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Early New World Maps

 Early New World Maps

by

Dr. Gunnar Thompson

 

Early Maps of the New World

The persistent academic argument concerning early voyages to the New World ends with an examination of the cartographic evidence. Maps that have been preserved in the collections of such distinguished archives as the Louvre (in Paris), the British Museum, and the Library of Congress are sufficient to prove that ancient seafarers as far back as the Roman Empire engaged in regular voyages to Ancient America.

The beauty of the ancient maps is that they contain precise details called “Diagnostic Geographical Markers.” These “markers” serve the same function as fingerprints found at a crime scene. These cartographical fingerprints contain unmistakable coastlines, geographical positions on the globe, references of longitude and latitude, proximities to identifiable mainland or islands, place names of cities or territorial titles (also called toponyms), and often text that identifies key features of topography, climate, vegetation, or native species of animals. Historical perspectives provided by the sequence of maps from a particular region are often sufficient to delineate sequential modifications of coastlines as subsequent explorers gradually improved the cartographical knowledge of a particular area.

The importance of examining the cartographical evidence is the realization that all the world’s maritime adventurers and merchants were actively engaged in exploring the world and taking advantage of valuable commodities from the earliest times that ships were capable of ocean sailing. Archaic academic notions that the New World was somehow isolated from Old World contact until after Columbus sailed across the Atlantic in an effort to reach China in the 15th century are based on a Eurocentric religious doctrine that was inherited from the Middle Ages. Most historians got their training at Medieval Church universities; and it was the belief of learned elders in these institutions that the sole purpose for having a Chronicle of the Ages (that is, “history”) was to document the spread of the “One True Religion” around the globe. Modern scholars would do well to abandon this myopic mental baggage, because the survival and prosperity of our species depends upon making an accurate appraisal of where we have come from in the past and where we need to be heading in the future. All the world’s peoples (and all religions) played a role in the past; and together we must build the pathway into the future. Read more