According to a controversial study, and based on ancient writings by Plutarch, the ancient Greeks may have traveled to Newfoundland around 56 AD, nearly a thousand years before the Vikings, and set up colonies there in order to mine gold.
A controversial study proposes that the ancient Greeks had great knowledge in Astronomy and were able to located Atlantic currents that would help them navigate West.
If accurate, it would mean that ancient civilizations such as the Greek and perhaps even the ancient Egyptians sailed around the globe thousands of years ago, reaching distant lands as far as North America.
The controversial idea precisely on a study of the so-called ‘Da Facie’ text, written by Greek philosopher Plutarch.
In the ancient text—translated in full here—a character speaks of meeting a stranger who had recently returned from a ‘great continent,’ and researchers believe that this great continent may be part of Northern America, more specifically, Canada.
Scientists argue that the ancient Greeks may have regularly sailed to Newfoundland where they had set up a number of colonies and mined Gold for centuries.
However, other than the interpretation of the ancient text, there isn’t much evidence that suggests these travels ever took place, as historians debate the theory claiming the work has no solid arguments whatsoever.
However, Ioannis Liritzis, an archaeologist from the University of the Aegean thinks otherwise.
Speaking to the Hakai Magazine, Liritzis said: “Our intention is to prove, with modern science, that it was possible for this trip to be made.”
According to reports, Greek settlers may have traveled to North America searching for new lands and riches. After finding Newfoundland, it is believed that Greek travelers would have returned home after a brief stay, while others decided to stay.
However, as noted in Hakai Magazine, researchers say there is no firm evidence of the ancient Greeks’ purported voyages.
Furthermore, archaeologists have not found any physical remains of these historic Greek settlements in North America, nor are there first-hand descriptions of such journeys in anything but one account from antiquity.
The idea is based entirely on a new examination of a dialogue written by the influential Roman author Plutarch, who lived from 46 to 119 CE.
The text authored by Plutarch On the Face Which Appears in the Orb of the Moon often called simply De Facie ventures out to debate whether the moon is another Earth, and whether or not it contains life.
The ancient text also tackles other philosophical question of that time.
In one part of the text, Plutarch describes a character who supposedly met a man who recently returned from a long voyage from a great continent.
The stranger explained that travelers would commence the journey every 30 years, specifically when the planet Saturn appeared in the constellation of Taurus.
Liritzis and his colleagues argue that the great continent mentioned in the text may, in fact, be North America for a number of reasons. Their argument is based on astronomy, and everything starts with a total eclipse of the sun.
The fact that the opening few chapters of ‘De Facie’ have been lost to history did not help Liritzis and his colleagues who searched astronomical records for a total eclipse that happened thousands of years ago, sometime at noon.
After going through a staggering five millennia of eclipse records, they found one that met their required parameters, including the time of day and when Plutarch may have been writing it, notes Rebecca Boyle in the article published in the Hakai magazine.
The eclipse which eventually led to Greek travelers reaching North America most likely occurred in 75 CE. With the aid of astronomy software, Liritzis and his colleagues found that in the decades surrounding this eclipse, the planet Saturn appears in the constellation of Taurus in five different occasions, from 26 to 29 CE, 56 to 58 CE, and 85 to 88 CE.
Using the total eclipse of 75 CE, Liritzis and his colleagues calculated the time of when the conversation between Plutarch’s informant and the stranger who’d traveled to the great continent may have occurred. Based on their findings, researchers timed the trip when Saturn was most recently in Taurus—56 CE.
Liritzis and his colleagues argue that preparations for such an extensive journey most likely commenced that year.
The Greek travelers most likely arrived in North America in 57 CE, stayed in the ‘New Continent’ for a year living in an existing Greek colony, and sailed home in 58 CE, when Saturn moved out of Taurus.
Furthermore, in addition to astronomical evidence, Liritzis and his colleagues argue there is more information in the ancient text written by Plutarch which backs up their claims.
Scientists argue that Plutarch included heading and distance estimates for the journey to Newfoundland, which Liritzis and his colleagues included in their study.
According to Plutarch, the ‘great continent’ was located beyond the isle of Ogygia. This island, in turn, was reachable after a five-day trip by trireme from west Britain.
The Great continent was accessed through a bay which, according to Plutarch, lined up with the Volga River Delta, the northern entrance to the Caspian Sea.
With the help of Google Earth, Liritzis checked what he could find based on Plutarch’s writings and discovered that after drawing a line from this location across the Atlantic, it led to the Gulf of Saint Lawrence.
A theory received with a great amount of skepticism
As was probably expected, the rather interesting theory proposed by Liritzis and his colleagues was received with a sense of skepticism, notes Hakai Magazine.
Hector Williams, a professor of classical archaeology at the University of British Columbia (UBC) who studies underwater archaeology in the eastern Mediterranean wrote in an email to Hakai Magazine “While accidental pre-Columbian crossings are not impossible for Greeks and (more likely) Romans who were caught in a storm while on the coast of western Europe, there is no evidence for regular crossings.”
“Even the Vikings gave up their brief settlement in Newfoundland after a few years.”
Furthermore, Brendan Foley, an underwater archaeologist at Lund University in Sweden argues its impossible that Ancient Greeks made it all the way to North America.
“There is simply no possible way that first millennium BCE Mediterranean sailors would have any concept of [Atlantic Ocean] currents, and they certainly did not possess the navigational technologies and knowledge (à la Polynesian sailors) to position themselves in the open Atlantic Ocean to ride them,” Foley wrote in an email to Hakai Magazine.