Mysterious Text Suggests Europeans Knew of America Long Before Columbus Set Sail

Experts are fascinated by the details of how and when people settled in North America. Now, a new analysis of old documents sheds light on some of these lesser-known details.
An alleged reference to North America's Atlantic coast was found in a document by a Milanese friar dated around 1345. This suggests that the Italian sailors knew about the continent 150 years ago before Christopher Columbus set sail.

The work, entitled Cronica universalis, was authored by Galvaneus Flama in Latin. It is currently unpublished. Galvaneus attempts in it to describe the history of the whole world from its creation until the 14th century.

Paolo Chiesa, a professor at the University of Milan's Department of Literary Studies, Philology and Linguistics, said, "We are in fact in the presence of the initial reference to the American continent, even though in an embryonic state, in the Mediterranean region."

Galvaneus mentions Marckalada west of Greenland. This land matches the Markland region that several Icelandic sources have mentioned. This most likely refers to Labrador or Newfoundland in modern times.

It is possible that Marckalada/Markland was discovered by the friar through contacts and information from Genoa, just south of Milan. This raises the question about what Columbus may have expected to find when setting sail for the west in 1492.

Although the information in the document suggests that giants roam Marckalada at the time, it is still compatible with other accounts of the North American region such as the Grnlendinga Saga and a significant Icelandic text.

Chiesa says in the study that Marckalada's passage is unique because of its geographic provenance. This is not the Nordic region, as it was in the case with the other mentions. It is northern Italy.

Galvaneus describes the Marckalada as 'rich in tree'. It is not unlike the Grnlendinga Saga's wooded Markland, where animals live.

This contrasts with descriptions of other North lands at the time. Greenland, for example, was described as "bleak and barren" despite the fact that there is no evidence that Italian seafarers ever ventured there.

Columbus was born in Genoa. However, he traveled to Spain on his famous voyage. It's possible that Columbus would have heard tales about North American land from mariners who visited the port.

Genoa was well-known for having good connections with the north. This is evident by the advanced geography of charts drawn there at Galvaneus' time. It supports the notion that the friar knew what he was talking about.

Although it doesn't appear that any Italian or Catalan sailors have ever reached Greenland or Iceland, they are likely to have heard stories from the area on trading routes.

Chiesa says that "these rumors were too vague for consistency in cartographic and scholarly representations."

Terrae Incognitae published the research.