Who Discovered America?
History is often a difficult subject to teach or understand - Who Discovered America? introduction. Students are expected to learn, memorize and “spit out” names, dates and important significances of historical moments dating back to the early centuries B.C.E. Sometimes students use the aid of a catchy rhyme to help them remember something important, such as: In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. Though the rhyme gives no specific importance, it calls to mind the date that Columbus set sail from Spain, accidentally discovering America in the process. Ironically, Columbus was about 600 years late in discovering America. The Vikings had accidentally done so in the late tenth century (Holand 28-29). Therefore, Columbus should not be credited with the discovery of the Americas; though, (through some fluke of historical inaccuracy), his voyage is hailed significant by most, if not all, history texts.
One important fact overlooked by most Europeans of Columbus’ time is the fact that there were already multiple native civilizations stretched across the Americas. The most widely accepted belief is that which states the first American inhabitants migrated here from Asia during the Ice Age (Tindall 1-2). Then, having evolved from Asian background in cultures developed similarly, though evolved differently, into what is known as native Indian cultures. Ecuadorian pottery is a good example of this, “dating from about 3000 – 2000 B. C., bears a striking resemblance to Japanese pottery of the time” (Tindall 1).
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Another historical fact that refute Columbus’s claim to the discovery of America is the Viking voyages of the “ninth to the twelfth century [centuries],” (Morison The European Discovery of America: The Northern Voyages 32), specifically the voyages of Bjarni Herjulfson. Though short lived, the Vikings had settlements in the northeast islands of North America, most notably, Greenland. Bjarni, according to his custom, spent every alternate winter with his father Herjulf. In the fall of 986 B.C.E. Bjarni docked in the coastal town of Eyrar, Iceland. Upon hearing his father inhabited Greenland for the winter (Holand 27-29), Bjarni left in search of his father. After spotting several lands west of Greenland, he finally arrived at his father’s farm which “has been since called Herjulfsness” (Holand 29) (in what today is called Herjolfsnes Cape).
Though Bjarni Herjulfson never set foot on the lands west of Greenland, the documentation of these lands prove there was a new world long before Columbus discovered the Caribbean Islands. The significance of Columbus’ voyage still holds credit. It paved the way for European colonization of the Americas and the development of the culture we know today. It also allowed for the growth of major European nations Spain, Portugal, France and England. As history would have these world powers compete to develop the New World, Columbus would go down in history. To the point “when the day of Columbus’s first landfall in the New World is celebrated throughout the length and breadth of the Americas . . .” (Morison The Great Explorers: The European Discovery of America 546-547). Sadly, his predecessors receive no such credit to their names beyond a blurb in a text and maybe a small footnote in the bottom of an essay.