Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Ancient Exploration

By Matthew Zuk

Chinese Map of the World from AD 1418

Throughout The Genius of Ancient Man we mention that worldwide travel was around long before Columbus “discovered” the New World. However, the question remains: how many civilizations had the capability to travel worldwide?

From Scripture we know that after God’s judgment at the Tower of Babel the nations dispersed over the face of the Earth (Genesis 11:8-9). However, it has long been taught that worldwide travel was non-existent until the 15th and 16th century AD. Today historians now reject that idea and instead hold that numerous civilizations were capable of navigating the oceans. So not only was there worldwide travel during the dispersion, but it is very possible that man maintained worldwide travel long after the dispersion at Babel. This comes as no surprise because we know from the Bible that man was created highly intelligent.

Who was capable of worldwide travel?

A Phoenician Ship

The Phoenicians: One of the most advanced sea-faring civilizations to ever come into being (circa 1500-500 B.C.), the Phoenicians were world renowned for their navigational and engineering skills. It is believed by some historians that both the Phoenicians as well as the Carthaginians (the western “tribe” based in modern day Tunisia) could sail across the Atlantic at will.[1]

Jonathan Gray (a controversial author and archaeologist) claims that there are Phoenician inscriptions found in North America and Brazil. Others claim that there are linguistic similarities in the Phoenician, Samoan and Tahiti languages. It is also believed that the Phoenicians may have even sailed around Africa. Many claim that it may have been the Phoenicians who spread the idea that the Atlantic Ocean was not navigable, thereby becoming the sole civilization with access to the Americas. However, the idea that the Phoenicians made it to America is still a debated topic and is not confirmed, though it has become much more popular in recent years.[2]

Minoan fresco discovered on Akrotiri

The Minoans: The idea that the Minoans made it to the Americas is highly intriguing and makes sense, however there is not very much evidence to support it. The basis for this theory is the copper mines found around Lake Superior in Michigan. There are many mines in this area and yet we find very little copper from the natives. The questions were raised, where did all the copper go? And who took it?

The Minoans were among the greatest traders of their time and it is known that they traded a great deal of copper to the Egyptians. While it is typically believed that they mined this copper from Cyprus, some hold that the mines on Cyprus were insufficient to supply the Egyptians as well as the Minoans with the massive amounts of copper they used. This gave rise to the idea that they might have gotten their copper from the mines around Lake Superior. The Minoans were well known for their seafaring ability and so it is very possible that they were able to navigate the Atlantic with their technology and seamanship. There are also drawings of boats around the mines in Michigan that do appear similar in looks to a Minoan ship. However, it remains just a theory, It will require more evidence before the academic world will accept the idea.[3] 

Artist's depiction of Saint Brendan

The Irish: According to legend, Saint Brendan of Ireland sailed from Ireland to North America around AD 530 to further spread Christianity. He supposedly travelled to modern day Connecticut (on a similar route to Leif Erickson via Greenland) where we find stone dwellings today. These dwellings have structures aligned with the solstices and equinoxes, which would have been important to Brendan as that was a way the Christians of that time determined the timing of Easter. It is said that Christopher Columbus was highly intrigued by the voyages of Saint Brendan, adding partial credibility to Brendan’s voyage. However, at this point in time Brendan’s voyage is the subject of great debate and it is yet unconfirmed whether he actually made it to the Americas.[4]

A depiction of the Polynesian "Te Puke"'a,_a_prototype_of_ancient_Polynesian_boats.jpg

Polynesians: Existing around AD 1000, the Polynesians are among the greatest navigators in history. They spread out from the Asian coast and spread throughout the Pacific, inhabiting over a thousand islands (every island in the Pacific in fact). Everywhere from Easter Island to Cook Islands the Polynesians proved themselves to be very capable engineers. Their primary vessel was known as the Te Puke. It was up to sixty feet long and is built with double hulls, providing increased stability even in the open seas. They used crab claw sails with 1,500 feet of lashing.

More evidence for their travel to and from South America is the existence of chicken bones in Chile from before the Spanish introduction of chickens to the Americas. Chickens were a main source of food for the Polynesians and they would carry them on their long voyages. Sweet potatoes from Chile have also been found on Polynesian islands; they were not native to any of the islands they were grown in. The Polynesians' unique boat construction was also found in use by the natives of both modern day California and Chile.

It is now almost universally believed that the Polynesians populated the Pacific islands and made it to the coasts of the Americas, they are widely regarded as the most successful navigators and seafarers in history.[5]

Statue of Lief Ericson

The Vikings: This is among the most famous North American voyages and one of the few that is undisputed among modern historians. Led by famed explorer Leif Ericson around AD 1000, the Norse Vikings established settlements in Newfoundland; According to these explorers they went even further to a land they called Vinland (which means either land of grapes or land of pastures). While no clear-cut evidence for this inland exploration has been found, the absence of this evidence doesn’t necessarily mean evidence of its absence.[6]

Chinese "Junk" ship

The Chinese: A theory has been proposed that the Chinese travelled to America in AD 1421. This idea primarily comes from the histories of the Chinese. It is possible that they could have reached America even earlier as a map drawn by the Chinese in 1763 was supposedly derived from a map made in 1418. This map shows the entire world, including the coasts of North and South America and Africa.

It is certainly possible that they could have done this; their largest vessel (called a Junk) was 400 feet long and could have a crew as large as 500 men. This sea-craft was built with watertight bulkheads, making it very difficult to sink and could carry up to 1,500 tons of cargo. It is now widely accepted that the Chinese were sailing all over the world around a hundred years before Magellan’s voyage in 1519-1522.[7]


All of this just goes to show that worldwide travel was not only possible; it may have been utilized by many ancient civilizations. While many of these civilizations’ accounts of worldwide travel has yet to be confirmed, it can be said with certainty that this travel did take place. It is possible that due to the rising sea level after the ice age, it became increasingly difficult to navigate to the Americas. Also, many of the civilizations that had mastered navigation were destroyed by other nations, or even by cataclysmic events as with the Minoans. These nations' demise may have led to the loss of anyone able to navigate such a long voyage. Whatever the reason by the time of Christ it was very rare, even non-existent, for anyone to travel to the Americas or even around the coast of Africa.

The fact that man was able to navigate the ocean in ancient times doesn’t fit with the secular idea of ancient man. However, it goes along perfectly with the biblical account of man being created intelligent as well as the judgment at Babel scattering them across the face of the earth. Remember that our starting point must be the Bible when we look at any area of study.

The authority of Scripture must not be compromised; the Bible is the Word of God! Compromising the authority of Scripture is to compromise the authority of God. By twisting Scripture what we really do is twist what God has said, fitting it to our own way of thinking. Instead of fitting God’s Word to our thinking we need to accept what God’s Word says and change our thinking to match His Word. God is infinite, infallible, holy, righteous, all-powerful, all-knowing, just, and He cannot lie or change. We on the other hand are finite, sinful, depraved, limited in power and knowledge (and the only power and knowledge we have comes from God), fallible, and are subject to lying and changing. Thus why should we hold ourselves as the authority over the Word of God? We shouldn’t, God’s Word is the ultimate authority and all of our study needs to start with Scripture.

However, it is important to remember that the Bible is not just a book; it is the divine Word of God. Therefore we should approach it with reverence, we should approach it with awe! It doesn’t simply contain truth; it is truth! Praise God for giving us His Word and for granting us His amazing grace through His Son Jesus Christ!

Check out our interactive map showing ancient man sites around the world!

[1] Landis, Don. The Genius of Ancient Man: Evolution's Nightmare. Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2012.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Kafantaris, Tassos. "GREECE AND WORLD: MinoancColonies in America?." (accessed November 13, 2013).
[4] A&E Video. "Who Really Discovered America? (Real History Documentary) - YouTube." (accessed November 13, 2013).
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid.

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