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Marco Polo may have discovered America in the the 13th century

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An incredible new map could reveal that 13th century Italian explorer Marco Polo was actually the first European to discover America - more than two centuries before Christopher Columbus set sail for the New World. 

A crude map drawn on sheepskin shows what appears to be the Bering Straight, Alaska, the Aleutian Islands and the west coast of North America. 

'Map with Ship' comes from a trove of 14 documents that have just been studied in depth for the first time. They were found in the 1930s in a trunk in that belonged to an Italian immigrant who settled in San Jose, California.

The documents, reportedly written by Polo's daughter Bellala recount how the Venetian explorer met a Syrian trader on the Kamchatka Peninsula on the far eastern edge of the Asian continent then sailed across the Bering Straight to North America.

Before his voyage, the trader told Polo about a land far east - a 40 days voyage from Kamchatka,Smithsonian Magazine reports.  

It is believed that if Polo sailed to North America, he would have crossed the Bering Straight - a 51-mile stretch of waster that connects the easternmost point of Asia  to the westernmost point of Alaska. 

This new land, the documents say, was called 'the Peninsula of Seals' and it was 'twice as far from China' as Kamchatka and Polo soon set sail in search of it.

Polo arrived, according to the documents, and discovered a people who wore seal skins, ate only fish and lived in homes 'under the earth,' according to the Smithsonian.

The documents also describe a great glacier that came down into the sea. 

It appears that Polo then sailed around the Alaskan coast - possibly even around the Aleutian Islands, east to British Columbia and down the Canadian coast. 

One expert even claims that the Venetian explorer even made it to Washington and Puget Sound.  

If the documents are authentic, they could overturn commonly held beliefs about Columbus' 1492 voyage from Portugal. 

'It would mean that an Italian got knowledge of the west coast of North America or he heard about it from Arabs or Chinese,' historian Benjamin B. Olshin, a history professor at University of the Arts in Philadelphia, told Smithsonian.

His book, The Mysteries of the Marco Polo Maps, is due out in November.

The documents have been in the Library of Congress since the 1930s and were even analyzed by J. Edgar Hoover's FBI.  

The account, while fascinating, has several holes. The first is that Polo - an infamous teller of tall tales - never specifically mentioned his travels to this new land in his world-famous account of his journey, The Travels of Marco Polo.

He did, however, say on his death bed, 'I did not tell half of what I saw.'

Second, the source material remains dubious. Marcian Rossi, the immigrant who donated the documents to the Library of Congress, says he inherited them from a wealthy family member. 


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Hans van der Maarel

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Interesting, if true. I think Christopher Columbus was the last European to discover America, but the Viking explorers (notably Leif Erikson) are commonly regarded to have visited (and settled in) Newfoundland around 1000 AD

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Hans van der Maarel - Cartotalk Editor
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The map has been under debate for decades. It's hardly a new discovery. Olshin's book is the only new thing here.

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