Including Prince Henry Sinclair, Marco Polo, Admiral Zheng He and more Mon, 07 Mar 2016 17:17:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Jacob Ziegler 1532 map of Gronlandia (Greenland) Tue, 02 Feb 2016 19:10:15 +0000 Ziegler’s Map shows the location of “Codfish Land” at the extreme southern coast of a huge Northern Continent that included the Arctic Isle of Green Land as well as the East Coast of North America. Terra Bacallaos (arrow) represents Newfoundland … Continue reading

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Ziegler’s Map shows the location of “Codfish Land” at the extreme southern coast of a huge Northern Continent that included the Arctic Isle of Green Land as well as the East Coast of North America.

Terra Bacallaos (arrow) represents Newfoundland – which was the principal source of cod.

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Vinland maps from the Rudimentum Novitiorum Tue, 02 Feb 2016 20:10:07 +0000 Vinland maps from the Rudimentum Novitiorum used two spellings for Vinland. Those issued at Lubeck in 1475 spelled it Vinlād – where the lād stood for “land.” The Paris version in 1488 spelled it Winlād. Thousands of copies of this … Continue reading

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Vinland map from the Rudimentum Novitiorum

Vinland maps from the Rudimentum Novitiorum used two spellings for Vinland. Those issued at Lubeck in 1475 spelled it Vinlād – where the lād stood for “land.” The Paris version in 1488 spelled it Winlād. Thousands of copies of this map circulated in Northern Europe.

Read more …

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Prince Henry Sinclair Victorious! Mon, 08 Jun 2015 22:00:58 +0000 New Book from Misty Isles Press & Victorious! Queen’s Champion, Prince Henry Sinclair by Gunnar Thompson, Ph.D. During the Late Middle Ages – in the 14th century – Queen Margaret Atterdag of Denmark welded together the bickering kingdoms of … Continue reading

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New Book from Misty Isles Press &

Victorious! Queen’s Champion, Prince Henry Sinclair

by Gunnar Thompson, Ph.D.

During the Late Middle Ages – in the 14th century – Queen Margaret Atterdag of Denmark welded together the bickering kingdoms of Scandinavia.  As the Little Ice Age bore down upon the Nordic Settlement on Greenland, she called upon her Champion, Prince Henry Sinclair, and Templar Knights, to rescue 4,000 stranded farmers. These Greenland refugees were brought south to new homes with Native Tribes along the Eastern Seaboard of North America: New England.

This masterpiece of “True History” is a supercharged foray into 14th century events in Ancient America and Northern Europe – featuring pirates, Native Americans, the incomparable Queen Margaret, and a Nordic Jarl.


New Book Includes:

  • Prince Henry’s many New World Voyages for Codfish & Furs;
  • “Promise Church” in Greenland built by Templar Masons;
  • Norse-Scottish medieval “Stone Tower” in Newport, RI, c.1375;
  • The “Greenland Exodus:” Nordic farmers brought to new homes on the Eastern Seaboard;
  • Queen Margaret’s Kalmar Union & Northern Commonwealth;
  • Medieval Hanseatic fish and lumber bases on Newfoundland;
  • Prince Henry & Templar Knights defeat the Frisian Pirates in 1398
  • Early Venetian Maps of Rhode Is., Cape Cod, & Newfoundland;
  • 1898 photos reveal Scottish lime kiln beneath Colonial house;>
  • Marco Polo’s Chinese maps of Greenland & Baffin Island; and
  • Collateral Research from Clan Historian – Niven Sinclair.


 Read more about this book OR Get the book now!

Previous books by Dr. Gunnar Thompson book, including “Marco Polo in Seattle”, are still available.

MPS-front-SoftTraditional historians missed all the clues. Marco Polo says in his Travelogue that he sailed with a Chinese expedition “40 days beyond Siberia.” He mentioned “pumpkins,” “cochineal dye,” “brasilwood,” and “corn.” All of these are New World plants. Polo mentioned that it took him and his father four years to travel from Venice to China in 1271. They could have made the journey in less than six months. 

Why did it take so long? Did Marco sail someplace beyond the Far East? And, why did he mention so many New World plants? 

These are just a few of the puzzling questions that led a Seattle crew of “Time Detectives” to undertake an exhaustive study of cartographic evidence. We also examined a chest-full of Marco Polo’s letters in the “Rossi Collection.” These documents are virtually unknown to historians – yet they give us a fresh new look at events that changed the course of history. You will be astonished by what we discovered. 

Marco Polo wasn’t just a famous journalist who happened to write a Travelogue about the Far East. He was a highly-skilled espionage agent. He went to China on a mission for the pope. And yes — he sailed into the waters of Puget Sound, Seattle, and the Salish Sea. We have the map to prove it!

Get this book now!

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Early Maps of New England Mon, 01 Jun 2015 23:58:24 +0000 Early Maps of Narragansett Bay & Cape Cod:  Norombega Territory on 1569 Mercator Map King Arthur’s Colony at Norumbega —Newport, Rhode Island & Queen Margaret’s Colony in the 14th Century —also— Early Maps of Narragansett Bay & Cape Cod – 1414 … Continue reading

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Early Maps of Narragansett Bay & Cape Cod:  Norombega Territory on 1569 Mercator MapNorombega Territory on Mercator Map, 1569

King Arthur’s Colony at Norumbega

Newport, Rhode Island

& Queen Margaret’s Colony in the 14th Century


Early Maps of Narragansett Bay & Cape Cod – 1414 & 1507

by Gunnar Thompson, Ph.D.


Mercator’s World Map of 1569 included the legendary City of “Norombega.” Mercator believed it was the site of King Arthur’s Capital City that was established with a Welsh Colony in the 6th century. Nor-bega simply means: “North Settlement.”

Placement of this “lost city” beside Narragansett Bay has haunted historians for centuries. Equally baffling is the French decision to ignore a 1524 reconnaissance by Giovanni Verrazano. He described the “Bay of Refuge” as the ideal location for a colony. Newly identified cartographic evidence indicates that Cape Cod and Narragansett Bay were charted on a 14th century map that John Ruysch copied and published in 1507. Historians believe this document is absolutely authentic. They completely overlooked the early map of Narragansett Bay and Cape Cod – due to the prevailing assumption (or academic Paradigm) that nobody sailed to the New World ahead of Columbus.

On the contrary: ruins of a Norse-Scottish limekiln that the author identified at Newport reveal that Scandinavian immigrants occupied this strategic harbor during the 14th century. Thus, Jacques Cartier was forced to bypass “New England.” He established the first French Colony along the shores of the Gulf of St. Lawrence in frigid Canada.

Although Giovanni Verrazano reported seeing “Natives inclined towards whiteness” at Narragansett Bay, Spanish slavers raided the settlement shortly thereafter. Even so, some of the “White Natives” survived; and they aided subsequent explorers and European immigrants. They served as a “Cultural Bridgehead” for 17th century Pilgrims.


Gerhard Mercator’s 1569 Map was a cartographical “game-changer.” His maps used constant-bearing latitudes and meridians that greatly facilitated maritime navigation. Standardized maps based on the “Mercator Projection” enabled navigators to guide voyages across the broad oceans by means of compass and celestial bearings.

Mercator’s most-dubious contribution to the advancement of geography was his placement of a European City called “Norombega” right beside the Grand River along the Eastern Seaboard of North America. Scholars have subsequently identified the mysterious inlet from the North Atlantic Ocean as being “Narragansett Bay.” The Grand River leading northwards to the interior of Upstate New York was intended to represent the modern-day Hudson River. Actually, Narragansett Bay and the Hudson are not connected. That geographical blunder was the least of Mercator’s problems. His incredible notion that Norombega City was the capital of an ancient European colony has completely baffled historians.

Figure 1. Norombega City and Territory on Mercator’s 1569 World Map. Placement on the Horizontal coastline between Hudson River and Cape Cod (C de Lexus), title of adjacent cape – Lagus Islas – and trapezoidal-shape serve to identify Narragansett Bay (Rhode Island) as the site of King Arthur’s Capital. Inset showing modern map indicates a high-degree of accuracy and similarity that was not achieved by known Dutch navigators for the next century.

Early French & English Explorations

Initially, French geographers identified Giovanni Verrazano’s “Bay of Refuge” as the perfect site for a colony. However, after Jacques Cartier’s “advance team” visited the shores of Narragansett Bay, he abandoned the idea of establishing a colony in this region; and he sailed on instead towards the cooler, less-desirable shores of Quebec.

Why the “flip-flop” in French policy? Did the ruins of an English colony on the shores of Narragansett Bay dampen Cartier’s enthusiasm?

English explorer John Cabot sailed along the Eastern Seaboard in 1497. He returned again in 1498. None of his navigational charts survived – largely because the mariner failed to return from his second expedition. Cabot was followed by six captains appointed by Henry VII in rapid succession. Richard Warde and Thomas Ashurst of Bristol sailed in 1501. João Fernandez and João Gonzales of the Azores sailed later that year; and Frances Fernandez with John Gonzales followed in 1502.1 English expeditions might have been searching for Cabot; or they might have been sent to find a “lost” English colony that was already known to mariners from Bristol.2

According to the Bristol Chronicle, merchants from that City had been sending two or more ships west across the Atlantic Ocean every year since 1480. Their objective was identified as the missing “Isle of Brasil.” The Chronicle reported that none of the expeditions had been successful; but that assessment might have been an excuse to conceal valuable commercial secrets. As we shall see in a moment, another mariner from Bristol produced an early map of Narragansett Bay; and John Dee, Queen Elizabeth’s Chief Geographer, later claimed in 1580 that Norombega (and the surrounding territory of Narragansett Bay) belonged to a mysterious “British Empire of the North.”

Was Cabot sent to find something else besides a shortcut to Marco Polo’s Cathay?

Figure 2. John Cabot’s navigational charts on the Juan de la Cosa Map c.1500. Isles Trinity, Grigor, and Verde bracket Narragansett Bay and Cape Cod. Horizontal coastline from Hudson River to Cape Cod features English flags and the declaration: Mare discubierto por ingleses – “seas discovered by English.”

The only chart showing Cabot’s territorial discoveries was prepared by a Spanish cartographer, Juan de la Cosa, in about 1500. This secret copy of Cabot’s navigational charts was unavailable to Renaissance geographers outside of Spain – so it played no role in Mercator’s decision to place Norombega City beside Narragansett Bay. However, details on the map are sufficient to reveal that Cabot paid considerable attention to plotting the locations of suitable English colonies. One of these was Rhode Island. One of the principal landmarks of this choice colonial property was a little isle of some prominence that is situated slightly east of Long Island. Cabot called it “Trinity.” Ever since a Dutch survey in 1614 by Adrian Block, it has been known as “Block Island.” In 1524, Spanish Captain Esteván Gomez followed this marker to Narragansett Bay – where he expected to find English settlers. He loaded up his ships with “slaves from both races” (that is, Natives and White People).3

Was Esteván’s goal to wipe out evidence of an enduring English colony?

Prior State of the Art

Mercator’s Bizarre Capital City on Narragansett Bay

The northeastern section of North America on Mercator’s 1569 World Map features the glaring image of a large European City. It has towers, battlements, and a huge entry gate. Mercator identified this mysterious Capital City as “Norombega.” The City stands beside an enormous river, the River Grand; and it is situated at the northeast corner of a large bay. The title of the nearby headland is Cabo de Lagus Islas (or “Cape of Undeveloped Islands”). This title, when considered in the context of maps produced by the Dieppe School of French Cartography in the 16th century, is sufficient to identify Norombega Bay as being synonymous with the modern-day “Narragansett Bay” of Rhode Island. This inlet has a consistent position on a distinctive horizontal shoreline; and it has a shape that further serves to identify the location of Narragansett Bay on a host of early Renaissance maps.4

Mercator’s prominent Norombega City might have shared the fate of another very-real Native City that disappeared in Eastern Canada. “Hochelaga” was the Huron-Iroquois fortress of wood planks, longhouses, and lumber palisades that the French explorer Jacques Cartier found along the St. Lawrence River in 1535. We should keep in mind the uncertain legacy of this Native City when we consider the controversial existence of Norombega – which some writers have characterized as being “a complete fiction.”

Cartier wrote extensively about the location of Hochelaga, the surrounding fields of cultivated “wheat,” and the three thousand inhabitants who occupied the wooden fortress. Hochelaga was still proudly standing when he sailed back to France in 1536. Five years later, when Cartier returned to visit his Huron allies, he discovered to his great surprise and disappointment that the fortress had entirely vanished. In modern times, archaeologists have searched for the “lost City” without any success. Considering that the entire fortress was made from wood, straw, animal skins, and a few nails, it is not at all surprising that Hochelaga has turned to dust. It wasn’t the first, nor would it be the last city to disappear along the relentless, encroaching frontier of Colonial development.

Mercator’s 1569 Map exercised considerable influence upon European exploration and cartography of North America. Most 16th century cartographers followed his lead in placing Norombega above Verrazano’s distinctive harbor (i.e., Narragansett Bay) on the Grand River. Thousands of copies of this “fantastic geography” were issued under the authorship of Abraham Ortelius (1573), Andre Thevet (1575), Michael Lok (1582), Cornelius Judaeus (1593), Theodore de Bry (1596, Cornelius Wytfliet (1597), and Judocus Hondius (1630).

However, not everyone marched lockstep with Mercator’s notion of where the ancient English colony was located. A map by Zaltieri (1566) placed Tiera de Norumbega in the Carolinas. Giovanni Camocio’s Norumbega (1567) wound up in Pennsylvania. Urbano Monti’s Map (1598) placed Noremberga west of the Great Lakes – suggesting the ancient inhabitants were simply fleeing the onrush of European pioneers. A cursory examination of the cartographic record gives the mistaken impression that Norombega City might have been located anywhere along the Eastern Seaboard.

French explorer Samuel de Champlain searched the coastline from Cape Breton to Cape Cod in 1604 and 1605 without finding “Norombega City,” although there was a Native Tribe by that name that was camped out along the Penobscot River. He concluded that John Dee’s “Arthurian Capital” was merely wishful thinking. However, Champlain’s search for the “lost city” seems equally deceptive. If we make an in-depth examination of 16th century maps, it becomes evident that the French School of Cartography at Dieppe kept close watch upon the specific region of Narragansett Bay. Evidently, French authorities hoped to acquire prime real estate for a French colony at that precise location.

Figure 3. Mid-section from Giovanni Verrazano’s East Coast navigational charts compiled on map by his brother, Girolamo Verrazano, in 1529. Landmark isle, Luisa (or Block Island), sits on a meridian indicating the adjacent location of “the Bay of Refuge” (or Narragansett Bay). Hook pattern of dots marks sandy shallows of Cape Cod. “Oranbega” straddles the seacoast of Nova Scotia. This title for Queen Margaret’s “Norummbega Territory” indicates that the Kalmar Union Colony extended roughly from Nova Scotia in the North to the Carolinas. Verrazano claimed it all for France in 1524.

French Sources for Mercator’s Norombega City on the 1569 Map

A French trading company hired the Florentine navigator Giovanni Verrazano to explore the Western Isles during a hiatus in English voyages to the region. King Henry VIII deferred expeditions proposed by London merchants, because he feared they might offend his Spanish wife. A few years later, he didn’t want to compromise his chances of gaining a divorce by alienating the Vatican – as Pope Alexander VI had granted a monopoly over the Western Isles to Spain. When his Catholic daughter, Queen Mary, took the throne, prohibitions against English voyaging to the shores of New Spain were strictly enforced.

Verrazano’s instructions for an expedition in 1524 included the usual search for an illusive “strait” leading to the riches of the Orient. He was also expected to make a detailed inventory of tribes, trading practices, and suitable locations for trading posts and colonies. Verrazano’s detailed report (in a Letter to King Francis I) and a map in 1529 prepared by his brother, Girolamo, provided an excellent foundation for subsequent French exploration and settlement in North America. Vesconte de Maggiolo compiled a similar map of the Eastern Seaboard from the Carolinas to Labrador in 1527.5

Verrazano’s Letter noted that the highlight of his voyage was a two-week visit at a harbor he called “the Bay of Refuge.” After battling with storms for many days, the Florentine navigator spied the opening to a large bay – the only one he found along the entire length of the 350 km (or 200 mile) horizontal shoreline between the Hudson River and Cape Cod. He identified an offshore isle called “Luisa” (actually Block Island) that provided an excellent landmark for approaching ships. The vast anchorage, temperate climate, shelter from storms, and peaceful Natives made the harbor particularly attractive. He noted many areas were suitable for harvesting lumber, raising crops, and establishing settlements. Verrazano said that some of the People were “inclined towards whiteness.” One version of his report indicated that Natives called their territory “Norumbega.” However, Girolamo applied the term oranbega to a region that was much farther north – perhaps along the coast of Nova Scotia. The Bay of Refuge, he said, was situated at 41°40’N. Girolamo placed Cabo de Refugio (and the Bay) at that latitude on his map. As Narragansett Bay is the only harbor that fits Verrazano’s description; and it is situated between 41°N and 42°N along the horizontal coastline east of Block Island; we can be confident that this was the site he recommended for establishing a French Colony.6

According to a 1535 map by Jean Rotz (at Dieppe), Jacques Cartier (or an “advance team”) stopped by the “Bay of Many Isles” (Narragansett Bay) in 1534. He then proceeded on to the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Cartier was back at the “Bay of Many Isles” in 1536 – at which time Battista Agnese (a Genovese cartographer at Venice) indicated the latitude of Narragansett Bay as being the same Parallel as Cape Finisterre, Spain (at 43°N). His map indicates Verrazano’s Bay as being the principal meridian of the Eastern Seaboard. All the compass lines on his chart converged upon Narragansett Bay. It is apparent from this map that French authorities (and perhaps Venetians) intended to make this their principal colonial destination in the west.

Contrary to popular opinion, it wasn’t Mercator who misnamed the Colonial City. A map by Nicholas Desliens (at Dieppe) in 1541 identified the Territory of Anoranbegue beside Narragansett Bay. The Harleen Map from the Dieppe School in 1542 confirmed that the name of the territory was Anorabagia. Gian Ramusio’s book, Viaggi (or “the Voyages”) in 1555, included a translation of Verrazano’s Letter to the King of France. The Venetian spelling given by Ramusio was “Norombega.”

A travel itinerary called Inventio Fortunatae was completed by English Franciscans in about 1360. This widely-circulated manuscript indicated that remains of European dwellings and ships were found in the forested magnetic regions of a Western Province called “North Norway.” During the 14th century, the convergent point of the Magnetic North Pole was situated someplace between Labrador and Foxe Basin north of Hudson Bay. A Dutch journalist, Jacob Cnoyen, reported in 1364 that pilgrims had come to Trondheim, Norway, from King Arthur’s Colony in the Far West. All of these details were sufficient evidence for Mercator to designate “Norombega” on Narragansett Bay as the location of King Arthur’s Capital City in the New World.7

New State of the Art Revelations

Cape Cod & Narragansett Bay on the Ruysch Map of 1507

A conical projection showing the North Atlantic was published as part of a Ptolemaic Geographica at Rome in 1507. The Johann Ruysch Map includes an early survey of New World coastlines between the modern-day Hudson River and Cape Cod. According to longstanding traditions in cartographical history, this region of the “horizontal coastline” was not effectively mapped until Henry Hudson, Adrian Block, and Hendrich Christiansz explored the region for the Dutch East India Company between 1609 and 1614. However, the Ruysch Map is incredibly accurate with its portrayal of Cape Cod and the adjacent coastline showing Buzzard’s Bay and Narragansett Bay to the west.8

Evidently, somebody made a detailed exploration and mapping of the area at an earlier date. Who could it have been?

Text on the Ruysch Map indicates that the Flemish cartographer visited the East Coast of North America – although there is no indication that he participated in any sort of surveying or mapping in the field. The implication is that the map of Cape Cod and Narragansett Bay was already completed by an earlier draftsman; and the voyage west was primarily intended to pin-down the accurate longitude. According to the text by Marco Beneventanus, Johann Ruysch sailed on an English ship from the Port of Bristol. They followed a latitude course west of Ireland – along the parallel of 53°N.9 This course should have taken the vessel right to the shores of Labrador near Belle Isle. However, for reasons we will consider in a moment, the ship actually wound up at a point almost ten degrees farther south (that is, along the shores of Cape Cod).

A five-to-ten degree error of latitude measurement was not uncommon in early 16th century maps. Martin Waldseemüller’s 1507 World Map placed Cuba above the Tropic of Cancer – when the actual position should have been farther south by about five-degrees. On the Ruysch Map, Hispaniola was placed at about 30°N when the actual latitude is about 20°N. With respect to longitude – which was difficult to estimate without simultaneous eclipse observations – the error for the distance from England to Cape Cod on the Ruysch Map was only ten-degrees; whereas the error from England to Newfoundland would have been twenty-five degrees. In other words, with respect to longitude and latitude measurements, Cape Cod is a much better match than the Newfoundland Archipelago with respect to the Ruysch Map.

Figure 4. Northwest Section from Johann Ruysch Map of 1507 shows location of Cabo de Portuguesi (“Portuguese Cape,” or Cape Cod) and Terra Nova (or “New Land”). Adjacent inlets to the west represent Buzzard’s Bay and Narragansett Bay. Large Arrow shows approximate route of ships sailing west on a “latitude course” directly to the New England Seacoast. This is the area where Prince Henry Sinclair resettled farmers from the abandoned “Eastern Settlement” of Greenland between 1365 and 1400. Evidently, the survey upon which this part of the Ruysch Map was based was completed during that time.

Most historians assume that Newfoundland was the objective of the Ruysch Expedition due to terminology used on the map.10 These terms include Terra Nova (a general reference to “New Land”) and Insula Baccalauras (“Isle of Codfish”) which typically referred to Newfoundland. However, the term could have been used anyplace along the New England coastline. Newfoundland is an archipelago of islands situated between the opposing headlands of Labrador and Cape Breton which border the Gulf of St. Lawrence. By contrast, Terra Nova on the Ruysch Map is part of the continental mainland. The Map does not actually portray an archipelago of islands anywhere along the coast; although in the approximate location of Newfoundland, we see an iconic island with a split down the middle. The caption says Ademonicus (“Demon Isle”) suggesting the presence of pirates.

The headland of Cape Cod on the Ruysch Map is situated at the southeastern corner of a right-angle bend along the continental shoreline. This is an accurate depiction of the actual Cape Cod shoreline that we see reflected in modern maps and in transitional charts prepared by Dutch and English cartographers during the 17th century. Directly south of Cape Cod, for hundreds of kilometers, there is an open ocean for a considerable distance; whereas, south of Newfoundland, sailors encounter hundreds of kilometers of mainland along the Eastern Seaboard. In other words, the general depiction of the coastline is consistent with Cape Cod, Narragansett Bay, and the “horizontal coast” heading west to the Hudson River.

Figure 5. Comparison of sectional maps shows high proportional similarity and exact sequence of Diagnostic Geographical Markers. A–Ruysch; B–1699 English Map; C–modern map. Greater similarity of Ruysch coastline to transitional map resulted from use of similar mapping technology. Changes to coastlines might have resulted from erosion or shifting magnetic force lines used in compass mapping.

A comparative assessment of the sequence of Diagnostic Geographical Markers (DGMs) on the Ruysch Map, a transitional English chart from 1699, and a modern map indicates an incredibly high level of congruence (i.e., 100%):

  1. Northern River flowing east: representing the Merrimack River;

  2. Eastward projecting cape: representing Cape Ann;

  3. Indented east coast at the point of Boston Harbor;

  4. Northern hook-cape (seen on the 1699 map; now reduced to Manomet Point);

  5. Southeastern Hook-shaped cape and bay: Cape Cod;

  6. Short western bay opening to the south: Buzzard’s Bay west of Cape Cod;

  7. Offshore islands (Rhode Island, Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket);

  8. Long triangular-shaped bay narrowing towards the north, open to south;

  9. Horizontal east-west coastline from Cape Cod to Hudson River; and

  10. Three major rivers flowing south between Narragansett Bay and Hudson River.

The Ruysch Map has more in common with the transitional English Map of 1699 than it does with a modern map. This is a consequence of greater similarity of mapping technology, similarities in survey equipment, and subsequent changes in physical geography resulting from erosion. The consistent and proportional features of all three maps indicate that measurements on land contributed substantially to the uniform layout of geographical features on the Ruysch Map.

Who made the earliest Cape Cod to Narragansett Bay Map?

Naturally, an assessment of events that occurred at least five centuries ago is somewhat preliminary and speculative; and it is subject to further investigation and revision. But we have some promising clues.

The Ruysch Map was published in Rome. In all likelihood, Mercator saw a copy of this map; and he must have noticed the similarities of the horizontal, east-west shoreline and the triangular “Bay of Isles” that was featured on maps from the Dieppe School and Venice. He was therefore cognizant of the fact that the bay was known to ancient mariners long before the French expressed an interest in establishing a colony. Text on Mercator’s 1569 Map indicated that his sources for geographical details in the Northern Regions included a Dutch traveler, James Cnoyen, who visited the King’s Court in Norway where he interviewed a priest from the Arthurian Colony in the Far West. His own map of Norombega Bay shows a higher degree of accuracy with respect to the shoreline of Narragansett Bay than does any other Dutch map for the next century; so it is evident that he obtained a navigational chart that is otherwise unknown to historians.

Mercator was certainly aware of a popular manuscript by an anonymous Spanish Franciscan who reported visiting a Celtic Colony in the Far West. He said that Natives called the forested land Ibernia – whereas the Old Ireland near England was identified as Irlanda.11 His book, el Libro de Conocemientos (or “the Book of Knowledge,” c.1350) noted that the land was under the sovereignty of the King of Norway. Thus, Celtic residents paid taxes to a Norwegian King. The friar even included an illustration of the flag that was flown over the trading-post; and he noted that it was identical to the King’s Royal Norse Banner – a black lion rampant on a gold field.12

Figure 6. Flags confirm Norse presence in Western Ibernia (or “Great Ireland”). A – Norway Flag on Angelino Dulcert Map (1339); B – Royal Lion Banner at Celtic trading post, from el Libro de Conocemientos (“Book of Knowledge,” c.1350).

Probably, the Celtic Colony was one of many mixed enclaves of Natives and European immigrants – Welsh, Portuguese, Basque, Irish, and Scots – who came under the jurisdiction of Norway when King Haakon IV proclaimed sovereignty in 1261. This proclamation included a region called Landanu (a.k.a. Terra Nova or “New Land”). A network of trading-posts established by Icelandic barons provided brokerage and transport services for lumber, whale oil, furs, and codfish that were shipped across the North Atlantic to ports in Northern Europe. A caption placed beside Labrador and Newfoundland on the Contarini Map (Venice, 1506) noted that: Hanc terram invenerenav telusita Nor Rex Regis (that is, “this land discovered and claimed by navigators of the King of Norway”).13

John Gade (1951) noted that German cogs in the Hanseatic League often carried salt for processing fish on their westward voyages to Iceland. It was a simple matter for them to sail west on a latitude course to the rich fishing grounds of Newfoundland. These were identified by such names as “Icelandic Isles,” “Markland,” and “Vinland.” After catching and processing codfish, the Hansa merchants brought their valuable cargos directly back to North European ports. According to Nordic-Hanseatic Treaties, captains were supposed to pay duties on imported cargoes at Bergen. However, trade agreements were impossible to enforce, because the Hanseatic League controlled virtually all the shipping between Iceland, North Norway (Landanu), Nordland (along the Lofoten Coast), Bergen, and Northern Europe by 1300.14

During the mid-1300s, King Haakon VI of Norway and King Valdemar IV of Denmark rebelled against the economic and political domination that had been established by the Hanseatic League. They failed in their efforts. However Queen Margaret of the Kalmar Union managed to establish a unified Scandinavian Alliance in 1397. The Queen’s councilors were responsible for building up the Royal Navy and reestablishing economic control over the Western Dominions. They had a strong motive for acquiring the new variety of portolan maps that were being used by merchants who engaged in maritime and transatlantic commerce. It was probably about at this point in time that Kalmar planners arranged with allies in Bristol, Portugal, and Venice to conduct a practical navigational survey of the Territory called “North Norway.” Evidence of this survey has emerged in the Ruysch Map, the Contarini Map, and a map by the Venetian cartographer, Albertin di Virga in about 1414.

Figure 7. Continent of North Norway (or Norveca) from Northwest Quadrant on the Albertin di Virga Map (Venice, c.1414). Narrow peninsula north of England (1) represents Greenland. Circle encompasses Cape Cod (2) and Narragansett Bay (small arrow). Large arrow depicts approximate “latitude course” for ships sailing west of England directly across the Atlantic Ocean.

The DiVirga Map includes an early Venetian survey of coastline along Norveca Province (that is, Nordic Territories from Greenland to Florida). The odd placement of Florida and Mare Caspium (“Gulf of Mexico”) northeast of England was an experiment during the early days of portolan mapping in the 14th and 15th centuries.15

Arctic Greenland appears as a small peninsula directly north of England.16 The right-angle bend of the North American coastline at 42°N (Cape Cod) and the horizontal east-west coastline leading towards the Hudson River were indicated northwest of England. Keep in mind: this was a planning document that was intended for managing far-flung trading posts. It was never published; thus, new knowledge regarding overseas geography was never made available to persons outside the English-Dutch-Venetian team that was responsible for conducting the field survey. These lands were presumed to belong to the Kalmar sovereign by virtue of King Haakon IV’s Declaration of Sovereignty in 1261. They certainly didn’t represent territories that were conquered, occupied, or settled by Scandinavians prior to 1365. The survey nature of the map is indicated by the serrated edges along the coastline. Points of observations, made by compass and astrolabe measurements, were connected by schematic arcs that were used to connect the dots.

Kalmar Union planners intended to establish a Capital City at an ideal location in order to manage the economic and religious needs of settlements in Landanu (the New Land) along America’s Eastern Seaboard. The place that was selected was Narragansett Bay. Scandinavian settlers consisted mostly of farmers who were transported out of Greenland. Scandinavian immigrants established a trading “city” with log houses and stone foundations right about where Norombega was indicated on Mercator’s Map. They came from the “Eastern Settlement” on Greenland. Between 1365 and 1410, these folks assembled at the embarkation center of Hvalsey; they loaded their livestock and belongings on large transport ships; and they sailed south to warmer pastures in Labrador, Newfoundland, and modern-day New England. The same Norman-Scottish sailors who built the distinctive Hvalsey Church and Newport Tower probably provided the ferry service in return for a portion of future earnings. Queen Margaret (1376-1412) or King Eric VII (1397-1439) might have demanded a precise survey of the New England Region that later appeared on the map by Johann Ruysch. The Gulf of St. Lawrence was rejected as the site for a colony, because every winter it was shut off from commerce by a pavement of ice.

Ruysch probably obtained a copy of the map that Kalmar administrators provided to their commercial allies at Bristol in about 1400. Pirate wars, native uprisings, epidemic diseases, and the changing fortunes of maritime powers prevented the Kalmar Union from achieving the goals of the visionary Queen. By the time Ruysch obtained his map from associates in Bristol, probably nobody knew where it came from or what it meant. Even though it was printed in Rome and widely distributed, the advanced Venetian geography never attracted the interest of geographers – thus it passed virtually unnoticed into a cartographical oblivion reserved for out-of-date maps.

That is not to say Queen Margaret’s vision was futile. Presence of Nordic traders in the New England Region certainly aided English and Dutch settlers during the 17th century. New immigrants found friendly residents who understood their language and who were eager to trade stockfish and furs for vitally-needed iron and cloth.

Figure 8. A hallmark of medieval Scottish masons, the eclectic accordion arch with triangular keystone is seen in ruins at Newport, RI, circa 1400 beneath later Colonial fireplace (A) and at 13th century Eynhallow Church in the Orkney Isles (B). Vents above medieval arch (arrows, A) indicate that the foundation arch was used as a kiln for producing lime mortar. Sketch of photograph (A) is based on a document from the Newport Historical Society. It shows the hybrid medieval-colonial structure as seen on photo taken during demolition in 1898. Orkney photo is from John Mooney, Eynhallow – The Holy Island, 1923.

During the course of the present study, researchers identified the remains of two medieval foundations that were built at Newport along a waterfront street. A medieval “temple-church” is still standing in Touro Park. These buildings were constructed by masons using an eclectic style of masonry that was common in Norman-Scottish and Irish buildings during the 13th and 14th centuries. A cluster of three fireplace structures in the foundation of the Sueton Grant House on Thames Street consisted of eclectic fanlike or accordion archways with peculiar keystones that were in the shape of triangles. This type of masonry was otherwise unknown in Colonial North America; but it was fairly common in Scotland, the Western Scottish Isles, the Orkneys, and Ireland. One example of the triangular keystone has been identified at ruins of the 14th century Hvalsey Church in Greenland.17

The Grant House was a Colonial structure that was built on top of an earlier, medieval lime-kiln foundation. According to Norman Isham (1895) it was not uncommon for Colonial settlers to build wood-plank houses on top of abandoned foundations.18 Thus, we can see in a photograph of the Grant House demolition in 1898 the typical style of Colonial construction that was built on top of a previously-existing medieval lime-kiln. The Colonial structure consists of oak beams, standardized bricks, and perfectly-curved Roman arches.19

While the Scandinavian presence in ancient America did not have the forceful impact that was achieved by Spanish colonization of Latin America, it established a commercial corridor that brought enormous amounts of salted cod, furs, and lumber into Northern Europe. During the 14th and 15th centuries, most of this produce was carried on ships belonging to the Hanseatic League. Gradually, English and Dutch merchants took over the hauling of New World cargoes. Descendants of immigrants and traders who survived to witness the arrival of 17th century Dutch, French, and English settlers must have served as a “cultural bridgehead” that helped sustain new arrivals in the wilderness continent they found across the seas.

Supplemental Illustrations

Figure 9. Huge peninsula of headlands (Labrador to Cape Cod) projects from Asia into the Atlantic Ocean on the Contarini Map (Venice, 1506). Caption indicates: “Land discovered and claimed by navigators for the King of Norway.” (Translation by Balkans & Italian historian Victor DeMattei.)

Figure 10. Northeast Section from the Genoese Map of 1457 portrays forest wilderness and eastward-projecting peninsulas. (TN) Terra Nova; (F) Florida. The forest wilderness along the Eastern Seaboard was known as “Markland” in the Icelandic sagas. This region, which appears directly west of England, Ireland, Spain, and Portugal, was evidently known as a cheap source of lumber during the 14th century. Projecting forested headlands on mainland that was generally presumed to be part of Asia is also evident on the Di Virga Map (1414), the Contarini Map (1506), and the Ruysch Map (1507). The Cantino Map (1502) and Waldseemuller’s 1518 “Carta Marina” both indicate that Newfoundland was a huge isle of forests. An entry in the Icelandic Annals for 1347 indicates that a lumber ship from Markland and Greenland was shipwrecked along the coast. Vatican reports about Greenland being “a land of forests” in the 15th century probably reflect the common naming of America’s Eastern Seaboard as being “the Green Land.” Immigration of refugees from Arctic Greenland to new homes along the Eastern Seaboard probably played a role in the renaming of Terra Nova or Landanu as “Green Land.”

Figure 11. Norbagia (“Norway” – N) and Engronelant Peninsula (“Greenland” – G) on the Contarini Map (Venice, 1506). Traditional 14th–15th century maps showed Greenland as a peninsula located north of Norway. Norway extended no farther west than directly north of England. DiVirga’s c.1414 portrayal of a huge northwest continent (Norveca) represents addition of newly-discovered mainland.

Figure 12. Hansa Rudimentum Novitiorum Map. Spelling on a map published at Lübeck (1475) was Vinlād. The Paris Map version (1488) was Winlād. This map confirms that German merchants were actively engaged in commerce with America’s Eastern Seaboard – importing dried codfish, lumber, furs, etc. It was a common map throughout Northern Europe – attesting to widespread awareness of the northwestern location of overseas colonies before Columbus.

Figure 13. Map by Genovese-Venetian Battista Agnese (1536) portrays Narragansett Bay (beside “Cabo de Muchas Islas”) as the focus of compass lines as well as both a prime meridian and a prime latitude in the west (arrow). This map places the mouth of the Bay at the same latitude as Cape Finisterre, Spain (at 43°N). This is very close to the actual latitude of Narragansett Bay at 41°30΄N. It is evident from this map that mariners from Genoa and Venice were well-aware of the prime location of the Western Hub of Commerce.

Figure 14. Summary Table shows Maps of Narragansett Bay (not all-inclusive). These maps confirm widespread knowledge regarding the Western Harbor.

A. Di Virga, 1414 B. Ruysch, 1507 C. Verrazano, 1529 D. Ribiero, 1529

Venice Bristol, Holland Dieppe, France Spain

E. Ribiero, 1534 F. Cartier, Rotz, 1535 G. Desliens, 1541 H. “Harleen Map,” 1542

Spain, Venice Dieppe, France Dieppe, France Dieppe, France

I. Lok, 1582 J. Boazio, 1588 K. Colonial, 1699 L. Modern Map, 2014

England England Holland, England Hammond Atlas

Figure 15. Mecia Viladestes Map (1413) shows Great Ireland called “Ibernia” north of Isilanda and Irlanda (the traditional Ireland).

Figure 16. Limekilns with vents were common in medieval Scotland (as at Aberdeen, C) and in Ireland (Murloch Bay, B). Such vents are generally absent in the Colonial limekilns of New England. Presence of vents above fire chamber vaults in the Sueton Grant House foundation (at Newport, Rhode Island) confirm that the Colonial Grant House (built c.1650) was constructed on top of a prior medieval structure that was originally used (c.1400) as a limekiln. The three-chambered medieval kiln, whose mortar and eclectic masonry style are identical to those of the Old Stone Tower, probably was used to produce several tons of oyster-shell lime cement that was needed to build the circular Stone Tower in the 14th century. The Tower was built of beach stones, fieldstones, and quarry stones weighing an estimated thirty-to-forty tons. Substantial foundation stones were placed “out of sight” beneath the medieval structure.

This article was offered to a major professional journal concerning the History of Cartography. However, the editor declined the proposed article because he said it lacked sufficient “registered scholarship.” In other words, academic scholars routinely screen out anything that hasn’t already been approved and “registered” as being in conformity with preexisting academic beliefs. Certainly, articles about new evidence and controversial subjects (like King Arthur’s Colony) will always lack approved “registered references.”

contact the author at: htpp:


1 Arthur Newton, The Great Age of Discovery, Freeport: Books for Libraries, 1932, p.141.

2 Ian Wilson, The Columbus Myth—Did Men from Bristol Reach America before Columbus? New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991, p.145, suggests that the La Cosa Map (c.1500) indicates that Bristol merchants made prior voyages to the horizontal coast of Rhode Island.

3 Newton (1932) ibid, p.172.

4 Nine maps produced by the Dieppe School have minor variations in adjacent coastlines or geographical positions. Consistent titles, such as “Bay of Many Isles,” or “Anorumbega,” and consistent triangular shapes identify the only major, south-opening bay on the east-west horizontal coastline between Cape Cod and the Hudson River. In 1536, a map by Battista Agnese placed the mouth of the bay at the latitude of Cape Finisterre, Spain – 43°N. This is sufficiently close to the latitude of Narragansett Bay (41°30’N) to identify Rhode Island as the site of Mercator’s Norombega City.

5 Gian Ramusio, The Relation of John Verarzanus, Viaggi, Vol. III, 1565. An accessible translation can be found in R.H. Major, The Voyages of Nicoló and Antonio Zeno to the Northern Seas in the XIVth Century, London: Hakluyt Society (Vol.50), 1873.

6 There are at least 25 different spellings of Norombaga in assorted maps and chronicles. The term might be from an Algonquian word meaning “still water,” from Norbagia (meaning Norway), or from convergent usages in Native and colonial speech.

7 Letters exchanged between Mercator and John Dee in 1577 mentioned evidence of forests and magnetic regions in the Far West mentioned the Inventio Fortunatae. Newton (1932, ibid, p.199-207).

8 Leslie Trager, “Mysterious Mapmakers: Exploring the Impossibility of Accurate 16th century Maps of Antarctica and Greenland,” at FEATURES/TRAGER.HTM (2007), accessed August 2014. There is no question that Dutch and Venetian maps sometimes include remarkably accurate details that have not been explained by cartographic historians. It is possible that Nicolo Polo’s expedition to the Orient (1256-1295) brought back sophisticated mapping technology.

9 Edgar Klemp, America in Maps Dating from 1500-1856, London: Holmes & Meier, 1976.

10 Raymonde Litalien, Jean-François Palomino, and Denis Vaugeois, Mapping a Continent: Historical Atlas of North America 1492—1814, McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2007, p.25. Authors suggest that Terra Nova on the Ruysch Map represented Newfoundland.

11 The concept of Two Irelands is reflected in the Mecia Viladestes Map (1413) that placed Irlanda directly west of England and Ibernia (or “Great Ireland”) to the far Northwest across the ocean.

12 Clements Markham, The Book of Knowledge, London: Hakluyt Society, 1912.

13 Translation by Balkans historian Victor DeMattei.

14 John A. Gade, The Hanseatic Control of Norwegian Commerce During the Late Middle Ages, Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1951, pp. 46-7, 54-5, 63. Hansa shipments of “North Norwegian lumber” were reported in English customs accounts; but they were never entered at the Bergen Kontor (p.60).

15 Arthur Dürst, Weltkarte von Albertin de Virga von 1411 oder 1415, Carographica Helvetica, January 1996 (No.13), 18-21.

16 The narrow peninsular nature of Greenland was introduced following a Genovese survey in about 1350 and the subsequent portrayal as such on the Medici Atlas maps. However, Mercator relied upon an older survey that accurately showed Arctic Greenland as an island.

17 Architectural historians have identified the Hvalsey Church as a Scottish structure on the basis of the traditional Scottish eclectic arch, splayed windows, and meter-thick walls that were otherwise unknown in Iceland or Greenland. See wiki/Hvalsey_Church – accessed December 2014.

18 Norman M. Isham and Albert F. Brown, Early Rhode Island Houses, Providence: Preston & Rounds, 1895; pp.17, 24, 30.

19 Jennifer Robinson assisted in examination of the photographic archives at the Newport Historical Society. Only two examples of buildings having medieval arches were found in a collection numbering several thousand items. Clearly, this style of building was not Colonial. This Norse-Scottish style was intrusive in the 14th century.

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Medieval Templar Foundations in Rhode Island Mon, 29 Sep 2014 01:15:10 +0000 Medieval Templar foundations, an ancient tower, have been identified in Newport, Rhode Island. Gunnar Thompson, Ph.D. New World Discovery Institute Seattle, Washington – 28 August 2014     Gerhard Mercator identified “Norombega” as the Capital City of a New World … Continue reading

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Medieval Templar foundations, an ancient tower, have been identified in Newport, Rhode Island.Norombega map

Gunnar Thompson, Ph.D.

New World Discovery Institute

Seattle, Washington – 28 August 2014



Gerhard Mercator identified “Norombega” as the Capital City of a New World colony. Mercator’s Map of 1569, shown above placed this thriving city of fur trappers and traders along the Eastern Seaboard of North America. It was right in the vicinity of modern-day Newport, Rhode Island. Text on Mercator’s Map identified King Arthur of Wales as the sponsor of the first settlement at this location in the 6th century.

Scandinavian and Germanic interest in this region commenced with the wild tale that was told by a storm-tossed Icelandic mariner – Bjarni Herjolfsson. He reached the Arctic Island of Greenland in 996 AD. Bjarni made landfall after a nasty gale pushed his vessel along the shore of a vast forested wilderness south-west of Iceland. His report created quite a stir in Greenland. Farmers in the Arctic Isle were desperate to find a source of cheap lumber. In spite of the seductive-sounding name, this so-called “Green Land” had no forests. Prospective home-owners had to pick over a few sparse groves of stunted conifers and bleached driftwood that lay scattered along the beaches.

After hearing “Bjarni’s Wild Tale,” “Lucky Leif” Eriksson took off in a hurry – loading his ship and crew for an expedition to the New Land. His objective was not “the discovery of a new continent.” Indeed, all the maritime countries of Europe knew folktales about legendary Western Isles; and practically all the medieval church maps featured King Arthur’s Christian Colony of “Albania,” or “New Albion,” across the ocean west of Europe. Eriksson’s goal was to stake his claim to a region that promised to yield a profitable lumbering enterprise. His first voyage to the Western Mainland in about 1001 returned to Greenland with a huge cargo of freshly-cut lumber. However, it wasn’t the valuable wood that folks talked about most – it was the skip-load of delicious wine grapes that Eriksson towed behind his knor (or merchant ship). Evidently, Lucky Leif had stumbled upon an abandoned Irish vineyard. It was just one of many monastic wine-gardens that later explorers – Giovanni Verrazano, Jacques Cartier, Samuel Champlain, and Marc Lescarbot – mentioned seeing all along the Eastern Seaboard. Thus the most-popular name for the New Land in Scandinavian and Germanic folktales was “Vinland.”

During the next three centuries, the climate was kind to the farmers and fishermen of Greenland. The first colony split into two settlements: the Eastern and the Western Villages. Salmon and halibut were abundant; and long growing seasons provided ample grain supplies for the rapidly-expanding population. By the end of the 13th century, about six thousand people occupied the two settlements. Many of the sailors were engaged in businesses being operated by Icelandic barons. In addition to harvesting and hauling lumber, they collected walrus ivory, bearskins, falcons, hides, and whale oil. Most of the wood came from the forests of Markland – which was the Norse word for Newfoundland. Bearskins came mostly from “Western Greenland” (or Labrador).

The King’s Tax brought considerable wealth to Norway with the result that during the Reign of King Haakon IV, a new cathedral was built at Trondheim; and a new castle was erected in Bergen. Due to these grandiose public building projects, the mid-13th century has been called “the Golden Age of Norway.” Naturally, when the squabbling barons of Iceland threatened the King’s prosperity, Haakon issued a decree in 1261 establishing his supremacy over all the foreign provinces including the two Greenlands, Iceland, Icelandic settlements on Newfoundland (called “the Icelands”), Markland, Vinland (in the New England Region from Nova Scotia to Massachusetts), and an obscure territory called Landanu (probably Rhode Island to the “Grand River” – that is, the modern-day Hudson). (1) – see Endnotes.

Thriving Colonies in Greenland—then Disaster!

Those few historians who are cognizant of King Haakon’s declaration tend to regard it as a mythical or literary extravagance that had no impact upon the lives of New World residents. However, a Spanish Franciscan wrote a book about his world travels – one of which involved a trip to a Western Colony called Ibernia (or Great Ireland) that was situated across the Atlantic Ocean west of Irlanda (that is, the modern-day Country of Ireland). The friar reported that the overseas residents had very little wheat – thus not much bread. However, there was a delicious fat bird that was boiled or roasted. This is probably the first European report of America’s wild turkey. The bird was imported by Romans who called it a d’indon (or “bird of India”). German merchants, sailing in the Hanseatic League, imported turkeys into Northern Europe. They were called by various names such as “Welsh hen,” kalkun, truthuhn, or “turkey hen.” Merchants who carried Welsh hens also sold the appropriate bird feed under the name: “Welsh corn.” It was the popular American Indian grain that is otherwise called maize. The New World poultry was featured on a tapestry at Skog, Sweden, dating to 1150. Numerous turkeys can be seen along the borders of the Bayeux Tapestry dating to c.1070.

According to the friar, the Irish manager of the colonial trading-post flew the flag of the Norse King – which was a black lion rampant on a gold field. This banner was pictured in the friar’s book El Libro de Conocemientos (or “Book of Knowledge”). It identified the post as a possession of the Norse King. The Franciscan also reported that the Irish Colony paid taxes to the King of Norway. Such payments would have included an additional ten-percent levy on goods sold to be forwarded by the royal tax collector to the presiding bishop in Iceland or Greenland. (2)

Medieval Foundations by Gunnar Thompson_html_198e50e8Figure 1 Norse Royal Flag (A) from a medieval print is very similar to the Norse Royal Banner (B) that a Spanish Franciscan reported seeing at a Celtic trading-post in Ibernia (or “Great Ireland”) in the Far West. Taken from El Libro de Conocemientos (“The Book of Secrets,” c.1330).


During the 13th century, merchants from the Hanseatic League began taking over the cartage service for cargoes of salted and dried codfish, lumber, furs, and whale oil being shipped from the Icelandic Isles to Northern Europe. Worsening storms and high seas on the Atlantic Ocean resulted from a drastic climatic shift called “the Little Ice Age” (roughly 1300-1850). German shipyards increased the size and durability of their merchant sailing vessels called kogge (cogs) and carracks. Cogs carried only a mainsail; and they hauled up to 100 tons of cargo. Carracks had three sails; and they carried up to 300 tons of dried fish, lumber, or oil. Norwegian merchants were at a great disadvantage, because they continued building small knors on the beaches. These vessels carried less than fifty tons of cargo; and they were unable to sail upon the stormy Atlantic seas.

Under the original Norse-German treaty, Hansa vessels were required to register their cargoes at Bergen and pay the appropriate duty to the king’s treasurer. However, by the middle of the 14th century, most Hansa merchants simply sailed right on by the Port of Entry; and they took their cargoes directly to North European harbors. Thus, we find in the port records of London notice of lumber cargoes from “North Norway” that were never registered in Bergen. (3)

The term “North Norway” was used as a reference to the Norse provinces across the North Atlantic. This was because most mariners used the magnetic compass as a navigational guide. It was customarily assumed that the Magnetic North Pole of Hudson Bay was also the location of the Geographic North Pole. Many medieval maps showed Greenland, the Icelandic Isles, and even Terra Nova (or the “New Land”) directly north of Norway – when their actual location was west of Iceland.

Medieval Foundations by Gunnar Thompson_html_40447354


Figure 2 The Contarini Map of 1506 shows Greenland (G) as a peninsula directly north of Norway (N).


Hansa merchants encouraged young men to join the overseas sailing crews by promoting the belief that the Western Isles were a warm, beautiful land of attractive Native women and excellent wines. Thus, the Capital City of the League at Lübeck published maps showing the legendary “Vinland” directly northwest of Norway. (4) Maps that accompanied a book called the Rudimentum Novitiorum (or “Introduction to Navigation”) were published at Lübeck in 1475 and at Paris in 1488. Practically everybody in Europe knew that Vinland was located across the North Atlantic Ocean. Most European merchants were aware that this overseas province of “North Norway” was the source of vital shipments of codfish, lumber, furs, and whale oil.

Medieval Foundations by Gunnar Thompson_html_1102b44d


Figure 3 Vinland maps from the Rudimentum Novitiorum used two spellings for Vinland. Those issued at Lubeck in 1475 spelled it Vinlād – where the lād stood for “land.” The Paris version in 1488 spelled it Winlād. Thousands of copies of this map circulated in Northern Europe.





Medieval Foundations by Gunnar Thompson_html_4267bb82Figure 4 Ziegler’s Map shows the location of “Codfish Land” at the extreme southern coast of a huge Northern Continent that included the Arctic Isle of Green Land as well as the East Coast of North America. Terra Bacallaos (arrow) represents Newfoundland – which was the principal source of cod.


As the weather continued to worsen in Greenland, and the growing seasons grew shorter, residents of the Western Settlement considered moving to unoccupied territories farther south in Vinland, Markland, Landanu (New Land), and the more temperate region they named “Green Land” in honor of their Arctic homeland. Portuguese sailors called the Norse freehold farmers laboradores (or “laborers”); and the place they occupied near the Gulf of St. Lawrence became known as “Labrador.” It was also identified as “Green Land” on many Renaissance maps – leading to further confusion among historians. Taxes collected for the Vatican (in kind) and itemized in church documents included brown and black bearskins from forest animals that were native to Labrador. Nevertheless, the reports indicated that the payments had come from “Greenland.” (5)

In 1350, the Deputy Bishop from the Eastern Settlement in the Arctic Isle was sent to investigate the status of the Western Settlement. Ivar Bardarson reported to his superior that he had found the western village entirely abandoned. Problems facing the eastern villages included foul weather, native uprisings, and pirate attacks. According to the Historia de gentibus septentrionalibus (Rome, 1555), King Haakon Magnusson led his battle fleet into Arctic Seas during the 14th century in an effort to suppress native Inuit raids and pirates. Shortly thereafter, the eastern villages were also abandoned. As the local farmers and fishermen lacked suitable vessels for making an exodus from the inhospitable island, they probably made arrangements to sail onboard the many Hansa carracks that frequented the Arctic Seas. It is also possible that they hitched rides on a fleet of Kalmar Union ships that was sent against the Vitalien Pirates in 1398.

The last reported vessel from Greenland that was mentioned in the Icelandic Chronicle was a lumber ship that had picked up a cargo at Markland in 1347. As late as 1492, Pope Innocent III appointed a Greenland Bishop. However, whether this “Green Land” was intended to represent an Arctic Isle or western mainland is unknown.

Medieval Foundations by Gunnar Thompson_html_m182a1e0eFigure 5 Albertin di Virga 1414 Map of the Nordic Realm. Northwest quadrant from this Venetian map shows the Continent of Norveca (or North America). Greenland (1) is north of England; Cape Cod (2) and Narragansett Bay (short arrow) are west.

Where did refugees from Greenland settle in America?

As part of a joint effort in strategic planning, King Edward I of England and Haakon Magnusson of Norway-Sweden sponsored a survey of the new Western Mainland that had for the past century remained a generalized Terra Incognita (or “Unknown Land”) on official maps. According to the English historian, Richard Hakluyt, this survey by teams of English Franciscans was led by an Oxford mathematician by the name of Nicholas of Lynn. The Franciscan Friars were trained in astronomy and surveying; and it seems likely that they used astrolabes, telescopes, theodolites, and compasses that were derived from the latest Persian equipment. Marco Polo, who was a Franciscan associate and protégé of Roger Bacon, probably brought examples of Persian devices and training manuals on a trip to Oxford in about 1310. The equipment was subsequently copied and mass produced by factories at the University that were under the supervision of the Deans – Merton and Rede. (6)

The friar’s manuscript, Inventio Fortunatae (or “Discovery of the Roman Fortunate Isles”) was presented to King Edward III in about 1360. It was known to King Edward’s successor, King Richard II, who subsequently engaged in developing a New World commercial alliance with Queen Margaret of the Kalmar Union. Although the book is now presumed to have been lost, it was evidently copied repeatedly. Those players who are known to have examined manuscript copies included John of Gaunt (King Edward’s son and Regent to the adolescent King Richard), John Day (a powerful Bristol merchant), Bartholomew Las Casas (the official biographer of Columbus), and the Lord High Admiral of Spain. Columbus and his son, Ferdinand, were also familiar with the document. In any case, America’s Eastern Seaboard in the 14th century was described in sufficient detail to enable English, Bristol, and Kalmar planners to evaluate suitable coastal regions for the placement of a new colony of Greenland refugees. The number of individuals from the Eastern Settlement probably totaled about 3,000 men, women, and children. These refugees would have been carried south along with hundreds of farm animals and all the necessary fishing and farming equipment needed for a colony.

Several ships carrying Venetian survey teams and navigators followed the travels of English Franciscans between 1360 and 1400. A Venetian cartographer, Albertin di Virga, prepared a map in 1414 that was based on the 14th century survey. It shows the entire Eastern Seaboard of North America. DiVirga called the Western Mainland Norveca (which was the Venetian word for “the Realm of Norway”).

It was also during the 14th century that Venetian surveyors charted the coast of Florida and the coast of the Arctic Island of Greenland. Marco Polo’s map of the Florida Coast was included as an appendage to Pietrus Vesconte’s 1315 map that was published with Liber Secretorum Fidelium Crucis (or “Book of Secrets for True Believers in the Cross”). It was included in a book by Marino Sanudo (1320) that promoted a new Crusade to the Holy Lands. It never took place – partly because the French King, Philip the Fair, arrested Knights of the Templar Order. Another version of the Florida Coast was included as a southeastern peninsula of Antillia on a map by the Venetian cartographer, Andrea Bianco, in 1436. Evidently, the Venetians considered establishing citrus or tobacco plantations in the temperate peninsula; and they needed a map. (7)

The Venetian map of Arctic Greenland was part of a plan to chart the isles and coasts of Marco Polo’s Northwest Passage through Arctic Seas to the Pacific Ocean. In his travelogue, Discovery of the World (Genoa, 1299), Marco Polo reported his Arctic Voyage in 1280 to an island “beyond the Pole Star” that was situated in the Canadian Arctic. He noted that this was the habitation of white gyrfalcons. Icelandic merchants obtained white gyrfalcons from Baffin Island (which was known to the ancients as Groclant or “Great Land”). Among the maps that Marco Polo brought back from China in 1295, there was an excellent survey of the Baffin Island shoreline. This shoreline was included in the Arctic Region on a c.1440 Swiss Franciscan map that has become known as “the Yale Vinland Map.” The coastline of Grouclant from this map is a reasonably good approximation of the coastline on a modern map. However, traditionalist historians made the mistake of assuming this enigmatic Grouclanda was a fraudulent portrayal of the Arctic Isle of Greenland. Actually, Greenland Island does not appear at all on the Yale Map. But it is clearly shown in excellent detail on Mercator’s World Map of 1569. Chinese and Persian surveyors accompanied the Polo Expedition to the Arctic in 1280; and they began the work of mapping the West Coast of the Arctic Island. Between 1320 and 1385, Venetian surveyors who were trained in the Persian skills and who had sophisticated mapping equipment resumed mapping the East Coast of Greenland. By 1565, Mercator obtained copies of the complete Greenland Island survey; and it was from this source and not Gian Ramusio’s 1555 publication of the so-called “Zeno Narrative” that Greenland Island was drawn on his famous map showing the newly-developed “Mercator Projection.”

Venetian explorers also made an excellent survey map of the territory between the Hudson River and Cape Cod. Evidently, it was the intention of a consortium of councilors from Northwest European Countries to establish a new colony along the Eastern Seaboard that could effectively meet the needs of maritime merchants, sailors, fur trappers, loggers, lumbermen, and farmers. This consortium included the Kalmar Union (Denmark, Sweden, Norway), England, Scotland, Holland, Portugal, and Venice. England was represented primarily by merchants of Bristol. Scotland was involved due to the fact that northern isles (called the Orkneys) remained Norwegian possessions; and the Norse Earl of Orkney was simultaneously the Scottish Ambassador to Denmark and also the Baron of Caithness in Northern Scotland. The Dutch and Portuguese were included because of their strong marital ties to the English House of Lancaster.

The site that was chosen for the new colony was Narragansett Bay. This Bay – called “Norombega” – was identified on Mercator’s Map by the placement of an icon representing a European-style Capital City. Mercator noted on his map that a pilgrim priest from King Arthur’s old Colony of Albion (or “Albania”) had been interviewed in Norway by a Dutch journalist named Jacob (or “James”) Cnoyen. This interview took place at the Court of King Magnus VII in 1364. It was the subject of a lengthy letter that Mercator sent to John Dee (Queen Elisabeth’s Chief Geographer) in 1577. The priest told Cnoyen about a surprising event that occurred in the Western Isles. He had encountered a Franciscan Friar who was traveling across the country taking celestial measurements with an Arabian astrolabe (which is a circular brass device that is used to calculate latitudes). After the friar had completed his work, he presented the brass device to the Welsh priest.

The priest who had the astrolabe related to the King of Norway that in 1360 AD, there had come to these Northern Islands an English Minorite from Oxford who was a good astronomer, etc. Leaving the rest of the party who had come to the Islands, he journeyed further through the whole of the North etc., and he put into writing all the wonders of those islands. He gave the King of England this book, which he called in Latin Inventio Fortunatae, which book began at the last climate, that is to say at Latitude 54° continuing to the Pole. (8)

As most mariners used the magnetic needle for navigation, the “Pole” that Jacob Cnoyen was referring to in his book, Travels in the North (c.1364), was the Magnetic North Pole that was situated someplace between Baffin Island and Labrador in Canada. Both Cnoyen and Mercator were aware that merchants from Bristol and from the Hanseatic League carried on regular commerce with the Western Isles – from which they obtained deer-hides, bearskins, beaver pelts, lumber, stockfish, and whale oil. From time-to-time, these merchants provided passage from “North Norway,” or Norveca, to Trondheim (a City north of Bergen on the Norwegian Coast. Narragansett Bay was a common destination for sailors during the 14th century – mainly because it was the most-convenient harbor along the East Coast that was open year-round. It provided ample room for anchoring fleets of ships; the Natives (who included many people of mixed ancestry) were relatively peaceful; there was easy-access to the Grand Banks fishing grounds; and the 200 kilometer-long horizontal coast between the Grand River (later “the Hudson”) and Cape Cod was an easy target for mariners sailing on a “latitude course” directly west of Brittany at 42°N Latitude. The sandy-hook of Cape Cod (perched right at the right-angle bend in the coastline) provided an excellent navigational marker for skippers heading for the well-known harbor.

Giovanni Verrazano spent two weeks at the harbor he called “the Bay of Refuge” in 1524. His detailed description of the region along the extended horizontal seacoast between the Hudson River and Cape Cod is sufficient to identify this “Refuge” as Narragansett Bay. Subsequently, the Dieppe School of Cartography in France issued numerous manuscript and printed maps that gave details regarding its location along the coast of northeastern mainland that geographers began calling “New France.” Verrazano’s visit to the region was quickly followed by the Spanish explorer Esteván Gomez later in 1524 and by the French explorer, Jacques Cartier, who was sent to Canada in 1534 to scout locations for a new French Colony. Thus, Mercator had ample reports and maps that enabled him to identify Narragansett Bay as being the site of King Arthur’s Capital City of “Norombega.”

Verrazano might have seen ruins of English and Scandinavian medieval structures on Rhode Island. In his letter to King Francis in 1524, he mentioned that the local inhabitants were “mostly white” – suggesting that they were descendants of mixed European and Native ancestry. He also noted that the Natives called their territory “Norumbega;” and it extended all the way from the Bay of Refuge south as far as Florida. Right on his heels, or in his wake, the Spanish Captain Gomez arrived at the same bay – where it was reported he loaded his ships with “slaves from both races” (that is, both Natives and White People). It is also believed that he burned the dwellings – leaving the “city” in ruins. (9)

Medieval Foundations by Gunnar Thompson_html_45332fc1The Temple-Church in Newport’s Medieval Past

High on a hilltop above the City of Newport, Rhode Island, there stands an Old Stone Tower that is almost hidden by the trees of Touro Park. Giovanni Verrazano and Esteván Gomez may well have cruised past the tree enshrouded hillside in their ships without seeing any visible portion of the enigmatic structure.

In modern times, nearly a half-million tourists visit the Park every year to gaze in wonder at the imposing Tower. A nearby brass marker identifies the Tower as being a “Colonial Windmill;” and that has been the most-popular notion ever since heretical religious renegades from Providence founded the City in 1639. The earliest map of the newly-founded “city” was drawn by Henry Bull in 1641. It was later copied by Henry Jackson in 1853. Mr. Bull identified the roadway leading from the waterfront street a quarter-mile up the hill towards the Tower as “Mill Street.” This map suggests that the Tower was already present when the first settlers started building log cabins along the waterfront street that was later called “Thames Street.” At this point in time, circa 1640, Mill Street was situated along the southern outskirts of an emerging, plotted city; and the only two roadways leading up the hill were Griffin Street towards the north and Mill Street along the southern border of land that was plotted for development. (10)

The Old Stone Tower stands three stories tall. It is in the shape of a circle – with the two upper stories resting on an arcade of eight stone pillars that are connected with crude arches. The masonry work is remarkable in that it is an eclectic puzzle of stones in all sorts of shapes and sizes that are held together with seashell lime, sand, and gravel mortar. The diameter of the structure is about 25-feet – with walls that are about three-feet thick. Pillars are aligned to the eight principal points of earth’s geography.

What were early settlers likely to think about this structure?

Nobody believed it was built by the Indians – as none of the local tribes were accustomed to building with stone masonry. The building was larger and broader than most circular towers in Europe that functioned as windmills, lighthouses, watchtowers, or observatories. As it was situated near the top of a hill where wind is best harnessed for milling, this seemed like a good possibility. Also, a recent publication of the Penny Magazine (c.1625) featured an illustration of a windmill that was erected at the top of a six-pillar arcade. The mill was originally designed to be an observatory. It attracted enormous public interest from the residents of Chesterton, England.

Medieval Foundations by Gunnar Thompson_html_m55d153cc


Figure 6. The Old Stone Tower of Newport was identified by 17th century settlers as being a “windmill.”
(A) Chesterton windmill with rotating turret top – 1625;
(B) Amsterdam water-pumping windmill – 1670;
(C) Nantucket Island windmill – 1746;
(D) the Old Stone Tower, Newport, RI.


The Newport Tower doesn’t quite seem to belong with this collection. A standard windmill would easily fit inside the broad structure. Most windmills were relatively narrow structures that sloped inward at the top. Besides, where would you mount the fan-blades?



As can be readily seen from Newell’s lithograph of the City (Fig. 7) as it might have appeared in 1740, the Old Stone Tower looked nothing like the contemporary Christian churches of Newport. Typically, churches were built of wood planks; they had bells and steeples; and they were coated with a wash of white paint. So, nobody thought to rename the unimproved roadway called “Mill Street” that extended from the waterfront up the hill past the Tower. Most people called the structure “the Mill;” and the undeveloped hillside where it stood was “Mill Hill,” or the “Mill Field.”Medieval Foundations by Gunnar Thompson_html_2d190209


Figure 7. The Old Stone Tower stands off by itself way up the hill in this lithograph of Newport, RI, by Newell in 1865. Presumably, this was how the City looked in 1740.


Local historians became interested in the origins of the structure in the 1830s. That’s when a Danish archeologist suggested that the Old Stone Tower was actually a “Medieval Church.” Carl C. Rafn (Secretary of the Royal Society of Northern Antiquities in Copenhagen) wrote an article in Antiquitates Americanae (1837) indicating that the structure probably dated to the 12th century. He suggested that Greenland Bishop Erik Gnupsson supervised construction of the Tower in about 1121 when he contemplated relocating his seat from the icy settlement of Gardar to warm Narragansett Bay.

Scholars digging through the archives at Newport City Hall came up with only two documents that seemed to have any relevance to the origins of the Tower. The oldest reference was the “Deed to the Jewish Cemetery” that was dated “June 1677.” Later that year, former governor Benedict Arnold wrote his “Last Will” in which he mentioned “my stone-built wind milne.” This Will, the similarity of the Old Stone Tower to the Chesterton windmill, and the naming of “Mill Street” are the principal reasons cited by local historians for believing that the Old Stone Tower was built by Benedict Arnold as a windmill in about 1673. Presumably, it was erected to replace a wooden mill belonging to Peter Easton that was blown down in a windstorm. Nevertheless, historian Antoinette Downing (1967) acknowledged that the Tower belonged to a medieval heritage:

The form of the building, set on its arcade of eight circular piers, is medieval in character, and resembles the central part of 11th and 12th century Norse Churches. As Kenneth Conant, in a review of Hjalmar Holand’s America has pointed out, the closest English parallel is to be found in the so-called Treasury of the Cathedral of Canterbury. A round tower set on an arcade and constructed of dressed stone was built in 1632 by Inigo Jones as an observatory on the estate of Sir Edward Peyto at Chesterton, Warwick County, England, about one hundred and forty miles from Limmington, near Ilchester, Benedict Arnold’s English home. The observatory was later converted into a windmill, which coupled with the fact that there is evidence that the Newport building was once finished with stucco, makes the resemblance of the two buildings even more striking. (11)

There are some problems with Downing’s theory – aside from the fact that Mill Street was already on Bull’s City Map of 1641 more than a decade before Benedict Arnold bought his property there in 1654. Another difficulty with relying on the Street Name to support her theory is the fact that a British Admiralty Map of the City in 1777 noted that the roadway running past the Tower was not called “Mill St.” – it was called “Banister Street.” The author of the British Map, Charles Blascowitz, made no mention of the function of the abandoned Old Stone Tower; he simply indicated with a circle the location where the Tower was standing. He did note the presence of another circular structure north of the City that he identified as being a “Powder Magazine.”

On the surface, it seems to make logical sense to build a mill-tower out of stone, if an earlier wooden structure was flattened in a windstorm. However, if we look at the context of Colonial windmills, we find that all the other windmills in the New England to New Amsterdam Region (which included New York City) were made of wood. The material was cheap, abundant, and the design was well-known to carpenters who followed the Dutch “rotating house” model. As the Old Stone Tower was not about to rotate on its foundation, builders would have needed to adapt the top part of the structure to accommodate a rotating turret to house the wind-fan and gearbox for driving the mill. While this type of structure was already being used in England and Holland during the 17th century, there is no evidence that turret-top mills were present in America until after 1740 – when they were first introduced into the Massachusetts Colony. Furthermore, it would have been impossible to fit a turret on top of the Old Stone Tower – because of its immense diameter and the fact that the walls deviate from being circular by more than a foot. Adaptation of the structure to support a circular, rotating cap would have left evidence in the form of anchoring bolts or holes in the masonry; and there are none.

It would have taken a team of five carpenters about a month to construct the standard type of rotating house windmill out of lumber. It was a relatively lightweight material that was abundant throughout New England. Building a huge mill out of stone was another matter entirely. An immense quantity of stone would have to be acquired and transported by boats and wagons from distant quarries; and then it would have to be hauled uphill a quarter mile from the principal waterfront street – Thames Street where Arnold’s house was located. The Tower’s three-foot thick walls required an enormous amount of stone and mortar. The mortar, made from oyster-shell lime, was available to masons – but not in the extreme quantity that was needed for a three-story building. Such an undertaking was unknown in Colonial America until the 18th century when major cities began erecting monumental public buildings and fortresses. The weight of three-foot thick walls rising three stories high would have compressed the underlying ground considerably – requiring the prior excavation of ground sufficient to establish a solid foundation that would withstand freezing and thawing without causing the structure to slump and collapse. Archeological excavation near the structure has established that the builders excavated a deep trench where they placed adequate foundation stones to support the enormous weight of the Tower.

We are just getting started; and thus far, we have only hauled about sixty tons of rock uphill a quarter mile and dug a foundation trench. Raising all the stones up as many as three stories in height and cementing them in place would have required three stories of wood staging (with ladders) on both the inside and outside walls of the structure. The amount of lumber required for this construction would have easily built a dozen rotating-house windmills. While wood is a pretty easy material to cut into shape, many of the stones would also require cutting and shaping with metal tools. Masonry is a much more labor-intensive process that requires repeated sharpening and replacement of worn tools. Building archways between pillars – instead of solid stone walls – adds additional time and difficulty to the project that would not have been a factor if the walls were continuous around the base of the structure. Only an experienced mason would have attempted such a difficult building design; and there are no similar stone structures anywhere else in Colonial North America. Carrying stones up ladders and cutting stones involves an enormous amount of time and labor. A conservative estimate for site development, hauling materials, building staging, erecting masonry walls, and cleanup of the site following construction is that it would have taken a team of thirty builders nine months to complete. Even Benedict Arnold wasn’t wealthy enough to buy himself that sort of a luxury windmill made of stone.

Medieval Foundations by Gunnar Thompson_html_7c24c2abFigure 8. The standard wooden Dutch rotating-house windmill (left) is the only type seen in 17th century Colonial American sketches such as New Amsterdam (right).

Carl Rafn’s theory that the Newport Tower was a medieval church gained support from James Whittall (a researcher at the Early Sites Research Society) and William Penhallow – a University of Rhode Island scholar and member of the New England Antiquities Research Association. According to Whittall, architectural features in the Tower suggested that it was built by masons who were trained in a medieval Norse-Scottish tradition. Placement of the Central Tower on eight pillars – aligned to the eight principal geographical directions – was a key design feature of Emperor Constantine’s Temple of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. This structure was surrounded by an octagonal gallery or “ambulatory” around the central tower. Outward extensions on all eight pillars confirmed that the structure in Newport was designed to have a surrounding gallery or ambulatory. In other words, the building was never finished – at least, not in stone. Postholes uncovered about three meters out from two pillars suggested the possibility that a wooden structure may have been built around the central tower. The archways between the pillars were extraordinary. They were constructed of irregular, or “eclectic,” flat stones in an accordion or “fan-like” manner. This type of construction was most-common in Northern Scotland and the Orkney Islands. One of the keystones used on the inside of the west window was in the shape of a triangle. Aside from the Old Stone Tower at Newport, this unique design element was only known to have been used in Scotland, the Western Scottish Isles, Orkney, the Shetlands, Ireland, and Greenland. In other words, it was only known in 12th to 14th century regions that were frequented by Scottish masons. Many of these were descendants of Templar Knights; and they were raised in extended families that were familiar with round “Temple-Churches” that ancestors built to commemorate their participation in Crusades. Finally, Whittall noted that the unit of measure used in building the Tower was not the English Foot. Instead, it was the Scottish Ell or the Norwegian Short Alen.

William Penhallow noted that the Tower was designed to function as a celestial observatory. A narrow window in the top floor is oriented directly to Polaris – the North Star. This window provided an essential geographical north reference point for measuring angles of the sunset that were associated with religious holidays and farming. From the west window on the intermediate floor, it is possible to observe the setting sun during the Summer Solstice as it sinks behind the highest hill on Jamestown Island. Typically, European windmills did not have windows that facilitated celestial observations. Aside from the singular curiosity at Chester, none of the European windmills were set atop octagonal arcades of stone pillars. Such arcades were common in Temple-Churches.

Medieval Foundations by Gunnar Thompson_html_mda94648Figure 9. Constantine’s Temple (left) in Jerusalem was a model for Temple-Churches built by Crusader knights such as the Tønsburg Church (right) in Norway. The central tower was a circular structure on top of eight pillars – just like those at Newport.

Newport’s Medieval Templar Foundations

The “key” to the whole conundrum of “Who built the Newport Tower?” is to be found in the unusual triangular keystones that were used at Newport and in the Orkney Islands of Scotland. In the 14th century, the Orkney Islands were under the jurisdiction of Norway. The new “Earl of Orkney,” who was ordained in 1379, was Baron Henry Sinclair of Caithness – in Scotland. The son of a Crusader Knight who was killed in combat, Prince Henry was raised in the highest traditions of Christian Chivalry. He was a High Justice in the Scottish Court, Ambassador to Denmark, and High Admiral in the Royal Scottish Navy. As Baron of Caithness, Henry was responsible for administering justice, organizing households to meet the transportation, health, and sustenance needs of the community, and he managed the activities of a fleet and an army of knights. On several occasions, he supervised the building of huge masonry castles, palaces, and quays that served merchant fleets sailing between Bergen and the Western Isles.

Prince Henry was bound by duty and ambition to serve the needs of Queen Margaret Atterdag – the “Woman King” of the Kalmar Union. In about 1398, Queen Margaret called upon her “Champion” to lead a fleet of combat vessels to the Western Isles. He had two objectives that he was expected to achieve: the first was to apprehend a band of “Vitalien Pirates” who had infested the Icelandic Isles; and the second was to establish the Capital City of a new colony that was expected to meet the needs of merchant fleets sailing between Europe and “North Norway.” Venetian maps that were prepared between 1360 and 1390 showed the Western Mainland and isles in sufficient detail to enable Prince Henry to navigate through coastal areas between Greenland and Landanu (or “Terra Nova”) on the East Coast.

It is possible that Prince Henry’s fleet carried immigrants from Greenland directly to Norombega (or Newport) in about 1398; or his expedition might have attracted refugees who were already living with the Wampanaog or Narragansett Tribes in Rhode Island. In any case, the expedition arrived upon the scene with sufficient skills, equipment, and personnel to begin construction of a Capital City. The first task was to establish housing for settlers and sailors along a waterfront street. Evidence that this is precisely what took place has been found in 19th century photographs in the archives of the Newport Historical Society.

During the demolition of the Sueton Grant House on Thames Street in 1898, a journalist took photographs showing the Colonial chimney. It was built on top of a previously existing medieval fireplace that was built using the Norse-Scottish style of eclectic accordion arch masonry. Three similar arches in the foundation have triangular keystones of the type that has also been identified in the Old Stone Tower. In 1895, a local historian took samples of mortar from the Grant House, the Tower, and the end-wall in Benedict Arnold’s house. Norman Isham (1895) reported that all three samples showed that the structures were built with the same kind of seashell lime mortar mixed with sand and gravel. Therefore, it was his assessment that all three buildings were built at about the same time by a crew of Colonial masons. (11)

Evidently, Isham failed to notice the distinctive split between the refined nature of Colonial masonry using fired bricks and carefully “dressed” stones used in the ground floor level versus the rough, eclectic style of the masonry that was present in the foundation arch or vault. He was unaware at the time that triangular keystones were a characteristic of Norse-Scottish masonry; and they were otherwise unknown in Colonial North America. The New England scholar also noted that it was customary for builders to erect new houses right on top of old, abandoned foundations that remained following Indian raids. This is apparently what is shown by the 1895 photograph. (12)

Medieval Foundations by Gunnar Thompson_html_m28b4c33Figure 10. A – Demolition photo of Grant House Chimney at Newport, Rhode Island, in 1898 shows Colonial fireplace circa 1650 that was added on top of a prior Templar foundation arch that was built as part of a prior medieval structure circa 1400. Note sagging Colonial floor and bending walls that resulted from failure of Colonial masons to build a new foundation. Photo courtesy of Newport Historical Society.
B – John Mooney photograph in 1923 showing arches inside Eynhallow Church in the Orkney Islands north of Scotland. The medieval structure was originally built in the 12th century, but the Gothic accordion-style arch with the triangular keystone was probably added in the 14th century when the wall was repaired. This type of medieval arch with triangular keystone is not found anywhere else than at Newport in Colonial North America. It is even rare in the Caithness and Midlothian Districts of Scotland. One example has been identified in the Hvalsey Church of Medieval Greenland dating to circa 1350.

An archeological assessment of the photograph in Figure 10 indicates that the Colonial masonry was added to a previously existing medieval structure. Isham’s comparison of the mortar taken from the Old Stone Tower with a sample from the foundation work of the Grant House simply confirms that the Colonial wood house was built on top of an existing medieval foundation. The bent walls and sagging floor resulted from the addition of considerable extra weight to the original foundation that was designed only to support the weight of a single-story log cabin in the 14th century.

We can reasonably conclude that the Old Stone Tower and numerous abandoned foundations along the old waterfront street constitute medieval structures that were built prior to the arrival of 17th century Colonists. They had their own masonry traditions using “dressed” building stones and standard fired-ceramic bricks. No other structure in Colonial America is known to have been made using the eclectic, irregular stones and fanlike arches that are common in the structures of medieval England, the Scottish Isles, and Norway. Naturally, if Colonial masons had ever followed the medieval traditions of Templar masons – then many such structures would have become part of the archeological landscape of Colonial America. Some of those structures would still be standing right out in plain sight – like the Newport Tower.

But there is only one Old Stone Tower from the 14th century that bears testimony to the medieval Capital City that was once established in Ancient America.


1. Haakon IV’s Declaration of Sovereignty regarding the overseas continent of North Norway (later “North America”) is recorded in the Icelandic Chronicle, Norges Konge Sagaer, by Sturle Tordsson (c.1450), Knut Mykland, Norges Historie, Oslo, 1976. The Vatican endorsed this claim to lands essentially from Greenland to Florida, because Icelandic merchants set up churches in New World territories; and they collected the ten-percent “Peter’s Tax” (usually “in kind”) on shipped goods. A map by the Venetian cartographer, Albertin di Virga, identified the Nordic Territory as encompassing all the lands from Greenland to the Gulf of Mexico. He called it Norveca (meaning essentially, “Norway Province”). Most maps identified an earlier European colony settled by King Arthur in Northeast Asia as Albania, or “New Albion.” There was no conquest involved – simply establishment of a commercial alliance in which the King guaranteed trade and protection from pirates.

2. Clements Markham, Book of the Knowledge, London: Hakluyt Society, 1912. For further details see Gunnar Thompson, American Discovery,, 2013, King’s flag – 263; Welsh hens – 186; Gunnar Thompson, Viking America,, 2012, turkeys – 279, Spanish friar – 122, 153.

3. G.J. Marcus, The Conquest of the North Atlantic, New York: Oxford U. Press, 1981. Marcus notes that the Hansa monopolized the stockfish trade at Bergen – including all the dried fish that were imported (on Hansa ships) from Iceland (126). He adds: “the part played by stockfish in the economy of Western Europe can scarcely be exaggerated. … In the second half of the 14th century, immense quantities of skreid (stockfish) were shipped from Iceland to Norway.” John Gade, The Hanseatic Control of Norwegian Commerce During the Late Middle Ages, Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1951. Gade notes that “Norwegian lumber” was listed in English custom’s rolls; but it was either not recorded or it was under-reported in Norway (60). These imports could easily represent the arrival of huge cargoes from “North Norway” when in fact they originated in Markland (or Newfoundland). Likewise an 80% jump in the value of stockfish imported by Lübeck between 1370 and 1373 probably reflects a sudden expansion of the Hansa fleet hauling dried fish from Iceland or Newfoundland.

4. Adam of Bremen’s Description Insularum Aquilonis (1073) reported that Wineland was noted for its excellent wines.

5. Frances Gibson, The Seafarers: Pre-Columbian Voyages to America, Philadelphia: Dorrance, 1974, 173. Taxes in natura (in kind) sent from “Greenland” included beaver pelts, elk skins, and furs from sable, ermine, wolverine, lynx, and black bear – all of which were obtained in the Canadian wilderness of Labrador. They were totally unavailable in the Arctic Greenland Isle that had no forests.

6. Sources regarding the Franciscan mapping project in North America include: Richard Hakluyt, Divers Voyages – Touching the Discoverie of America. London: Hakluyt Society, 1582. R. Hakluyt, Principle Navigations, Voyages, Trafffiques & Discoveries of the English Nation. London: Hakluyt Society, c.1600. Both documents are available as recent reprints or at Google Books on the Internet. Some writers suggest that Nicholas of Lynn was not a Franciscan, but was instead a Carmelite Friar – thus he is often dismissed as being author of the Inventio Fortunatae. Actually, Nicholas served as a Franciscan Friar on the mapping project before joining the Carmelite Order when he assumed a professorship at Oxford. An Irish Minorite named “Hugh” has also been identified as the possible author of an itinerary dating to the same period. As numerous Franciscans were involved, it is quite likely that several versions of the New World travelogue were produced.

7. Gunnar Thompson, The Friar’s Map of Ancient America – 1360 AD, Seattle: Argonauts & Radio Bookstore, 1996. See also: Thompson, American Discovery,, 2013; and Arthur Dürst, Die Weltkarte des Albertin de Virga, Cartographica Helvetica, January 1996.

8. E.G. Taylor, Letter dated 1577 from Mercator to John Dee, Imago Mundi, Vol. 13, 1956, 58.

9. Arthur P. Newton, The Great Age of Discovery, Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries Press, 1932, 170-72. The usual logic given for the huge cargo of White and Indian slaves that Gomez brought back from Rhode Island is that he simply wanted to raise some money to justify his voyage – which was supposedly intended to look for the “lost strait” leading to the Orient. However, English and French explorers had already scoured the East Coast, so this rationale seems superfluous. Also, French cartographers at Dieppe indicated that Gomez sailed into Rhode Island Harbor – which was too far south along the East Coast to be a possible location for a Northwest Passage to the Orient. Later in the century, the English Chief Geographer – John Dee – was anxious to prove prior settlement by King Arthur (at this very location) in an effort to justify England’s claim in America. Thus, Gomez had a motive for kidnapping Natives and burning their dwellings. As for the Old Stone Tower up on top of the hill, it may have been hidden from sight by the overgrowth from a forest. If Gomez saw the Tower, he probably burned the wood interior.

10. Henry Bull’s map, along with others mentioned in this article, is in the archives of the Newport Historical Society. Plates showing all the maps are in the principal sourcebook: Antoinette F. Downing and Vincent J. Scully, The Architectural Heritage of Newport, Rhode Island, 1640-1915; New York: American Legacy Press, 1967.

11. Norman M. Isham in Downing & Scully (1967), 27, footnote 16.

12. Norman M. Isham and Albert F. Brown, Early Rhode Island Houses, Providence: Preston & Rounds, 1895; 17, 24, 30.

13. Thompson). New book about 14th century maritime commerce, Templar Knights, and New England – Victorious, will be available in early 2015.

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Raves & Reviews of Dr. Thompson’s Books Sun, 22 Sep 2013 00:34:39 +0000 Reviews of AmericanDiscovery “Amazing!” Laura Lee, KVI Radio, Seattle “Monumental! Overwhelming!” W.R. Anderson, Vikingship, Chicago “A wonderful book!” Molefi Asante, African Studies —Temple University  “A Paradigm Shift of utmost importance!”  Russel Maeth, Editor, Estudios de Asia y Africa “Electrifying! Highly … Continue reading

The post Raves & Reviews of Dr. Thompson’s Books appeared first on Voyages to the New World.

Reviews of AmericanDiscovery

Amazing!” Laura Lee, KVI Radio, Seattle

Monumental! Overwhelming!” W.R. Anderson, Vikingship, Chicago

A wonderful book!” Molefi Asante, African Studies Temple University

 “A Paradigm Shift of utmost importance!”  Russel Maeth, Editor, Estudios de Asia y Africa

Electrifying! Highly Recommended!”

A.V. Schaerffenberg, Ancient American Magazine

 “If you read only one book on pre-Columbian America, this is the one you need.”

Bob Rickard, Fortean Times, London

 “Extremely well-documented—a testament!”

Book Worm, Ecology Magazine, New Delhi

 “Marco Polo beat Columbus to the New World!”

Nicole Gagnon, Bremerton Sun

A historical Time Machine!”

Ross Anderson, Seattle Times

If you have room for only one book in your library …this is the one you want.”

Niven Sinclair, Historian–Clan Sinclair

Reviews & Endorsements: the Details

 Kon-Tiki Museum, Oslo, Norway

Dear Dr. Thompson—

Thank you for producing a thought provoking book (Nu Sun) about voyages along routes that are fully feasible.

Best wishes for 1990, Thor Heyerdahl

Author’s note: Nu Sun is presently “out of print.” However, it is available in most major city and university libraries or from the inter-library loan service. A newly updated edition is scheduled for the print-on-demand service at in 2014.

Postcard print of Ra II—courtesy of Thor Heyerdahl

————————————————–no organizational endorsements are implied—-

From the Desk of Betty Meggers, Research Associate:

I was pleased to receive the copy of Nu Sun. I also appreciate your returning my check, although your artwork alone makes the book worth the price.

I have only looked at the illustrations, but I am impressed with the amount of similarities you have compiled. The fact that they are symbols, which can take any form, makes the repetition more significant in my view, although others appear not to take this position.

I was also pleased that you have focused on several elements that have impressed me, among them the elephants on the stela from Copan (which the Mayanists claim to be “macaws”) and details of architectural ornamentation.

Hopefully, the “younger generation” you represent will take a more objective view of the evidence.

We will never understand cultural evolution if we refuse to examine evidence of this kind. Several weeks spent on Ponape years ago convinced me that the ocean is a highway rather than a barrier for those depending on its resources. We may never know whether voyages were intentional–or how numerous they were, but as James Ford implied in his work on the inter-American Formative Phase, the choice is between diffusion and “psychic unity.” I doubt many of the opponents care for the latter explanation.

 —————————————————-no organizational endorsement is implied—–

From the Desk of Philip Phillips, Ph.D., Honorary Curator

Many thanks for sending me your beautiful book. Since it was not accompanied by any message to the contrary, I assume you want me to keep it as a gift. Please let me know if such was not the intent.

I found some of your ideas extremely interesting; but I am not equipped to deal with them in a critical sense. What I liked especially was your awareness of the immense difficulties of making iconographic judgments in the case of figural art for which there is next to nothing in the way of ethnographic documentation. In respect to the Southern Cult, the people who have tried this (I am thinking of Waring and Howard, the only writers who have made a serious effort) have failed to realize the importance of establishing continuity between the art in question and the ethnography that is used to explain it. In this connection I would recommend a little book recently published, The Iconography of Middle American Sculpture, edited by Dudley T. Easby, in which Gordon Willey and George Kubler engage in a spirited dialogue on this very point.

Another thing that pleased me immensely is that you recognize the Fairfield Gorget as Hopewellian. You may be the first who has done so, in print at least. I would put it pretty close to the end of the time span you have suggested for the Hopewellian Style, about the time of Issaquena perhaps.

I am just now writing the iconographic sections of a forthcoming monograph on engraved shells at Spiro. The printer will run out of question marks when he comes to set it up. If you make any further discoveries in this area, I would be glad to hear about them.

 ———————————————–no organizational endorsement is implied——

The Friar’s Map of Ancient America 1360 AD, Publishers: Radio Bookstore & Misty Isles Press, is presently “out of print.” It is available in major city and university libraries or by inter-library loan. An updated version is expected at in 2014 or 2015 under the title:

Medieval Maps & Mariners.


24 April 1998

From Andrew Sinclair, author of The Sword & the Grail:

I am a profound admirer of your book, The Friar’s Map of Ancient America. I find it a pioneering and illuminating work.

Andrew Sinclair

London Department of History

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From the Desk of Vine Deloria, Jr.:

I am enclosing a copy of THE FRIAR’S MAP of ANCIENT AMERICA 1360 AD by Gunnar Thompson.

He is a scholar whose work I admire very much. I think he is making a major contribution to pre-Columbian American studies. I have had a colleague in the department, a very good medieval scholar, read the book and check some of the footnotes for me. He was very impressed with the scholarship. Thompson has several other books which I also find impressive. He is making a major contribution to our knowledge–even though many of your stuffy colleagues refuse to read some of his books. That is, as you know, very un-scientific and unscholarly.

But as you know, most academics read only their colleagues and former grad students’ books. They then lecture using the notes they gathered when they were grad students themselves. So Thompson’s books are upsetting to them primarily because the majority of them haven’t thought a new thought in their lives.

Thompson’s book, to me, provides an exceedingly good argument which can link up what you have been doing with some of the writings done outside academia. One of· the problems with academia is that there are too many narrow-minded specialists in the field. There are not enough people who cross disciplinary lines. You do cross those lines, so my thought is that you would appreciate what Thompson is doing. He concentrates on the early European maps; and he offers a decent theory for understanding them.

—————————————————no organizational endorsement is implied——

From the Desk of Thor Heyerdahl:

Only on my recent return from South and Central America did I find in the pile of mail today your letter of June 20th with your manuscript on America’s Oldest Map (“the Friar’s Map of Ancient America 1360 AD”).

Only by reading your letter and skimming through the map illustrations do I see that you have produced an extremely-important piece of work. Thank you and congratulations!

I am barely home to catch up with incoming faxes and letters; and then I am off for a two-week reconnaissance trip to Morocco, tomorrow; so this dictated letter will be typed and signed in my absence.

I trust you keep in good contact with Per Lilliestrom. He will be exceedingly interested in learning about this forthcoming book. He is involved in research on Columbus and the North Pole himself, so you may have much information to exchange. I shall try to reach him on telephone before I leave and let him see my copy unless you have sent another to him.

There has been quite a newspaper stir in several continents over the fact that a Norwegian newspaper brought up the evidence that Columbus reached the area of the magnetic North Pole in 1476. There should thus be an explosion if you get the right launching of your coming book.

———————————-no organizational endorsement is implied—-

Endorsements & Reviews regarding American Discovery (1992, 1994, 2013)

Book WormEcology Magazine, New Delhi, India, September 1996

American Discovery is not just a book. It is a testament.

Today, when fundamentalist forces everywhere are gaining strength, the search for authentic, multicultural, roots is not just a literary task, it is a politically significant project. Gunnar Thompson suffered academic censure when he questioned the myth that Columbus was the first to discover America. To his credit, the book shows no anger on this account. American Discovery is an extremely well documented history of the connections– cultural and ecological–between the Far East and the Far West–between Africa and Alaska.

One of the important arguments in the book is that transoceanic voyages brought Old World crops such as wheat, barley, millet, rice, beans, gourds, cotton, dates, amaranth, and henna to the New World thousands of years before Columbus reached America. The reverse transfer of crops (for instance, cotton, peanuts, tobacco, maize, peppers, amaranth, sweet potato and hibiscus) from America to Asia and to Africa also took place. Evidence of this plant exchange nullifies the belief that crops like cassava and diploid cotton came to America only in the wake of Spanish colonization.

The most interesting part of this scholarly treatise is the one on the diffusion of plants and animals across the world. However, many questions do not have answers. For instance, the Asian foxtail millet (Satira chaetochloa) was grown in North America during the 10th century, but its origin is not clearly known. The exchange of technologies, and in some cases institutions, enabled many native civilizations to grow rapidly. Many of the Mayan myths, religious and astronomical beliefs, are supposed to be the branches of Asian cultures. One piece of conclusive evidence of pre-Columbian exchange of plant materials is provided by Columbus himself. In 1493, Columbus brought rhubarb from the Caribbean as evidence that he had reached Asia. This plant is described in a Chinese herbal from Peking dating back to 2700 B. C.

The central message of the book is that many cultures contributed to the rise (and fall) of different civilizations in America. If the Columbus Myth still persists in textbooks around the world, what can the reason be?

The scars of ethnic-cleansing perpetrated by the 16th century Europeans in the New World are still raw. This is the reason why when “the 500th Anniversary of the Columbus Discovery of America” was celebrated a few years ago, Native Americans in North and South America “celebrated” 500 years of domination and discrimination.

As a first step in restoring the rights of indigenous people, it is important that distortions of history be set right. The Columbian Myth, the author argues, “was a part of the belief that the European civilization vastly superior to all others.” It also legitimized the neglect of ideas, institutions and images that were borrowed from other cultures.

Perhaps a search for multicultural roots will bring the world together more effectively than any institution can. This book is an important contribution toward this goa1.


Ancient American Magazine Book Reviews by A.V. Schaerffenberg, 1994

Five years ago, the world of history was electrified with the publication of Nu Sun: Asian-American Voyages 500 B.C. For the first time, a vast collection of evidence establishing the arrival of Chinese visitors in prehistoric America was collected into a single volume by a man of impeccable academic credentials. Today, he is a professor at the University of Hawaii (Manoa).

Gunnar Thompson graduated Magna Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa, from the University of Illinois (Urbana) in 1968 with a Degree in Anthropology. He earned a Ph.D. in Psychology at the University of Wisconsin (Madison). His archaeological fieldwork included Cahokia Mounds, Illinois, and Colorado’s Yellow Jacket site near Mesa Verde. Relying on his extensive training and experience, he concluded that Asian impact on ancient America was irrefutable and decisive.

Thompson is one of the very few university researchers with the courage to make his findings public. Therefore, he must be regarded as a true pioneer in the popularization of arguments on behalf of prehistoric diffusion. His latest book should go even further toward that popularization, because it is the only available comprehensive over-view of the major transatlantic and. transpacific contacts in ancient America;. Here, the reader will learn the most salient facts about Egyptian explorers, Minoan and Phoenician sailors, Greco-Roman traders, Welsh and Irish sea-rovers, Hindu seafarers, Arab merchantmen and many other adventurers who landed on our shores long before Columbus belatedly set sail from Spain.

American Discovery–the Real Story, is written in a lively, economical style that the seasoned expert and curious newcomer will find equally accessible. Each concise chapter is chock-full of often surprising details, as evidenced in the excerpts reproduced below. And, each is profusely illustrated with revealing line-drawings comparing contemporary artifacts no one else has presented until now. Thompson’s deeply-researched book is a perfect introduction for persons new to the Diffusion Question, while even readers familiar with much of his material are sure to find new nuggets of information they never suspected. As such, we cannot recommend American Discovery–the Real Story, highly enough.

——————————no organizational endorsement is implied———————-

African-American Studies Dept. From the Desk of Molefi Asante:

You have written a wonderful book which I will share with my colleagues and students. Indeed I am certain that it will be used in many classes here at Temple. Thanks for sharing it with me.

Your ideas about discovery should get wider circulation and I intend to see to it that your name is heard in the circles that I travel. Thanks also for the commentary on my talk at South Florida. I accept your suggestions and modifications in the spirit of brotherhood. Human beings are all incredible and have done amazing things. Keep pushing for justice and peace.

——————————————–no organizational endorsement is implied—-

AIARAmerican Institute for Archaeological Research Institute Newsletter: Reviews by Dorothy Hayden, Editor

This elegant tour de force is the sort of book you dream about!

Deeply-researched, beautifully-organized, impeccably-documented and embellished with the products of Gunnar’s artistic hands and eyes; they just don’t come any better than this!

The prose text is straight-forward, crystal-clear, and, in the jargon of today’s “user-friendly” technologies, it is as comprehensible and interesting to a school child as to a professor.

The myriad of superb illustrations is both awe-inspiring and overwhelming. The format is professional in every way: it is a researcher’s “dream come true.” The book contains more than 400 pages of information, maps and comparative illustrations. These are backed up by complete sections on References, Sources, Bibliography, and an Index.

In this INSTITUTE NEWSLETTER, in addition to the announcement of Gunnar’s very latest discovery of ancient maps which clearly record Viking settlements in America, we are tempting you with just a small sample of the illustrations from his Viking chapter. But don’t for a moment think that AMERICAN DISCOVERY is limited to Vikings. It is delightfully organized into sections so that you can dip and choose, although if you can put the book down after turning the first page … “then you’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din!”

The Chapter headings read like a “Who’s Who” of the Ancient World. They’re all there: Japanese, Egyptians, Ancient Mariners, Africans, Chinese, Minoans, Phoenicians, Greco-Romans, Welsh, Irish, Hindu, Pacific Islanders, etc. But fittingly enough, Gunnar begins with the Native American discoverers who came long, long before the rest; and they allowed some of the others to establish a small foothold in this new land.

Gunnar has brought together into one volume an incredible number of little-known, hard to find and obscure bits of research, artifact discoveries, C-14 dating, etc. Gunnar has drawn on the work of all the giants who have gone before him — Arlington Mallery, Alexander van Wuthenau, Barry Fell, Henriette Mertz, Joseph Campbell, and Cyrus Gordon (just to name a few). He has added his own spectacular research and tied it all together in a most attractive package. It’s the sort of reference book you will come back to time after time.

Superb renderings of ancient ships from all cultures and facts about the magnitude and development of ancient shipping underline the probability of both Atlantic and Pacific voyages. The delineations and explanations of ancient maps add to the feasibility of such voyages. Facts about spectacularly rising sea-levels offer lucid explanations for the virtual disappearance of many cultures from the archaeological record. Gunnar’s penetrating comments on the real motivation of Columbus and those who followed him should stimulate your thinking.

Examples from both the Old and New World of symbols, artifacts, scripts, tools, weapons, food crops, clothing, facial types, etc. are set side-by-side for YOUR comparison. YOU be the judge. How many of these manifestations can be “just coincidence” or “parallel development?”

How telling is all this evidence for centuries-long contact between pre-Columbian America and the many and varied Old World cultures? Have you heard a more reasonable explanation for all the canals found in Mesoamerican jungles? Heard about the curly-haired Chinese horses in the Old Northwest? Or the Irish “Chickasaw” horses in Tennessee and the Carolinas? Heard about Chinese and Peruvian quipus (or rope counting)?

If you can only afford to buy one book, this is the one you want.


From the Desk of Bob Rickard, Fortean Times, London

AMERICAN DISCOVERY by Gunnar Thompson.

Well, we can look back on the “Columbus Year” and breathe a sigh of relief — but what will we remember of the history fest hoopla, with its endless rehashes, beautiful photographs, brave re-enactments and pedantic documentation?

Gunnar Thompson’s American Discovery arrived at Fortean Towers rather late in the day, but it knocks an the other books of the “who got there first” tribe into a cocked hat.

Thompson was born in Seattle of Norwegian and Native Indian stock; and grew up outside mainstream WASP traditions. He remembers that during an exam at the age of 12, when asked “Who discovered America?”—he was the ‘dumb Norwegian’ who wrote down: “The Indians.” Later, he was confused and angered to find that it was more fashionable to offer the honour to Leif Erickson instead of Columbus. There and then: “I decided to become a detective of American history.”

In the years that followed, Thompson gained degrees in anthropology and psychology; but because his enquiries often brought him into conflict with hide-bound academics, he hiked the byways of any subject that might illuminate the origins of human culture in North America — mythology, archeology, anthropology, history, linguistics, and so on. His starting point was simple: if the Native Indians were here to greet the Western explorers, where did they come from?

He believes that, from the time their ancestors crossed the great land bridge between Alaska and Siberia, around 300,000 BC, up to the coming of the Europeans in the 16th century, America was “the world’s most-cosmopolitan society”– attracting traders, refugees, and wanderers from countless other cultures.

This, then, is the story of America from the point of view of the multiethnic society of Native Peoples — many we know about (the Phoenicians, Celts, Jews, Greeks, Irish, Romans, Hindus, Chinese, Japanese, Africans, Indo-Sumerians, Polynesians, Scots, Egyptians, Arabs, etc — and many more that we don’t know about. The picture Thompson paints is one of a highly mobile world, not in the least daunted technologically or psychologically by long ocean voyages. As just one of many examples discussed, I was astonished to learn that there is evidence the Kwakiutl Indians from the coast of Northern Canada settled in Hawaii.

To call the book encyclopedic is to be mealy-mouthed. It is 20-years’ worth of looting squillions of half-forgotten books in countless libraries, and myriads of objects, artifacts and remains from digs and museums beyond number — all stuffed into one handsome, hefty book. We are treated to perfectly concise presentations on tents, ship building, navigation, hunting, skinning, weaving, agriculture, pottery, flint knapping, writing, games, mining and metallurgy, head gear, and so on, as well as competent re-evaluations of all the enigmatic remains of people, their dwellings, and achievements.

Thompson fires off in more directions than a blazing fireworks factory. There is much here about the plants — like chili peppers and the hibiscus — which reached Asia Minor via China; and the pineapple and maize which reached Europe via Atlantic traders; and many more plants and animals of American origin found in Europe and Asia before the time of Columbus. He has a sure grasp of his material, and, important for an exposition of such diversity, he writes clearly. An excellent draughtsman, he has filled the book with maps, vignettes and stand-alone pages which compare people, symbols, artifacts or objects from both the Old World and the New. It is the well-thought-out work of a craftsman who can communicate his enthusiasm.

This is Thompson’s third book. His Spirit Sign (1974) was about Mexican symbols of spiritual power; followed by Nu Sun (1989), a treatise on contacts between America and China around 500 B.C.; and the migration of the Yin-Yang symbol (that power-sign) to American Peoples. Gunnar Thompson represents a vital new force in New World anthropology; and I think we’ll hear a lot more from him.

If you read only one book on pre-Columbian America, this is the one you need.

———————————–no organizational endorsement is implied—————

Senator Patty Murray, Washington State April 26, 1993

Thank you for sharing your proposal to establish “Discovery Day.” I appreciate hearing from you, and apologize for the delay in responding.

Your book, American Discovery, sounds fascinating. When people of my generation and my parents’ generation were in school, Indians were portrayed as primitive, war-like inhabitants of the land, and all major historical milestones were attributed to the white man. Although history lessons have changed significantly since when I was in school, I am concerned that the American education system continues to’, fall far short in promoting cultural literacy to our nation’s children. As I read your letter, it really hit home that the impact of historical misconceptions extends far beyond the classroom, forming the fabric of divisive issues our society grapples with every day: prejudice, religion, race, and politics.

As you noted, the holiday deemed “Columbus Day” adds salt to wounds incurred by Native Americans over two centuries. I also believe that a more-inclusive name and focus could make this a meaningful holiday for all Americans. I plan to share this proposal with the Judiciary Committee which handles commemorative resolutions.

——————————-no organizational endorsement is implied——————

The Portolan—Reviews: Brigitta Wallace on Viking America

Viking America spans 325 size A4 pages. The book claims that transatlantic voyages began millennia ago and that there were large colonies of Minoans, Phoenicians, Romans, Welsh and Norse in the Americas, all involved in thriving commercial ventures. The author argues that, in the 12th century, B.C., the Phoenicians discovered a large and fertile land west of Libya. This, according to the author, must have been the Americas. The author goes on to argue that the Minoans and the Romans imported vital supplies from these lands; Jewish immigrants settled in what is now Mexico; the Celtic king, Arthur, established the Albion Colony in northern America, in the 530s; and Leif Eriksson’s Vinland Colony grew to enormous proportions. The author argues that the European population grew to a quarter million by the 13th Century, in part by virtue of the favorable weather in the Medieval Warming Period. The author concludes that, about 1350, two-thirds of these people died of the Bubonic Plague, and the survivors merged with native groups. It is clear that a great deal of work has gone into this book. The author has consulted a wide range of maps and works pertaining to the Middle Ages. However, an overwhelming amount of scientific evidence argues against the author’s theses.

Note: Viking America (, 2013) tells the story of King Haakon IV’s commercial empire along the Eastern Seaboard from 1261 to about 1300 when the transatlantic trades were taken over by the Hanseatic League. Between 1330 and 1360, English Franciscans mapped the Nordic Trade Zone in the Far West. It was called “North Norway,” because it was thought to be situated at the Magnetic North Pole. In 1398, Queen Margaret of the Kalmar Union sent Prince Henry Sinclair to roust out the western pirates in Nova Scotia. After exterminating the pirates, Henry supervised construction of the Old Stone Tower at Newport, Rhode Island.

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Hijacked History and Other Articles by Gunnar Thompson Sat, 21 Sep 2013 23:53:59 +0000 Oldest Map of the World? –  A 1480 Ming Map Maize Before Columbus Indian Horses Before Columbus Hijacked History       … Continue reading

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  • Oldest Map of the World? –  A 1480 Ming Map

  • Maize Before Columbus

  • Indian Horses Before Columbus

  • Hijacked History




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    Recommended Resources Sat, 21 Sep 2013 23:11:46 +0000 Gavin Menzies Research Team The bestselling British author is a brilliant scholar. He is also the leading force behind revealing the solutions to the Mysteries of the Past. His efforts have had an enormous impact by providing a democratic Internet … Continue reading

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    Gavin Menzies Research Team

    The bestselling British author is a brilliant scholar. He is also the leading force behind revealing the solutions to the Mysteries of the Past. His efforts have had an enormous impact by providing a democratic Internet forum for scholars to share their discoveries with the public. He is a relentless “Time Detective” and a spellbinding writer whose books (1421—the Year China Discovered the World) have changed the nature of the historical arena that has been dominated by doctrinaire academics.

     Ancient American Magazine

    Editor and Publisher Wayne May has invested over a decade of tireless efforts in assembling and printing articles on the latest discoveries concerning the discovery and development of ancient American cultures and societies. In addition to the quarterly magazine, the organization sponsors fieldtrips and national conferences.

     New England Antiquities Research Association (NEARA)

    This Association of scholars along the Eastern Seaboard publishes an annual review of the latest research concerning early explorations and settlements. Their particular interest includes enigmatic sites left by ancient Celtic, Minoan, Iberian, and Nordic seafarers.

     Atlantic Conference

    Niven Sinclair, Historian of the Sinclair Clan, sponsored two conferences that focused on ancient voyages across the Atlantic Ocean. Presentations by speakers are archived in U-Tube vignettes that contain a treasure trove of the latest research.

     Paths Across the Pacific

    Anthropologist-Historian Nancy Yaw Davis (U. Alaska) sponsors semiannual conferences concerning the latest research on early voyages across the Pacific Ocean. Held at Sitka, these inspirational gatherings provide a forum for innovative scholars.

    Carl Johannessen—Geography Professor; Expert on Ancient Plant Dispersals

    This University of Oregon professor was a pioneer in uncovering evidence of ancient domesticated plants that voyagers carried across the seas prior to Columbus. His groundbreaking research on ancient maize in India (11-1300 AD) with Anne Parker in 1989 was published in the academic journal, Economic Botany. The negative response by doctrinaire scholars was so-overwhelming that editors refused to review any further articles on the subject. A new book by John Sorenson and Johannessen (World Trade and Biological Exchanges before 1492) is an encyclopedia of plants carried across the oceans.

    Laura Lee—“Conversations for Exploration”

    Radio and Internet Host, Laura Lee, has been leading enthusiastic audiences into the realms of alternative history for over two decades. There’s always something new on her shows; and the Internet Archive is a chronicle of innovative research.

    Robert Hieronimous—21st Century Radio

    “Doctor Bob” is another relentless New Age artist and “Time Detective” who has established a radio-Internet forum for the exploration of alternative history. He was among the early scholars who recognized the importance of Ethel Stewart’s research on the Canadian Indian Horse Tribes and their origins from the Scythian-Tartar migration from Asia in the 13th century. He is also an expert on American symbols.

    George Noory—Coast-to-Coast Radio

    Host George Noorey has entertained the author on numerous occasions concerning the subject of “Forbidden History.” The Internet site includes an excellent archive.

    Gerry Max—Wordsmith, Author, Intellectual

    This part-time university professor has dedicated a substantial part of his life to uncovering the literary legacy of Richard Halliburton. In the 1920s, Halliburton traveled all around the world following in the footsteps of ancient explorers such as Odysseus, Alexander the Great, and Hui Shen. The subsequent public lectures were the equivalent of the “Discovery Channel” before people had television sets. Gerry’s book, Horizon Chasers (McFarland), recounts the travels and lectures by a man who inspired Thor Heyerdahl’s “Kon Tiki” voyage.


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    Yuan Dynasty Foundation of Zheng He’s Voyages Thu, 05 Sep 2013 01:38:01 +0000 Yuan Dynasty Foundation of Zheng He’s Voyages By Gunnar Thompson, Ph.D., Director New World Discovery Institute, Seattle, Washington< Library of Congress Presentation, May 16th 2005 Zheng He Symposium (This article is background information for an  Illustrated Presentation of this topic) … Continue reading

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    Yuan Dynasty Foundation of Zheng He’s Voyages
    By Gunnar Thompson, Ph.D., Director
    New World Discovery Institute, Seattle, Washington< Library of Congress Presentation, May 16th 2005
    Zheng He Symposium

    1418MingMap(This article is background information for an  Illustrated Presentation of this topic)

    The countries and peoples of East Asia had a curiosity about the world that reaches back into antiquity for thousands of years. As far back as the days of the Founding Emperors, the ancestors of the Chinese people engaged in seafaring adventures across the globe. They sailed in the company of mariners from India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Korea, Japan, Cambodia, Persia, Kamchatka, and from other regions of the Far East. Many of these mariners reached the shores of the New World where they contributed to the rich ethnic and cultural fabric of the Native Peoples. They returned to Asia with a variety of New World plants including maize (corn), tobacco, and chilies; and they obtained such valuable commodities as jade, copper, gold, furs, exotic feathers, dyes, and assorted drugs and aphrodisiacs.
    Although official government policy in China sometimes excluded foreigners or restricted overseas merchants to border villages, the reason was not due to a lack of interest in world affairs. The main reason was usually the result of a need to maintain political stability or to prevent the spread of pandemic diseases. Enterprising merchants continued to build large ships and to sail abroad in spite of the official policy—even during the infamous overseas travel restrictions of the later Ming dynasty. Overseas travel was also a passion among Buddhist and Muslim missionaries for many centuries—and it resulted in the spread of Confucian, Buddhist, and Moslem influences to the New World.
    In 1255, Marco Polo’s father, Niccolò, traveled to China in order to spy on the Mongol Emperor Kublai Khan. His reign in China (1260-1293) was partly the result of an inheritance from his grandfather—the conqueror Genghis Khan. He completed the conquest of Southern China leaving many regions devastated by warfare and genocide. Kublai captured the Sung navy; and he contemplated the conquest of Japan. Many Europeans of that era dreaded the possibility that Kublai Khan’s Mongol armies might attempt a maritime invasion from across the ocean. This was regarded as a very real possibility because most Europeans during the Middle Ages believed that China was situated directly to the west on the opposite side of the Atlantic Ocean.
    The threat seemed even worse when Franciscan spies overheard conversations among Chinese and Korean explorers who said that they had identified “New Lands” lying far to the east of Japan. These were the legendary isles of Fu Sang, the Isle of Immortals, and Ta Han (or North America).
    After living in China for ten years and becoming a confidant of the Emperor, Niccolò Polo returned to Venice where he recruited his son, Marco, to serve in the secret service. The Polo team of Niccolò, Maffeo, and Marco reached the court of Kublai Khan in 1275. Because he had already learned the essential languages of commercial leaders and the Mongol diplomatic protocols, Marco was deputized as Kublai Khan’s special revenue agent and diplomat. He was entrusted to accompany the overseas mapping expeditions of teams of Chinese, Korean, and Persian explorers who were sent to the Arctic regions and to the West Coast of the New Lands. Marco’s mission was to conduct diplomatic affairs and to compile an inventory of export commodities while trained surveyors charted the seacoasts, harbors, and rivers. These expeditions had combined military, commercial, and political goals.

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    New Perspectives on Hyperborea and the “Magnetic Isles” Thu, 05 Sep 2013 01:35:23 +0000 By Gunnar Thompson, Ph.D., July 1, 2000 Abstract (or go to the Article Text) Discovery of an early 15th century world map is shedding new light on ancient tales of New World exploration.  The map in question is an authenticated … Continue reading

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    By Gunnar Thompson, Ph.D., July 1, 2000

    Abstract (or go to the Article Text)

    Discovery of an early 15th century world map is shedding new light on ancient tales of New World exploration.  The map in question is an authenticated Venetian map by Albertin DeVirga circa 1414.  This map includes a Hyperborean continent called “Norveca” with features recognizable as the East Coast of North America.  The accuracy of this coastline and the Nordic nomenclature suggest that DeVirga’s Hyperborean continent is a copy of the long-lost map from Inventio Fortunatae.

    Numerous 16th century geographers including Gerhard Cramer, Abraham Ortelius, and Richard Hakluyt gave credence to the testimony of a Dutch journalist who recorded the exploits of Franciscan friars in the New World.  According to the journalist, an English friar had traveled throughout “Dusky Norway” using an astrolabe to record the locations of places that he visited on the way.  The biographers of Columbus, Bartholomew Las Casas and Ferdinand Colon, were explicit in stating that the friar’s travelogue, Inventio Forutnatae, told of lands in the far west.

    Following the trail of the Inventio Fortunatae through history and into the archives of map libraries has led to the identification of 13 maps showing the location of Florida before Columbus.  Temporal analysis of the coastlines on these maps shows that the macro-peninsula creeps downward from Arctic regions to Tropic seas.  By 1492, Portuguese maps show the macro-peninsula situated directly west of Europe on the Tropic of Cancer—precisely where Columbus> expected to find land.

    Placement of the macro-peninsula within a few hundred miles of the actual location of Florida confirms that ancient mariners conducted scientific surveys of the East Coast of North America.  Early knowledge of the phenomenon of magnetic declination and use of astrolabes instead of compasses for mapping explains how ancient surveyors were able to make a scientific map.  The effort to make such a map can be traced through historical sources to English scientist Roger Bacon and Oxford University.

    Article By Gunnar Thompson, Ph.D., July 1, 2000

     Medieval superstitions and biblical visions added colorful embellishments to the mariners’ tales of exploration.  When cartographers back home set about translating field reports into geographical coordinates, the resulting maps were often whimsical and misleading.  Nevertheless, ancient maps contain clues that reveal increasing knowledge of New World territories long before the traditional advent of European exploration in the 15th century.

    Many of the clues to ancient maritime exploration can be found along the northern borders of European maps in a region that is often called “Hyperborea.”

    Hyporborea—Land Beyond The North Wind

    According to one Roman myth, there was a temperate land at the North Pole where a race of happy people, the Hyperboreans, dwelled amidst orchards and meadows.  This land was variously called “Hyperborea,” the “Polar Regions” or the “Magnetic Isles.”  Presumably, this latter designation was derived from a belief that a huge magnetic mountain was situated at the top of Earth.  The magnetic force of this mountain (Figure 1) supposedly explained why lodestones pointed towards the North.[1]

    Apparently there was some disagreement among Roman philosophers regarding the nature of the Polar Regions.  By the time Claudius Ptolemy was writing his geography and making maps in the 2nd century, there was a popular belief that Earth had climatic zones.  Members of the Ptolemaic School ridiculed myths about Hyperborea because they were convinced that the Polar Regions were quite frigid and consequently uninhabited.  This controversy endured through the 14th century.  In 1266, the English scientist Roger Bacon insisted that the Hyperborean tale was accurate in spite of the climatic zones.  He felt compelled to invent the concept of a unique situation at the North Pole that enabled mountains to trap solar heat in order to give the Hyperboreans a warm place to live.  He made this effort, he said, in order to explain why Pliny the Elder and numerous mariners had identified temperate lands at the North Pole:[2]

    How far habitation extends north, Pliny shows through actual experience and by various authors.  For habitation continues up to that locality where the poles are located; and where the day lasts six months and the night for the same length of time.  Martin, moreover, in his description of the world agrees with this statement whence they maintain that in those regions dwells a very happy race.

    Modern historians have criticized Bacon for his apparent ignorance of the Polar climate.  Actually, this is an example of a situation where the English scientist felt compelled to bend scientific explanation to the wisdom of experience which he always insisted must take precedence over theoretical models.  Thus, he credits “actual experience” for his unpopular stand that seems contrary to the theory of climatic zones.  In other words, he was aware of mariners who had used the compass to reach the Magnetic Polar Regions—located in the temperate seas near Hudson Bay.  Like his contemporaries, Bacon was unaware that there were two North Poles—a geographic pole situated at the frigid top of Earth and a magnetic pole situated south of the Arctic Circle.  Irish and Roman accounts told of voyages to temperate lands such as “Thule” in the northwest.  We also find confirmation in Geoffrey of Monmoth’s History of Arthur that mariners from Wales had reached the “Magnetic Isles” in the 6th century.[3]  So, Roger Bacon had plenty of “experiential” support for his belief that there was such a place as Hyperborea.  Even in his own time, English friars, fishermen, and traders were sailing to places in the far northwest that were variously called the “Icelandic Isles,” “Wineland,” “New Land,” “Dusky Norway,” “Great Ireland,” and “Greenland.”  All of these were titles for settlements, trading posts, or hillforts situated in North America.[4]

    Most Medieval maps included a region along the northern periphery of Europe that was called “Hyperborea.”  This placement followed Roman tradition that is seen in 15th century copies of maps by Pomponius Mela (1st century) and Macrobius (5th century)—Figure 2.  The Roman maps include a great gulf along the coast of Hyperborea that may well be an early representation for the Gulf of Mexico.  On the 1st century map, the gulf is shown near the North Pole.  It is called “The Caspian Sea.”  One region of this Caspian Sea that is mentioned in the geographical text by Pomponius Mela is called the Sinus Hyrcanius or “Gulf of Hurricanes.”  Aristotle describes hurricanes as being most common in autumn in his Meteorology Book II, Chapter 6.[5]  Since hurricanes are generally considered to be storms of the Western Atlantic or Caribbean, it makes sense to regard the Gulf of Hurricanes on the 1st century map as showing that region.[6]  This interpretation is confirmed by the Macrobius map which portrays the Caspian Sea as being directly across from Europe or in a region that the Romans regarded as “India Superior”—hence the “Indies” of Columbus.  The configuration of this western Caspian Gulf on the Macrobius map closely follows the actual shape of the Gulf of Mexico — with a peculiar macro-peninsula in the approximate location of Florida.


    Theories About Ancient Maps of the New World

    The idea that ancient maps might actually show New World isles gained credence with the publication of a treatise on maps by the Argentine scholar Dick Ibarra-Grasso.[7] He noted that an eastern mainland on a map by the Roman geographer Claudius Ptolemy circa 140 AD was in the approximate location of Peru. Ptolemy called this mainland “Cattigara.” His map shows the mainland east of Asia across the Sinus Magnus or “ Great Gulf.” Since Magellan identified this “Great Gulf” as the Pacific Ocean, Ibarra-Grasso reasoned that Cattigara (being the eastern shore of the Pacific) had to represent Peru as it was known to the Romans.[8]

    Several other scholars believe they have found evidence of New World lands on ancient maps. Mexican historian Gustavo Vargas Martinez has identified a map by Henricus Martellus Germanus (1489) which might include the coast of Brazil.[9] Hjalmar Holand has suggested that the Polar Region of Martin Behaim’s globe (1490-92) portrays isles in the vicinity of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.[10] In 1965, the British map historian, R.A. Skelton, and his associates at Yale University introduced the “Vinland Map” which they thought included the region of North America between Greenland and Cape Cod.[11]

    These examples have limited value in a scientific study because they represent only isolated specimens. Evidence which Ibarra-Grasso, Martinez, Skelton, and Holland have given to support their theories tends to be anecdotal, literary, and conjectural. Each contender represents a different area of the globe: Peru, Brazil, the East Coast of North America, and the Polar Regions. Holand’s theory must take into consideration that Behaim’s globe has suffered from decay and questionable reconstruction.[12] The Yale map remains under a cloud of controversy in spite of reports from UC-Davis that the composition of its ink and paper were similar to those used in the Gutenberg Bible.[13] Lacking any systematic basis for comparison, these documents hardly challenge the popular belief that: “Columbus put the New World on the map.”

    Following the lead of Ibarra-Grasso, researchers at the New World Discovery Institute began a review of cartographic materials seeking evidence to support or refute the theory of New World isolation in ancient times. The appropriate test of the theory seemed to be the date at which scientific cartography of the New World actually began. If Columbus was the first person to use scientific equipment and techniques to measure the location of Caribbean isles, then he was effectively the first person to begin the process of putting the New World on scientific maps. On the other hand, if someone else used scientific equipment in the New World at an earlier date, we would expect to find cartographic evidence.

    Consideration of such a possibility was not unreasonable. Indeed, Romans had produced fairly accurate surveys of the Mediterranean region by the 2nd century—hence maps in the Ptolemaic tradition. These maps employ longitudes and latitudes for the accurate arrangement of land areas. The Chinese had produced highly accurate maps of Asia in the 12th century. One example of this craft, an inscribed stone tablet, is on exhibit at the British Museum. By the 12th century, Arabian scholars had devised sophisticated astrolabes, and they had improved upon Ptolemy’s map of the Oecumene by determining the accurate length of the Mediterranean Sea.

    There was another reason for believing that there might be evidence of early scientific mapping of the New World. An English scientist, Roger Bacon, had proposed the creation of a scientific map of the world in 1266.[14] In accordance with Ptolemy’s guidelines, the map was to have a base meridian along with longitudes and latitudes. Bacon realized that contemporary knowledge of the world was inadequate, so he envisioned field expeditions to survey unknown regions (principally in the Western Hemisphere).

    Although Bacon died before his proposal could be implemented, the concept of a scientific map inspired the deans at his alma mater—Oxford University. In the early 14th century, William Rede and Simon Burton trained cadres of friars in surveying and celestial observation with the intention of making Bacon’s dream a reality.[15] They established an astronomical observatory for making the essential baseline measurements of celestial phenomena, and they built a factory for the manufacture of astrolabes.

    Oxford friars with astrolabes traveled about the Northern Regions from Norway to Greenland by the mid-14th century. It is hardly surprising that the Medici Atlas of 1351 shows the Arctic isle of Greenland (Aloland) for the first time in its correct position northwest of England. This positioning was dependent upon use of astrolabes. These instruments enabled the geographical placement of land areas by measuring their relationship to celestial objects. It was a more laborious process than using compass bearings to construct maps. However, maps based on compass coordinates led many mariners and cartographers to believe that Greenland was due north or even east of Norway. This misplacement was a consequence of the geophysical phenomenon of magnetic declination. Due to the location of the magnetic pole near Hudson’s Bay, isles in that direction including Greenland have an erroneous compass bearing of “north” when in fact their geographical location relative to Norway is almost due west.

    According to testimonials by Gerhard Mercator, an Oxford Franciscan traveled in the so-called “Polar Regions” for the purpose of making a map during the 14th century.[16] Mercator’s information on the subject was derived from the journal of a Dutch traveler, Jacob Cnoyen. According to Cnoyen, the friar’s travelogue, Inventio Fortunatae, was completed circa 1360 and presented to King Edward III.

    The Inventio Fortunatae (or Discovery of The Fortunate Isles) is not unknown to historians. Columbus mentioned the document in a letter to Bristol merchant John Day in 1496. The mariner’s son Ferdinand wrote that his father had seen the travelogue prior to his first voyage west. In addition to Mercator, cartographers John Ruysch (1508) and Cornelius Judaeus (1593) also attributed the Polar Regions on their maps to the Inventio. English historians made a fruitless effort to find the friar’s travelogue in the late 16th century. Since that time, it has been presumed lost.

    Most historians have regarded Cnoyen’s account of voyages to the “Polar Regions” as a blatant fantasy. This is due to the extreme cold near the North Pole and the mythical design of the Arctic on maps that Mercator attributed to Roman philosophers and the Franciscan survey of the Far North. Mercator’s maps show a magnetic mountain at the North Pole surrounded by four gigantic isles. The magnetic mountain was a fantasy of Roman philosophers who sought an explanation for why magnetic compass needles pointed towards the north.[17] Several historians regard Cnoyen’s account of voyages to temperate isles beyond Iceland as a plagiarized version of the Arctic derived from Icelandic folklore.

    Researchers at the New World Discovery Institute realized that the friar’s tale of Arctic exploration included elements of fact that deserved closer scrutiny. According to Mercator, the English Franciscan traveled to a place called “the magnetic regions.” Roman philosophers had speculated that the “magnetic regions” were situated at the North Pole—site of the mythical magnetic mountain. However we found testimony in the Nancy Manuscript (1424) that the pole of the Western Hemisphere was situated at 66°N.[18]  This second “pole” would have been a magnetic pole in the thinking of most Medieval clerics who had not yet conceived of Earth having a pole of rotation. But what was a magnetic pole doing so far south?

    We found our answer by tabulating the record of Earth’s wandering magnetic pole. When James Ross and William Peary identified the location of the magnetic pole in 1818, it was located near Lancaster Sound at 71°N-96°W. Subsequent field measurements recorded the location of the pole in 1903, 1945, 1959, 1963, and 1980. During this time, it moved northwest to 77°N-102°W.[19] Thus successive measurements indicate a generally northwestward movement of 6°N and 6°W during a time period of less than two centuries. By extrapolating the movement of the magnetic pole back in time, it is not unreasonable to suspect that the pole might have been even farther south in the 14th century. Although the report of a magnetic pole at 66°N in the Nancy Manuscript is probably a crude approximation of its actual latitude, it represents the earliest historic reference to the location of the magnetic pole. A competent surveyor who traveled west from Iceland in that era could have noted the discrepancy between the location of Polaris (in winter months) and the direction for north indicated by a magnetic compass.

    Another intriguing idea emerged from our review of historical documents. We reasoned that the terms “magnetic regions” and “Hyperborea” might correspond to Roman ideas of temperate lands near Hudson’s Bay. Until the 16th century, most cosmographers regarded the magnetic pole as being congruent with the celestial pole, although a few forward thinkers had already calculated magnetic declination by the 15th century.[20] So it seemed possible to us that a failure to distinguish between the two kinds of poles (geographic versus magnetic) might have resulted in some of the discrepancies we encountered on ancient maps.

    Since Medieval mariners depended upon magnetic compasses, it seemed like a reasonable possibility that geomagnetism and magnetic declination were factors that had to be considered in the study of ancient cartography. If ancient mariners mistakenly believed that isles found in temperate climates near the magnetic pole were located north of Europe, instead of in their true positions towards the west, then this geophysical phenomenon might explain the misplacement of New World isles in the Polar Regions on Medieval maps. Thus, Mercator’s account of 14th-century surveying expeditions in the Polar Regions suggested to us that this was the area on maps where we should look for evidence of a scientific survey of the New World.

    DeVirga’s Map of Hyperborea

    After nearly two years of examining old maps in archives and portfolios in museum collections in Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, and the United States, our efforts were rewarded in November of 1994. We found a copy of what appears to be the Franciscan geographical survey hidden along the northern margins of a map by the Venetian cartographer Albertin DeVirga.[21] This map (Figure 3) is variously dated between 1411 and 1415—although 1414 seems to be the year that scholars use most often. Albert Figdor found the map in a Croatian antique store in 1911. Viennese Professor Franz Von Wieser authenticated the map in 1912 after comparing it to another DeVirga map in the Bibliotheque National in Paris.[22] The map was photographed in 1912 and again in 1932. Although the map has subsequently disappeared, the photographs contain sufficient details to confirm that scientific surveys of the New World took place prior to the 15th century.

    The photograph, which we found in an atlas of antique maps, proved to be the key to our search for evidence of scientific maps of the New World. DeVirga’s map has two unusual continents. In addition to the customary Old World continents, there is a continent called “Norveca” attached to the northwest coast of Norway; and a second continent called “Ca-paru or Great India” situated southeast of Asia. Von Weiser assumed that the extra continents were marvelous impressions of Greenland and Japan.[23] But it seems more likely in the context of ancient cartography that we are seeing early versions of North and South America.

    Norveca was a Medieval name for a Norwegian province (a.k.a., Norbega). By the 16th century, this region of North America was known as Nor-um-bega which some writers regard as a clear derivative of the Nordic word Nor-bega. This region corresponds to the Roman legend of a Hyperborean paradise. The Oxford Survey of this region (Figure 4) follows the 14th century Oxford/Medici cartographic practice of showing Aloland (a.k.a., Greenland) west of Norway. This version of the Northern Regions, first seen in Medici maps ca. 1350, follows the known expeditions of English Franciscans to map the north. Although Venetians, Majorcan Jews, and the Arabs had the technical capability of making such maps, only the English Franciscans are known by historical documentation to have surveyed the region.

    One historical document pertaining to the naming of New World territory as a Nordic province (Norveca) is the declaration of sovereignty by King Haakon IV of Norway-Sweden in 1261.[24] This declaration placed all the isles from the Baltic to the North Pole under Nordic jurisdiction. Among the Nordic “Polar Isles” were Iceland, Greenland, and Landanu (that is, “the New Land”). We can identify Landanu as an early title for the region of Newfoundland or Nova Scotia, because Icelandic sagas specify that Landanu was situated towards the southwest. Thus, historical and cartographic data combine to reveal that the Nordic concept of “Polar Regions” included temperate isles near the magnetic pole of Hudson’s Bay.

    The most distinguishing feature of the Hyperborean continent on DeVirga’s map is a macro-peninsula that appears to terminate near the North Pole above a huge gulf called “the Caspian Sea.” A map by the 1st century Roman geographer Pomponius Mela has the “Caspian Sea” directly north of Europe near the North Pole—at about the same place where it appears in the DeVirga map.

    Florida on Ancient Maps

    After examining the DeVirga map, we suspected that the macro-peninsula of Hyperborea/Norveca might be an early version of Florida. We would naturally expect to find a macro-peninsula above a huge gulf on scientific maps of America, because that is the actual configuration of the New World shoreline. The apparent misplacement of this macro-peninsula near the North Pole on DeVirga’s map can be understood in the context of the infancy of cartography. In this case, the cartographer attempted to show land areas from two hemispheres within the confines of a single circle.  He also had to deal with the inherent difficulties encountered when portraying Arctic regions where the effects of converging meridians and magnetic declination are most pronounced.

    Having identified one ancient map with a macro-peninsula in the shape of Florida, our next goal was to find more examples. We realized that a single map was subject to varying interpretations. On the other hand, a sufficiently large collection of maps would enable scientific analysis that would transcend the inadequacies of individual specimens. We proposed to examine a sample of maps on the basis of several parameters including provenance, date of the drawing, name of the land form, configuration of the shore, and geographical position as indicated with respect to longitude and latitude. If these parameters were consistent with real world characteristics, or if they showed significant relationships with each other, then we would have a basis for ruling out the random influence of Medieval fantasy.

    Subsequent to our identification of Florida on the DeVirga map, we have found 13 maps dating before Columbus that feature a macro-peninsula across the Atlantic from Europe. Leading scholars have authenticated all of these maps; many of them can be found in atlases of the Late Medieval and Early Renaissance. Data from these maps are summarized in Tables I and II.

    Table 1: Macro-Peninsula on Ancient Maps

    author/map          date   source              lat. N   miles

    Macrobius          440    Roman                45°      ?

    Sanudo              1320    Italian                 45°      ?

    DeVirga            1414    Ven./Fran.       polar?     ?

    Yale Vinland    1440    Swiss/Fran.        38°      ?

    Florentine         1447    Florence             40°      ?

    Genoese            1457    Genoa                 40°      ?

    Florida              2000    Mod.Atlas          25°   3,500

    Table II: Portuguese Macro-Peninsula/Antillia

    Bianco (a)         1436    Ven./Port.           35°   1000

    Bianco (b)        1436    Ven./Port.          30°    1000

    Mauro               1459    Ven./Port.           25°      ?

    Toscanelli         1474    Flor./Port.          20°   4,500

    Martellus          1489    Ger./Ven.            23°   4,000

    Martellus          1490    Ger./Ven.            23°   4,000

    Behaim             1492    Ger./Port.           23°   4,500

    Florida              2000    Mod. Atlas         25°   3,500

    The latitudes of the tip of the macro-peninsula can be estimated by comparing their locations to reference points in Europe. Estimating the distance of mainland west across the Atlantic is a more speculative matter as few of the maps give any indication of longitude or the equatorial distance between points of reference.

    Cartographers adjusted the latitude of the macro-peninsula over time bringing it closer to the actual location of the southern tip of Florida (at about 25°N). Macrobius (440) and Sanudo (1320) placed the macro-peninsula at about 45°N. Henricus Martellus (1489 & 1490) and Martin Behaim (1492) brought the macro-peninsula down to the Tropic of Cancer (23°27’N) or just a bit south of the actual latitude of Florida. This is the kind of increasing accuracy we might expect if explorers and cartographers refined their measurements over time. We noticed that in Table II, maps attributed to the Portuguese or the cartographers working in their service have a particularly high degree of accuracy. The Bianco maps are only 5° too far north, although the longitude seems to be off by 2,500 miles. This error could be attributed to the infancy of cartography or simply the perspective of the map. By 1474, the Portuguese estimate of longitude is within a thousand miles, and by 1489, the latitude is right on the mark for Florida.

    This degree of accuracy with respect to both longitude and latitude can not be attributed to coincidence.  Indeed, historical accounts confirm the role of ancient New World explorers in the pre-Columbus effort to make a scientific map of the Western Isles. We have already considered the 14th century expeditions of Oxford Franciscans. Prince Henry The Navigator of Portugal and King John II sent numerous explorers west seeking the location of mainland referred to as “Antillia” or the “Isle of Seven Cities” in the 15th century.[25] Among these Lusitanian navigators were Goncalo Cabral, Joao Fernandes, Vincent Dias, Diego de Tieve, Dom Fernao, Joao Vogado, Jao Vaz Corte-Real and sons, Ruy Concalves, Fernao Telles, Fernao Dulmo, and Martin Behaim—to name a few. Columbus, himself, believed that the Portuguese had succeeded in reaching Antillia and the mainland beyond—although not by the route that he proposed.

    Of the 13 maps in our sample, 5 are known to have come from Portuguese sources, and another 4 are from cartographers with Portuguese connections. These include the English Franciscans who served King Edward III. Their knowledge was apparently passed on to Prince Henry The Navigator who was the great-grandson of Edward III. Andrea Bianco and Fra Mauro were Venetians serving the Portuguese. Paolo Toscanelli was a Florentine whose correspondence with King John II and Columbus is sometimes credited with launching the “Enterprise of The Indies.” Martin Behaim, a German expatriate working as a cartographer in Lisbon, was associated with the same guild as Columbus and his brother Bartholomew. Henricus Martellus (a German monk working in Florence) made maps showing the latest Portuguese surveys of Africa.

    The maps in our sample manifest increasing accuracy with respect to longitude or the distance of the macro-peninsula west of Europe (Figure 5). A temporal analysis indicates that the location of the macro-peninsula gets closer to the actual location of Florida. Although most of the earlier maps lack sufficient reference points for estimating the distance separating the so-called “Asian mainland” from the west coast of Europe, it is possible in the later examples to estimate the distance. This can be done by multiplying the number of degrees of longitude across the ocean times the given distance of a degree (as determined by contemporary estimates) or by comparing the space on the map to the known distance between two points on the European coast.

    The earliest map allowing such an estimate is Andrea Bianco’s world map of 1436. On this map, the macro-peninsula is attached to a large island called “Antillia.” This name signifies “land opposite tile” (the Roman name for Iceland). The distance west to Antillia is about twice the north-south length of the Iberian coast—or about 800 miles. Since Antillia is also placed west of the Azores by about an equal distance between the Azores and Lisbon, we have another possible estimate of the distance at almost 2,000 miles. The disparity in the two estimates can be attributed to the difficulty in determining longitude without a chronometer and the lack of uniformity in portraying land areas on Early Renaissance maps.

    By 1492, three cartographers (Toscanelli, Martellus, and Behaim) indicated that the macro-peninsula (called “India Tercer” or “Zaiton”) was situated between 90° and 110° west of Europe. Since they believed that Earth had a diameter of about 18,000 miles (the current estimate by Alfraganus), we can calculate the distance between Europe and the overseas coast on the Tropic of Cancer at about 4,000 miles.[26] This estimate is about 500 miles over the actual distance between Florida and Europe. Columbus came up with a similar estimate of 3,000 miles from the Canary Islands to Japan. Considering that contemporary scholars believed that the coast of China was considerably farther west, modern historians have been perplexed by the incredible accuracy of the Columbus estimate.


    The increasing accuracy of Late Medieval maps with respect to the configuration of the coastline across the Atlantic from Europe seems to have resulted from the cumulative knowledge of numerous explorations. There is a continuous record of Portuguese voyages to Antillia or The Isle of Seven Cities at the same time that cartographers in their service increased the accuracy of the location of the macro-peninsula (Zaiton/Antillia/Florida) across from Europe.

    The importance of this macro-peninsula for New World exploration in the 15th century is that Marco Polo identified Zaiton as the location of thriving ports in Cathay (China). According to Polo, Toscanelli, Martellus, and Behaim, the Island of Cipangu (Japan) was situated between 500 and 1,500 miles east of Zaiton. Japan was the initial destination of Columbus in 1492 from which he expected to visit China and the Indies. When he found land about where it was located on his maps (which were based on Portuguese sources), he was convinced that he had reached his destination—Japan. Subsequently, he deduced from a comparison of actual coastlines to his map that Cuba was the macro-peninsula (Zaiton); and he assumed that Hispaniola (Haiti) was Japan.[27] Historian Peter Martyr indicated that this Japan of Columbus was previously known to the Portuguese as “Antillia.”

    Columbus seems to have been misled by bogus Portuguese maps. Considering the sophistication of Portuguese geographical knowledge and the king’s desire to protect commercial interests in Africa and India, it is conceivable that they issued maps showing Zaiton 4,000 miles west of Europe in a deliberate effort to mislead Spanish competitors.[28]

    The collection of maps in our sample attests to a gradual modification of a place called “Antillia” or “Isle of Seven Cities” during the course of numerous Portuguese voyages into the western Atlantic. We can trace the cartographic evolution of Antillia into Florida by comparing the Bianco map of 1436 with the so-called “Cantino Map” of 1502—Figure 6.  Antillia has the same name, same shape, and about the same location on both maps.[29] Geographical features on the coast of the macro-peninsula of the Cantino Map are identical to those used on Martin Waldseemuller’s map of 1507—at which time the macro-peninsula is joined to mainland that he calls “America”—Figure 7.  Most subsequent maps of the New World naming “Florida” derive from Waldseemuller’s map or from the Cantino Map—which can ultimately be traced back to Bianco’s map of 1436.

    Following voyages by Amerigo Vespucci past Cuba in 1497, the Portuguese calculated the distance between Europe and the macro-peninsula at 65°. This is where it appears on Waldseemuller’s map in 1507. The actual distance in degrees of longitude between Europe and Florida is about 71°. This increased accuracy was made possible because Vespucci had invented a new method for calculating longitude.[30]

    The presence of mainland on maps having the configuration of Florida before it was “officially” discovered by Ponce DeLeon has not escaped the notice of mainstream historians.  Nebenzahl noted that the Florida-like coast on the Cantino Map (1502) was “the greatest unsolved cartographic puzzle of the period.”[31] A similar coastline is found on the Caveri map of 1504. Strangely, historians credit DeLeon with “discovering” Florida in spite of the fact that it was already on the map.[32] Incredibly, DeLeon’s two expeditions produced no known map of the region nor is there any apparent modification visible on subsequent maps of Florida.

    If the 15th century copy of the Macrobius map is an accurate reproduction of the original Roman document, then we seem to have cartographic evidence of Roman voyages to the New World. Aristotle and Pliny The Elder mentioned voyages to isles in the west—indicating the possibility of some familiarity with mainland in that direction.[33] Thus, it should not come as any great surprise that the configuration of mainland west of Europe is similar to that of the Americas on ancient Roman maps. We also find the macro-peninsula on a map by Marino Sanudo in 1320—suggesting that the Roman tradition continued to influence geographical concepts during the High Middle Ages.

    While the case for Roman voyages remains speculative, our examination of cartographic evidence does not support the theory of New World isolation prior to Columbus. Data on the configurations of western coastlines with respect to the longitude and latitude of the macro-peninsula do not reflect the kind of random features we would anticipate if they were merely the result of “Medieval fantasies.” On the contrary, they manifest a surprising degree of uniformity and scientific accuracy. Maps of this region were refined over time in the context of exploratory voyages so that prior to Columbus, the Portuguese had an accurate idea of the location of Florida. This knowledge led to an assessment on the part of Columbus that his proposed venture to sail west was feasible. After Columbus used an astrolabe to calculate the latitude of his landfall in 1492, he was convinced that he had found land where he expected it to be.



    [1] According to Jacob Cnoyen’s Travels in the Northern Regions, in Taylor, E. (1956), “A Letter Dated 1577 from Mercator to John Dee,” in Imago Mundi, Vol. 13, “the philosophers” were the source for the belief in a magnetic mountain at the North Pole.

    [2] Bacon, R. Opus Majus (1266). Translation in Burke, R. (1928) The Opus Majus of Roger Bacon (University Press, Philadelphia), p. 327.

    [3] See The Hakluyt Society 1893, The Voyages of Captain Luke Foxe (No. 88), p. 13-15, and Jacob Cnoyen’s Travels in the Northern Regions, in Taylor, E. (1956).

    [4] See Thompson, G. (1996) The Friar’s Map (Argonauts, Seattle).

    [5] Alder, M. The World of Aristotle, Encyclopedia Britannica, Chicago, 1952, p. 470.

    [6] Most dictionaries and encyclopedias indicate that the word “hurricane” is derived from the Native American word “hurakan” encountered often in Mayan tradition. It is generally regarded as a post-Columbus import to Europe, however it is seen on numerous Medieval maps near the western Caspian Sea and was known to Aristotle.

    [7] Ibarra-Grasso, D. (1970) La representacion de America en Mapas romanos de tiempos de Cristo (Eddiciones Ibarra-Grasso, Buenos Aires). Harley, J. and Woodward, D., Eds. (1987) The History of Cartography (Chicago, U. Press).

    [8] Boorstin, D. (1983) The Discoverers, (Random House, New York), p. 264, identifies Magellan as calling the Pacific “Ptolemy’s Great Gulf.”

    [9] Martinez, G. (1996) America en un mapa de 1489 (Taller Abierto, Mexico).

    [10] Holand, H. (1956) Explorations in America before Columbus (New York), pp. 303-5.

    [11] Skelton, R., Marston, T., and Painter, G. (1965) The Vinland Map and The Tarter Relation (Yale, New Haven).

    [12] Babcock, W. (1922) Legendary Isles of the Atlantic (Geographical Society, New York), p. 47, notes that the current reconstruction of Behaim’s globe may not be as accurate as some of the copies made before the repairs were done.

    [13] See Thompson, G. (1996) The Friar’s Map (Argonauts, Seattle), pp. 65-71.

    [14] Bacon, R. in Burke, R. (1928), p. 311.

    [15] Poole, A. (1958) Medieval England (Clarendon, Oxford), p. 592.

    [16] Mercator’s documentation of the Franciscan survey is contained in his map of 1565. It is also found in Taylor, E. (1956) Imago Mundi, Netherlands, 13, pp. 56-68.

    [17]Taylor (1956). Mecator attributes the idea of a magnetic mountain to “the Philosophers”—suggesting that Romans used the compass.

    [18] Nansen, F. (1911) In Northern Mists (AMS, New York), Vol. I, p. 262. Thompson (1996) pp. 145-149, 282-285.

    [19] Thompson (1996) pp. 285-87. In 1989, the magnetic pole was near 75°N-101°W.

    [20] Collinder, A. (1954) Marine Navigation, p. 46, mentions that a Flemish gnomon dated 1451 is marked for declination. Waters, D. (1992) Mariner’s Mirror, UK 78 (4), pp. 398-99, indicates knowledge of declination as seen on Portuguese maps by 1375.

    [21] It is not uncommon for historians to exclude the northern portion of Martin Behaim’s globe out of a misconception that the area is of no significance to New World discovery.

    [22] This map and its authentication have been the subject of several recent articles. Durst, A. (1996) Cartographica Helvetica, Switzerland, 13, pp. 10-21. Thompson, G. (1996) WAML Info. Bul. USA 27 (2), pp. 65-77. Thompson, G. (1999) WAML Information Bulletin USA 30 (4).

    [23] Ca-paru is the earliest known portrayal of Peru. The coastline is very similar to the coast of Peru on a modern map. Thompson (1996), pp. 153-174.

    [24] Tornoe, J. (1965) Columbus in the Arctic (Broggers, Oslo).Thompson (1996), 46-53.

    [25] Thompson (1996), pp. 175-244.

    [26] Nebenzahl (1990), p.13, calculates the distance between Europe and Japan on maps by Martellus and Behaim at 3,500 miles or 90°.  Harley, J. (1990) Maps and the Columbus Encounter (Maier, Milwaukee) indicates the distance at 4,250 miles.

    [27] Thompson (1999).

    [28] Thompson, G. (1999).

    [29] Thompson (1999).

    [30] Pohl, F. (1991) Enc. Americana, 28, p. 56, says Vespucci used this method to estimate the circumference of Earth to within 50 miles of the correct distance.

    [31] Nebenzahl (1990), p.34.

    [32] Nebenzahl (1990), p. 34, suggests that Vespucci might have been responsible for the Florida map—but it predates his voyage of 1497. Other mariners who might have had a role in the cartography include John Cabot and Nicholas of Lynn—an Oxford monk that Richard Hakluyt identified as the author of Inventio Fortunatae in Thompson (1996), p. 75-153).

    [33] Galvano, A. (1563) in Babcock (1922) mentions that Roman mariners found mainland across the Atlantic at 50°N.

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