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Old 14-01-2006, 00:00   #1
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Post China Map Lays Claim To Americas

A map due to be unveiled in Beijing and London next week may lend weight to a theory a Chinese admiral discovered America before Christopher Columbus.
The map, which shows North and South America, apparently states that it is a 1763 copy of another map made in 1418.

If true, it could imply Chinese mariners discovered and mapped America decades before Columbus' 1492 arrival.

The map, which is being dated to check it was made in 1763, faces a lot of scepticism from experts.

Chinese characters written beside the map say it was drawn by Mo Yi Tong and copied from a map made in the 16th year of the Emperor Yongle, or 1418.

It clearly shows Africa and Australia.

The British Isles, however, are not marked.

Controversial claim

The map was bought for about $500 from a Shanghai dealer in 2001 by a Chinese lawyer and collector, Liu Gang.

According to the Economist magazine, Mr Liu only became aware of the map's potential significance after he read a book by British author Gavin Menzies.

The book, 1421: The Year China discovered America, made the controversial claim that a Chinese admiral and eunuch, Zheng He, sailed around the world and discovered America on the way.

Zheng He, a Muslim mariner and explorer, is widely thought to have sailed around South East Asia and India, but the claim he visited America is hotly disputed.

The map is now being tested to check the age of its paper and ink, with the results due to be known in February.

Even if it does prove to have been drawn in 1763, sceptics will point out that we still only have the mapmaker's word that he copied if from a 1418 map, rather than from a more recent one.

But for some, this would still not make the Chinese admiral the first modern discoverer of the Americas, as they believe that Viking Leif Eriksson sailed to north America in the year 1000.


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Old 14-01-2006, 08:10   #2
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Always interesting to unravel the past. I guess we do not count the Indians arrival around 10,000 years ago as a discovery. Neither do we count the South of France folks arrival of 7,000 years earlier. I guess to be found or discovered the event has to be reported correctly. This has happened with other discoveries or inventions. If you do not report it, you do not get the credit, and later it is hard to change what has been accepted. Like the guy in NZ flying his plane before the Wright brothers. I think DNA research is going so solve a lot of mysteries, which it already has.
The Indians in North America have four distinct DNA sources, but one group in the top right have a fifth that traces to the South of France. Their arrow heads and other tools also trace back to the same area. The Chinese needed a better press secretary, but how were they to know that at the time.
I always wondered why the Maori would set off towards the South and Southern ocean. Birds told them that there must be land down there, and the birds could show them the way.

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Old 14-01-2006, 08:39   #3
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Old 14-01-2006, 16:27   #4
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I read 1421, the book that reinvigorated this debate and also heard the author (Mr. Menzies) speak in Hong Kong.

The book is interesting and Menzies (an ex-submariner) obviously has a lot of passion for his subject matter, but some of the claims are hard to swallow.

Among the most difficult was his claim that the ships were 800-foot-long five-masted wooden behemouths. That would make them the largest structures ever made of wood - and not just one, but a whole fleet of them. Short of divine support ala Noah's Ark i don't think it is even possible from an engineering standpoint.
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Old 15-01-2006, 16:22   #5
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It is obvious the technology to accidentally run into an american contenent was there at the time, and it would be extremely nieve to assume that people aside from native americans had not been here before Columbus. However, bumping into the Americas, and actually officially claiming it as a newly discovered land are two very different things. It would also be very difficult for a tribal culture to lay claim to a new continent. At that time in history, the discovering nation would have had to be an established power such as France, England, or spain. As for China, at that time in history, I do not know the political make up, so I can not comment on the credibility of any claim to discovery they might have.
As for "Native Americans" not being given credit for discovering the Americas, they have been given a much more prestigous position as an indigeonous people. Not to trivialize the injustice done to them, but just to answer the question.
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Old 16-01-2006, 10:41   #6
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From a nautical/navigation point of view this claim seems implausible. Looking at the map it seems to outline with some degree of proportional accuracy (compared to other maps of the middle ages) the entire American continent.

What makes this seem suspicious - quite apart from the huge time it would take to cover and survey such a large area - is that there doesn't seem to be any accompanying claim that the Chinese had developed some method of measuring longitude.

It wasn't until late 18th century that a large undertaking was made to create lunar charts and develop precise chronometers to allow the accurate determination of longitude.

As far as I know (and correct me if I am wrong), up until that time the only way sailors could determine how far east or west they had travelled was by continually monitoring their speed over water and cross checking that with compass bearings.

It seems unlikely to me that they would be able to make such proportionally correct estimations using those methods.


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