We may have to discard the old Christopher Columbus Day ritual in the United States, as an ancient sheepskin map has recently surfaced that is getting the attention of American historians. The map has been held in the Library of Congress since the 1930s with very little fanfare or inspection.
The map in question is a drawing of the western coast line of what is now the United States, along with a design that includes Alaska and the Aleutian Islands. It is one of a group of 14 documents included in the “Map With Ship” collection. The document set was found in a trunk owned by an Italian immigrant before finding its way to the national library.
The ancient drawing appears to have been the personal property of Marco Polo, who predates Columbus by two centuries. It also suggests that Polo either came to America during his travels or found out about the area from Chinese or Asian explorers.
The real truth about Christoforo Columbo is that he was commissioned by the Spanish Royal Family to set out on a westward venture hoping to reach China. The real claim for Columbus is that he brought European influence to the North American area, and in many ways was much like his inspiration Marco Polo.
Columbus was also a journalist as well as a sailor and his fame has been borne out through his writing. Polo’s history is also largely a journalistic product of his book The Travels of Marco Polo, but the recent map clearly indicates the possibility that Polo had been to North America. At least, some travelers had knowledge of the shore line and topographic layout of the entire region. And, maybe fellow Italian Amerigo Vespucci had some similar knowledge, even though history has shown him to only be a cartographer.
But, rewrite American history? Probably not.