chinese sailor also discovered Antartica, Central America, South America, the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska, the Bering Strait, and the Hudson Bay? All of those are clearly shown on the map.

And, with all these amazing discoveries, has somehow managed to misplace Australia.

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The Rubber Chicken
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quote:
In which case Europe was discovered in 1492, though you throw the word discover in quotes for some reason. It's one or the other, though I don't get why you threw the word discover in quotes.
I put the word discover in quotes when referring to the Native Americans because saying they discovered Europe is stretching the use of the word "discover," and adding a nuance I have never heard. Discover, especially when talking in the field of history, implies someone actively doing something that led to the discovery. Saying the Native Americans discovered Europe would be like saying "I discovered a new restaurant downtown. Also, the restaurant discovered me." Europeans came to America, not the other way around. Thus, they were the ones who were doing the discovering.

As far as whether Columbus was the first, it is irrelevent. The fact is, few people in the world knew about the previous discoveries of America. If someone discovers something, and the knowledge is lost, it seems silly to try and claim that the next person who finds it -- especially if their finding ends up changing the world -- didn't make a discovery.

But just to make everyone happy, here is the sentence we can put in history books:

In the group of people comprising everyone in the world except the Native Americans and Leif Ericson (who at that time had been dead for almost 500 years), Christopher Columbus was the first person to discover the Americas.

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Ganzfeld
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I think it's stretching the use of the word "discover" either way. I could walk into your living room and say that I "discovered the living room". Then I could kidnap you and take you back to my house and you could "discover "my living room (for some natives went back with Columbus in this way). Either use of the word "discover" is absurd.
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Tantei Kijo
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quote:
Originally posted by Giant Communist Robot:
quote:
Originally posted by RealityChuck, aka Boston Charlie:

And oxygen existed before Lavoisier, so you can't say he discovered it, either, right? And radium existed before Madame Curie, so she doesn't count, either.

I grow tired of this lame bit nonsense. "Discovered" is mere shorthand for "discovered by the rest of the world"

This is what discovered means:
quote:
dis·cov·er ( P ) Pronunciation Key (d-skvr)
tr.v. dis·cov·ered, dis·cov·er·ing, dis·cov·ers
1. To notice or learn, especially by making an effort: got home and discovered that the furnace wasn't working.

2. To be the first, to find, learn of, or observe.

The Americas, oxygen, and radium all existed before they were discovered. In regards to the Americas, I guess you meant "Europeans became aware of" or something like that.


...

Actually, it's the first definition that looks A-OK in Columbus's situation to me.

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Linden
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This is an attempt to cool a thread that has become somewhat overheated for my taste: I hope it succeeds, and that I'm not pouring petroleum on the flames rather than water.

The notion of `discovery' is contentious even without bringing in any cultural issues. An example raised earlier in this thread, about oxygen, provides a useful analogy to what happened about the Americas.

It's contentious to say that Lavoisier `discovered' oxygen. He certainly was the first to realise the implications, but only after learning from Priestley about the new gas he'd isolated. Priestly himself called it `dephlogisticated air', because he was immovably bound to the old and moribund phlogiston theory; he didn't understand the importance of his discovery. In any case, Scheele beat both of them, but didn't publicise his discovery widely enough to be recognised.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Wilhelm_Scheele

Something very similar happened with the discovery of the New World. Although Columbus is often credited with discovering the Americas, he didn't realise the implications, and in that sense he played the part of Priestley, discovering something important without understanding its importance. It was Amerigo Vespucci, in his pamphlet `Mundus Novus' of 1505, who first realised that, from the European point of view, what had been discovered was a New World; in this sense, he deserves the honour of having it named after him. And lots of people may have done for the Americas what Scheele did for oxygen -- finding it, without getting it publicly acknowledged -- Leif Ericson, for example.

All this is from the European perspective. From the Chinese perspective things may be different. I wonder; were there Chinese scientists who isolated what we now call oxygen?

Where my analogy breaks down, of course, is that oxygen doesn't have a point of view in the matter, unlike the original inhabitants of the Americas.

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Ganzfeld
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Discovery of America or not, the "oxygen analogy" is full of hot air. Lavoisier described the gas in away that classified it and defined it. The only new thing the Europeans established about America was that it was West of Yurp. (Or, as it would later be understood, "Turn left at Greenland".) [ETA: Well, later they discovered many new things. But at first they only discovered what many native groups had already established.]

Personally, I think we've all grown up with the phrase "Columbus discovered the New World" so it's fine to use it but we should be aware that it's not the most accurate statement. (Whether Lavoisier discovered oxygen seems to be an unrelated issue.)

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Giant Communist Robot
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Tantei Kid said:

quote:
Actually, it's the first definition that looks A-OK in Columbus's situation to me
in reference to: 1. To notice or learn, especially by making an effort: got home and discovered that the furnace wasn't working.


I vote all textbooks be changed to "Columbus noticed America" [Big Grin] [Big Grin]


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Senior
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It's well known that the Vikings made it to North America several centuries before Columbus or, possibly, Zheng He. The important thing to remember about either the Vikings or Zheng He is that nothing permanent occured afterwards. The number of lasting Viking or Chinese colonies in the Americas was nil. It wasn't until after Columbus showed up that Europeans came to the New World and took over.

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prof. yanaibara
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I just want to know if any Africans made it pre-Columbus. I was really interested in the evidence presented in "Lies My Teacher Told Me".

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prof. yanaibara
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oops

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Richard W
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quote:
Originally posted by Linden:
quote:
Originally posted by NobbyNobbs:
If this is truly a copy of a map from 1418, that means that this Chinese sailor also discovered Antartica, Central America, South America, the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska, the Bering Strait, and the Hudson Bay? All of those are clearly shown on the map.

And, with all these amazing discoveries, has somehow managed to misplace Australia.
Are you two looking at the Pizzigano map that I linked? If so, I think you're misinterpreting it. Apart from the red and blue islands at the top, it's a map of Europe. It doesn't show any of the things that you say it clearly shows. The centre is an outline of Spain, with the Straits of Gibraltar and North Africa to the left. If you scroll to the right you see the British Isles.

I think you may be confused because despite what I originally said, West is at the top of the map and so it's an unusual orientation.

Having said that, yes, Gavin Menzies does think that the Chinese explorers discovered all those things during the course of their voyage. He doesn't use that map as evidence for all of it, though. And I agree that it's very far-fetched on the basis of the evidence that he does use.

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Linden
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The map I've referred to is the one shown on in the National Geographic article in my first post, and linked again here:
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/01/0118_060118_chinese_map.html

This one has recently surfaced, and it has a curious omission around Australia.

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Linden

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Richard W
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quote:
Originally posted by Linden:
The map I've referred to is the one shown on in the National Geographic article in my first post ...

Ah, sorry. Of course it would be more likely that you were talking about the OP than about my post!

I have no particular opinion about that map, other than the obvious one that it was drawn (according to the date) in 1763 and shows nothing that wasn't common knowledge in 1763...

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NobbyNobbs
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Actually, it does appear to show Australia, just further east than it should be.

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Giant Communist Robot
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John Daehnke asked:

quote:
I just want to know if any Africans made it pre-Columbus. I was really interested in the evidence presented in "Lies My Teacher Told Me".
Lies has a table with some possible pre-Columbian explorers; for the period 1000 BC to 300 AD it gives a description of moderate evidence for Afro-Phoenician contact in Central America, for 1311? to 1460? gives moderate evidence for contact with Haiti, Panama, and possibly Brazil and West Africa. Not enough to be convincing, but not so easily dismissed.

Also included is the evidence for contact between Japan and So. America, based on stylistic similarities between Jomon pottery and some So. American artifacts. This one is a really big stretch!


...

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Linden
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Here's a link to an excellent collection of world maps, which the team supporting Menzies' view have put on line. I don't agree with their theory, but they've done a great job of making these hard-to-find maps available:
http://www.1421.tv/maps.asp

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Linden

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prof. yanaibara
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GCR - I phrased that in an uncertain way. I've read the book and since lost it (all my best reference books get loaned out and lost), so I'd seen the info. But I want to know more about it from other sources - what have people followed up with in that direction? Is there a deeper legitimate assessment of the data?

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Linden
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A Wikipedia article on pre-Columbian transoceanic contact seems like a good place to start a quest to find out more (and it has a link to a specialist site on possible African pre-Columbian contact):
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pre-columbian_transatlantic_contacts

Since it's a disputed article, the discussion linked to it is illuminating too.

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Jason Threadslayer
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quote:
Originally posted by John Daehnke:
I just want to know if any Africans made it pre-Columbus. I was really interested in the evidence presented in "Lies My Teacher Told Me".

There is some evidence for Mali traders reaching the Caribbean. The Caribes used the same alloy as the Mali with the same name and had a tradition that they got the alloy from "blacks".

quote:
Originally posted by Giant Communist Robot:
Lies has a table with some possible pre-Columbian explorers; for the period 1000 BC to 300 AD it gives a description of moderate evidence for Afro-Phoenician contact in Central America, for 1311? to 1460?

By Afro-Phoenician, he means Carthagians.

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nobodytil2013
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I wonder how annoyed indigenous "Americans" get when half the world claims they found their continent first?

Besides, didn't the vikings pre-date Columbus by about 500 years?

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El Camino
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Was Colombus the first man to see America? No. Was he the first European? No.

However, he was sent on a mission to find another passage to the Indies by the Queen in Spain. Instead he discovered America for Spain. It was not known to Spain before this. Nor was it known in the rest of Europe, at least not widely.

Here's an analogy. Suppose there is a lump of gold in a maze of tunnels under Splash Mountain in Disney world. Now, this gold was put there by an elite secret society founded by Walt himself. Members passed the secret on to their children, and so on, but no one outside this circle ever heard a whisper. This would be analagous in that the gold was known to some people, but most were unaware.
Then Dan Quayle stumbles upon it. Wouldn't you say that he discovered it, even though it was known to others before? I would. Just as I would say that Colombus discovered America.

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Ganzfeld
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Okay, El Camino. That makes sense. I think at least my own reaction to the word "discovered" is at least partly due to the fact that some history books have exaggerated the sparse population of the Americas. There were people living practially everywhere they live now in the Americas. Then they use the word "discover" in a global sense, as if it were a discovery for all peoples. But it really is a silly nitpick when I think about it rationally.
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Samantha Vimes
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My local paper the Sacramento Bee, had an article a number of years back (sorry for the vagueness) on an archeological find of Chinese pottery from the 1400s up the Sacramento River, and talked about literature in China from the period talking about mountions of gold in the east. So this isn't the first I've heard of a possible encounter of California by the Chinese.

Also, if they weren't giving the natives smallpox-covered blankets, I don't see that sailing in their river is going to automatically inflict Eurasian diseases on the populace.

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Linden
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Here's the URL to what the Sacramento Bee says about Menzies' book:
http://www.sacbee.com/content/lifestyle/books/story/5821484p-6789220c.html

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Honey Bunching Oats
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"archeological find of Chinese pottery from the 1400s up the Sacramento River" - Samantha Vimes

Chinese immigrants couldn't have brought 400 year pottery with them to the gold fields. Or Spanish brought Chinese pottery from Manila ( Chinese had trade contacts with the Philippines 100s of years befoe Magellan) to California and traded with the Native Americans who traded with tribes further inland in the 1600s?

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Alkatr0z
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quote:
That's the main difficulty with this theory (the Chinese discovery of America): while it would theoretically have been possible for some (storm swept) Chinese ships to have (accidentally) landed on the American side of the ocean, currents being as they are, it would be very difficult to imagine how they could get back.
Why does this make it so unlikely? No matter how you look at it one way of the voyage is going to be into the prevailing winds / currents. So the Vikings had to deal with the same issues.
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El Camino
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Except that it's a much shorter trip for the Vikings to America than for the Chinese. We know Vikings were in Greenland, and it's not that far from Greenland to North America. Look at a map, and keep and mind that scale is not constant with changing latitudes. That is, and inch at the equator is equal to several inches that far north on a map. It is much, much farther from China. Even if they island hop much of the way, there's some pretty empty sports of open ocean that would make it difficult. Not necessary impossible, but very difficult, and certainly far more difficult than a Viking journey to Newfoundland.
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Franny
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I don't know why (must be my East-Coast centric view of life... the water's on the wrong side out here...) but whenever I see this thread I have a vision of a Chinese junk pulling up the James River and landing in Jamestown. Then I think to myself, its pretty impressive that the Chinese managed to sail all the way around South America. My DH had to remind me that the probably just went to the west coast.

Geographically Challenged Franny-

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Senior
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quote:
Originally posted by El Camino:
...Look at a map, and keep and mind that scale is not constant with changing latitudes. That is, and inch at the equator is equal to several inches that far north on a map....

This is only true if you're looking at a Mercator projection map. Here's a discusion about various map projections.

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Richard W
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quote:
Originally posted by Franny:
whenever I see this thread I have a vision of a Chinese junk pulling up the James River and landing in Jamestown. Then I think to myself, its pretty impressive that the Chinese managed to sail all the way around South America. My DH had to remind me that the probably just went to the west coast.

Not that geographically-challenged - Menzies's claim is that they found the Caribbean and the East Coast of the continent first. Although, according to him they got there by sailing round Africa and across the Atlantic. Then the fleet split into two, and half sailed around South America into the Pacific, the other half sailed up the East coast.

I don't blame you for finding this rather dubious though.

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jimmy101
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quote:
Originally posted by Senior:
quote:
Originally posted by El Camino:
...Look at a map, and keep and mind that scale is not constant with changing latitudes. That is, and inch at the equator is equal to several inches that far north on a map....

This is only true if you're looking at a Mercator projection map. Here's a discusion about various map projections.
Also keep in mind that many maps used in the US do not have the equator drawn through the middle of the map. The equator is drawn below the center so things (oceans, continents...) in the northern hemisphere look bigger than they should. S. America and Africa are much bigger than shown on many maps.

jimmy "when distance and/or size is important use a globe" 101

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Alkatr0z
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quote:
Originally posted by jimmy101:
quote:
Originally posted by Senior:
quote:
Originally posted by El Camino:
...Look at a map, and keep and mind that scale is not constant with changing latitudes. That is, and inch at the equator is equal to several inches that far north on a map....

This is only true if you're looking at a Mercator projection map. Here's a discusion about various map projections.
Also keep in mind that many maps used in the US do not have the equator drawn through the middle of the map. The equator is drawn below the center so things (oceans, continents...) in the northern hemisphere look bigger than they should. S. America and Africa are much bigger than shown on many maps.

I don't know about all the different kinds of maps or about how american maps are drawn but it seems to me very difficult to know their exact route unless they kept a accurate journal and nothing would have prevented them from heading north then east. Which would also have made it a much shorter distance as well as having the advantages of fresh supplies of water if required.
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Pogue Ma-humbug
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quote:
Originally posted by nobodytil2013:
Besides, didn't the vikings pre-date Columbus by about 500 years?

And St. Brendan the Navigator predated the Vikings by another 500 years.

Pogue

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shifty rob
Jingle Bell Hock


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A fascinating book on this subject is "1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus" by Charles C. Mann (2005). One basic premise is that, immediately prior to European contact, there were more people living in the Americas than in all of Europe, in comparably modern communities in many cases.

There is also some fascinating evidence discussed that there may have been as many as 3 seperate migrations over the Siberian land bridge and through the corridor between the ice sheets, as well as potentially a seaborne migration into Chile as far as 30,000 years ago. (Note- none of this is conclusive by any means, but the discussion of the evidence is fascinating). The idea that the Americas were empty of humanity prior to the time of the Clovis settlement (11,000 BP?) has been pretty well disproven.

Here is a pretty good site on this:
http://www.sfu.museum/journey/en/05p_secondary/preclovis.php

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"They got a name for the winners in the world; I want a name when I lose" -Steely Dan

Posts: 480 | From: Tampa Bay, FL | Registered: Feb 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
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