Lehi Was Not Alone
Not everyone knows the origin of the name, “America,” so let’s start this chapter out with a little trivia. While it is Christopher Columbus who is given credit for discovering America, it was actually Sebastian Cabot who discovered North America in 1497-98. He sailed from England to New found Land (Newfoundland) and Labrador, and went as far south as the Carolinas and beyond. Yet the Americas were named after one Americus Vespucius.
Vespucius, himself, was not only a navigator, but he was the first to make any kind of a credible map of the new continents. In 1504, Vespucius sent a letter to the Duke of Lorraine, in which letter Vespucius gave an account of his four voyages to the New World. In one of those letters the date was given as May 29, 1497, for the time when he sailed on his first voyage. That date was a year earlier than the discovery of South America by Columbus and of North America by Cabot. It, therefore, made it appear that Vespucius was the first discoverer. After the death of Columbus, in 1506, a friend of Vespucius proposed to the Academy of Cosmography at Strasburg, based upon the falsely dated letter, to give the name “America” to the Western Continent to compliment its supposed “first” discoverer.
Consequently, Columbus and Cabot were both deprived the honor of having their names associated with the titles of both the North and South American continents. So they are called “America” after Americus Vespucius. Now on with our discussion concerning Lehi.
A few years after learning that it was Columbus who supposedly discovered America, I learned that Norse or Scandinavians, under such men as Bjarni Herjulfon, Eric the Red and his son Leif Ericsson, had already settled in North America from about 1000 to 1300 A.D. When I became acquainted with the LDS Church (the Mormons), I discovered that other people had also arrived here much sooner than the Scandinavians. Not long after that, I picked up a book in the library entitled, They All Discovered America, by Charles Boreland, which was about the many peoples who arrived upon both the North and South American Continents long before Columbus set sail in 1492. The book helped support some claims made in the Book of Mormon, although I am sure that was not the author’s intention.
In Chapter 4, “The Land of Promise,” we discussed Lehi’s possible sea voyage and landing site in North America. Historical research, however, can show that Lehi and his people were not the first ones upon this land. Of course, as the Book of Mormon points out, there were the Jaredites shortly after the great flood, and after the days of Nimrod’s tower of Babel, but they were not the only ones here either. There were others, and we will consider only a few of them to show that when Lehi set sail from southern Saudi Arabia, he was not, necessarily, heading to a land that was unknown to the rest of the world. When he and his people came to North America, they were not the only ones here.
Romans in the Americas
An article in Popular Mechanics magazine, entitled, “Did the Romans Discover America?,” speaks of a little Roman head (pictured at left) that had been found by Dr. Jose Garcia Payon, an archaeologist of the University of Jalapa. It was found in a previously undisturbed grave, in a high valley of Toluca, west of Mexico City. Experts say it is a Roman head of the Second Century A.D., and is evidence of a link between the Old World and the New, centuries before either the Viking Leif Ericsson or Christopher Columbus.
“Who really discovered America,” the magazine article asked, “Could he have been a Roman or Greek, a Phoenician or Carthaginian, a Viking or an Irishman? Did he come from Wales, or Scotland or China? There is at least some indication that all of these people reached the New World years before Columbus.”
Roman coins have been found from Venezuela to Texas to Maine, and dating from as early as 490 BC, and one found in Oklahoma was minted in Antioch, Syria, in 63 A.D., bearing the profile of the emperor Nero. And in 1882, in Cass County, Illinois, a bronze coin of Antiochus IV, a Syrian king of 175 to 164 B.C., was found.(1)
And an experienced botanist has identified plants in an ancient fresco painting as a pineapple and a specific species of squash — both native to the Americas. Yet the fresco is in the Roman city of Pompeii. And in 1886, the remains of a shipwreck was found in Galveston Bay, Texas, which construction is typically Roman. Also, a doll made of wood and wax was found at Chichen Itza, Mexico, on which is written Roman script.
The great Greek philosopher, Plato (427-347 B.C.), also suggested that the Greco-Roman world knew of the Americas. He wrote that, “far to the west of the British Isles were other islands beyond which, at the edge of the sea, stretched a great continent.” (See Popular Mechanics, July 1963, starting on p. 70.)
Egyptians in the Americas Before Columbus
In a 1995 issue of The Ancient American magazine, Gunnar Thompson translated a few paragraphs from Mariano Cuevas’ 1940 book: Historia de la Nacion Mexicana. A summary is as follows:
“In August 1914, Professor M.A. Gonzales was excavating Mayan ruins in the city of Acajutla, in Mexico. The two illustrated statuettes were uncovered. On the male, the headdress, the beard, and the cartouche are all typically Egyptian in style. The male is thought to represent Osiris, the female Isis.” Thompson also contributes another article entitled, “Counter Point: Egypt’s Role in Ancient America.” (Ancient American, 2:12, no. 8.) (At right: Ancient Egyptian statuettes of Osiris and Isis.)
In the same issue of The Ancient American, the subject of whether the ancient Egyptians reached the New World is joined by an article entitled, “The Egyptians Were Here!” It is written by R.A. Jairazbhoy, author of the recent book Rameses III: Father of Ancient America. From the title, it should be obvious what his position is on the issue of Egyptians being in old America. (Science Frontiers #98, Mar-Apr 1995.)
Also, there are striking similarities between the languages of ancient Egypt and those of the Native Americans that inhabited the areas around Louisiana about the time of Christ. Professor Barry Fell, of Harvard University Mr. Fell has stated that the language of the Atakapas, and to a lesser extent those of the Tunica and Chitimacha tribes, have affinities with Nile Valley languages involving just those words one would associate with Egyptian trading communities of 2,000 years ago.
And the April 5, 1909, edition of The Phoenix Gazette, a lengthy front page story reported the highly detailed report of the discovery and excavation of an Egyptian tomb in the Grand Canyon by none other than S. A. Jordan of the Smithsonian. The Smithsonian has since denied knowledge of any such discovery. It is interesting that this exact location is off limits to hikers or other visitors, “because of dangerous caves,” even to most park personnel, officials say. Indeed, it is a “forbidden zone.” No one is allowed into this area where the vaults are purported to be. The Smithsonian’s Board of Regents still refuses to open its meetings to the news media or the public.(2) Could something be kept secret from the public that might destroy current beliefs?
Archeologists continue to find evidence of Egyptian contact with North America, such as the hundreds of symbols found in Oklahoma’s Anubis Caves, many pictographs of which are of traditional Egyptian images and motifs.
Phoenicians in the Americas Before Columbus
Of all ancient peoples in the Middle East, the Phoenicians were the main ones with the skills and the sea-going capability required for a trans-Atlantic crossing. Their home was on the east bank of the Mediterranean Sea adjacent to the Northern Kingdom of Israel. One of their satellite countries was Carthage, which was situated on the Mediterranean shore of North Africa, just across the sea from Rome. By 600 B.C., the Phoenicians were building ships that could carry 50 to 100 tons, making them comparable in size and tonnage to the Portuguese ships of the 15th century.
Once a Phoenician fleet was commissioned by the Egyptian pharaoh, Necho, around 600 B.C. to circumnavigate Africa, sailing out of the Red Sea and returning home by way of Gibraltar. It will be noted that the North African country of Carthage was a colony of and allied with Phoenicia. Around 450 B.C., the Carthaginian king, Hanno, sailed with a fleet of 60 ships through the Straits of Gibraltar and down along the western coast of Africa at least as far south as present day Guinea and Sierra Leone, the point on the continent closest to the shores of Brazil. (Left: Phoenician script found on rock wall dated to be about 500 B.C.; The Washington Post, May 19, 1968.)
Popular Mechanics magazine, July 1963, tells us that, near the town of Gavea, close to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, there is a rock wall, and three thousand feet up this cliff is an inscription. Bernardo da Silva Ramos, an archaeologist, pronounced the inscription Phoenician. The translated message reads, “‘Tyre, Phoenicia, Badezir, Firstborn of Jethbaal...’ This inscription very possibly is more than 2000 years old because a check of ancient dynasties showed that Badezir ruled Phoenicia from 855 to 850 B.C. and was the son of Jethbaal, who ruled from 887 to 856 B.C.” Ramos “discovered and copied some 2,800 separate writings. He had the stones translated from Phoenician into English. ... Central and North America also contain indications of Phoenician visitors.
The Popular Mechanics also mentioned that in “... 1948, an elderly doctor found inscribed stones near Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, which Cornell University experts said might be Phoenician.” Linguists at the University of Strasbourg in France, said the characters resembled Carthaginian script. Continuing the article, we read, “Other possible mementos of the Phoenicians in the New World include the carving of a ship at anchor on the rocks of Lake Assawampsett, Mass. The boat’s mast remains erect although the sails are lowered; this indicates a Phoenician design. Vikings lowered sails and masts both when at anchor.” (See Popular Mechanics, July 1963, p. 74.)
Another interesting item is Geologist Mark McMenamin, of Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, who may have made a discovery that sheds radical new light on present conceptions of the Classical world and on the discovery of the New World.
Working with computer-enhanced images of gold coins minted in the North African Phoenician city of Carthage, between 350 and 320 B.C. (Shown at right), McMenamin has interpreted a series of designs appearing on these coins, the meaning of which has long puzzled scholars. “McMenamin believes the designs represent a map of the ancient world, including the area surrounding the Mediterranean Sea and the land mass representing the Americas.”
“If this is true, these coins not only represent the oldest maps found to date, but would also indicate that Carthaginian explorers had sailed to the New World.”
“In fact, it was his interest in the Carthaginians as explorers that led McMenamin to study the coins. The Carthaginians were closely linked to the Phoenicians of the Middle East in terms of origin, culture, language, and naval enterprise. Both peoples are widely credited with significant sailing exploits through the Mediterranean, to the British Isles, and along the coast of Africa.”
“For many years, scholars interpreted these symbols as letters in Phoenician script. When that theory was discounted in the 1960s, it left scholars baffled. Working over the past few months, McMenamin was able to interpret the design as a representation of the Mediterranean, surrounded by the land masses of Europe and Africa, with, to the upper left, the British Isles. To the far left of the representation of the Mediterranean is what the geologist believes is a depiction of the Americas.” (At right: Enlarged view of bottom portion of coin with map. Below that: Sketch of that same area of coin showing where the world map is supposed to have been inscribed. This detail of a gold coin shows what McMenamin believes is a map of the Mediterranean area, surrounded by Europe, Britain, Africa, and, at left, the Americas.)(3)
Also, Alan Campbell reported that, “The term Phoenician is a general one, which covers not only the seafaring peoples based in the ancient cities of Tyre and Sidon (on the coast of modern Lebanon) but also the sea-roving Israelite tribes of Dan, Asher and Zebulon, whose tribal territories in Canaan were adjacent to these city states on the East Mediterranean coastline. These peoples planted trading posts and mercantile colonies along the shores of north Africa and Spain, and they engaged in a flourishing tin trade in the southwest corner of the British Isles, their ships passing through the Straits of Gibralter, then known as the ‘Pillars of Hercules.’”
“As long ago as 1913, author T. C. Johnston in his book Did The Phoenicians Discover America? claimed that the American continent was discovered and settled by Phoenicians and Hebrews who kept in contact with the Middle East for some three hundred years. He claimed that North America was the Biblical Ophir, visited by the fleets of King Solomon, and he outlined some twenty-six points of comparison between the civilization of the Eastern Mediterranean homelands of the Phoenicians and Hebrews and the Mayan, Inca and Aztec civilizations in the New World.
"The Paraiba Stone inscriptions, which are considered to be of Phoenician origin, were found in areas of North America that have been extensively surveyed. And more research by Professor Barry Fells points to Punic or Phoenician inscriptions found in New England, Ohio and West Virginia, and many linguistic evidences have led Fells to the conclusion that the Phoenicians colonized Massachusetts briefly around 400 B.C.(4) Also there is the discovery of coinage and trade goods in the United States which had come from the Phoenician city of Carthage in North Africa.”(5)
In the Mayan ruins of Palenque, a stone sarcophagus was found that is very much in the style of the ancient Phoenicians.(7) The Phoenicians had much contact as merchants throughout the Middle East, and much of the world. Could this Mayan stone sarcophagus have been an influence of the Phoenicians? If so, what other impacts could they have had on the New World?
An Olmec carving features a bearded figure, wearing upturned shoes typical of eastern Mediterranean people, yet the Olmecs and other natives of America had sparse facial hair with a habit of plucking what little they had; and an incense burner unearthed in Guatemala is in the shape of a bearded face with strikingly Semitic features of the Near East.
The Toltec, Maya, and Aztec all build variations of the stepped-pyramid (Top left) to their gods and for burying the dead. The Samaritans, Babylonians, Assyrians, and Persians also built stepped-pyramids, as did Egyptians for the same purposes. Could that influence have come by way of the Phoenicians to the Americas? (Bottom left)
There are numerous stone heads left by the Olmec depicting men wearing helmets, which have unmistakably Negroid facial features. The Carthaginians befriended some African natives who were used as interpreters and, perhaps, mercenaries as they sailed the coast of West Africa. Could they have traveled to the New World with the Carthaginians?
And the size and weight of the stone heads! Five were found in 1939, deep in the swampy jungle of Tabasco in Mexico. Eight to ten feet tall and up to 25 feet in circumference, they weighed more than 25 tons each. They were estimated to have been created between the first five centuries BC. Science has never been able to explain why or how the Olmecs got those heads into the jungle. They are made of solid basalt — and the nearest deposit of basalt is about 100 miles from the site of the heads. How could primitive Indians transport these great stones through 100 miles of jungles and swamps, where it would be extremely difficult to take an average-size suitcase? Could it be that Phoenicians knew the technology of moving great stones which they learned from the Egyptians? (Right: 25 ton Olmec stone head.)
The Olmecs practiced child sacrifice, a custom which the Phoenicians and Carthaginians were known to resort to in times of war or famine in order to appease their gods.(7)
According to Dr. Barry Fell, a celebrated epigraphist, the Pontotoc Stele (at left), unearthed in Oklahoma, is written in a Phoenician language called Iberian Punic and contains a “Hymn to the Aton,” by Pharaoh Akhnaton. It reads, “When BaaI-Ra rises in the east, the beasts are content, and (when he hides his face?) they are displeased.” The artifact has been tentatively dated to approximately 100 BC.(8)
In 1970, Thor Heyerdahl, of Kon-Tiki fame, built an Egyptian papyrus boat and sailed 6,100 kilometers across the widest part of the Atlantic from Morocco to Barbados, which took only 57 days. The trip proves that transatlantic travel was within the reach of the Phoenicians. Speaking of the Phoenicians, Mr. Heyerdahl, said in an interview, “They had sea-going ability and they were sailing with women and plants for settlements as early as 1200 B.C.”(9)
Mauritanians in the Americas Before Columbus
During the afternoon of an early spiring day in 1982, a man wondered through an abandoned cemetery in southern Illinois. He carried a metal-detector searching for lost coins or Civil War relics. As the metal-detector started responding, it led the man out of the cemetery and up the side of a hill. As the man was watching the agitated dials reaction, “he suddenly fell into a perfectly vertical pit.” The man, Russell Burrows, accidentay found a unique treasure in underground rooms.
Within the rooms he saw stone statues, large urns and edged weapons scattered across the floor. The walls were covered with the sculpted friezes of Egyptian-like scenes. Moving to the far end of the chamber, he found an adjacent room, in which rested a large sarcophagus of gold gleaming in the steady beam of his flashlight. There were more chambers, but they appeared to have collapsed and become inaccessible. Returning to the first room, he filled his pockets with strange, gold coins from small, unlocked caskets. Nearby were stacked enormous piles of roughly hewn black stones, all engraved with the likeness of bizarre-looking, non-American, men and women accompanied by written scripts of some kind. For the next 17 years, he removed thousands of artifacts from the underground site.(10)
Various researchers have looked at the collection, and some have pointed out the mismatches, with Roman, Egyptian, African, Christian and other influences. But most cultures are a mismatch of cultures! London and New York are prime examples of how various cultures create a new one. Things were no different in ancient times, Alexandria, Egypt, probably being the best example. An important clue is that some of the stone slabs displayed a signature that was known in the Old World. It belonged to one Alexander Helios, son of the infamous Cleopatra and Marc Antony, a future ruler of Mauritania, in Africa’s western Sahara.
On the other side of the world was once, but now forgotten, a kingdom of North Africa known as Mauritania. Some two thousand years ago, it was governed by King Juba II (52 BC – 23 A.D.). He and his people were from ancient Caucasian stock: the Mauri, who migrated from Asia Minor after the fall of Troy in the late 13th Century BC. They were thus culturally and racially different from the dark-skinned inhabitants who presently occupy North Africa.
(Above left: One of the relatively few marble slabs removed from the Illinois site portrays either a Mauritanian ruler or high priest of the 1st Century A.D.; Above middle: The portrait-stone of this man identifies him as African Senegalese; Above right: An Illinois portrait-stone preserves the image of a Mauritanian soldier with Roman style helmet.)
Mauritania was the only “free” province of Rome, and many people migrated there because of it, even some Christians during early Roman persecutions. King Juba II was highly educated, cultured, respected, and had developed Mauritania into a very wealthy kingdom. His capital city was Caesarea, known today as Cherchel, in Algeria. Juba sponsored several sailing expeditions down the west African coast, even to the Canary Islands, and these voyages of discovery were part of the Phoenician tradition that pervaded Mauritanian life.
Amongst Russell Burrows’s earliest team of researchers were Jack Ward and Warren Cook. Cook and Ward’s analysis concluded that the artifacts were most likely the remains of a Libyan–Iberian expedition. He identified Mauritania’s King Ptolemaeus I (1 BC – 40 A.D.), son of Cleopatra Selene and King Juba, as the man responsible for this transoceanic voyage. Could this have been possible?
The Roman Emperor, Claudius, desired the rich treasury of Mauritania, and wanted to end its being a free province. With an ensuing invasion, the Mauritanian King Juba and his family had to flee. It’s possible that he used the knowledge of the seas that his ancestors, the Phoenicians, had gathered. He knew the location of the Azores, whose goods he was able to sell at the highest prices in Rome and elsewhere. (Top right: Part of the Mauritanian treasury of Gold coins from Illinois’ site; Below right: Image of a Mauritanian warship appears on stone from the Illinois collection. Such vessels may have accompanied the fleet of refugees from North Africa to America.)
So, if the Burrows Cave artifacts are genuine and the interpretation correct, it’s possible that the royal family of Mauritania sailed further west, beyond the Azores, to the Americas. If they ended up in Central America, perhaps they entered the Mississippi River and traveled north until reaching Illinois, where they settled, far removed from the Old World.
According to one Native American legend, the region contains the tomb of a king who was not native to America. The tribe once knew the location, but this information is now lost. Could this location be the same as the Burrows Cave? Furthermore, it is known that Juba ordered a golden sarcophagus to be prepared for the mausoleum that had been built for him in Tipaza (in modern-day Algeria). This was one of the prized possessions that the Romans had tried to get their hands on, but they never did find the sarcophagus or the Mauritanian king. Official history is silent on the fate of both. Yet it is clear that King Juba II must have died and that he and his sarcophagus must have ended up somewhere. Could it have been in Illinois?(11)
Israelites in the Americas Before Columbus
The Los Lunas Decalogue Stone: The Los Lunas Inscription is an abridged version of the Decalogue or Ten Commandments, carved into the flat face of a large boulder resting on the side of Hidden Mountain, near Los Lunas, New Mexico, about 35 miles south of Albuquerque. The language is Hebrew, and the script is the Old Hebrew alphabet, with a few Greek letters mixed in. Who wrote it, and when? (Above: Los Lunas Inscription Decalogue or Ten Commandments; Photo Dan Raber, Loudon TN.)
Cyrus Gordon (1995) proposes that the Los Lunas Decalogue is in fact a Samaritan mezuzah. The familiar Jewish mezuzah is a tiny scroll placed in a small container mounted by the entrance to a house. The ancient Samaritan mezuzah, on the other hand, was commonly a large stone slab placed by the gateway to a property or synagogue, and bearing an abridged version of the Decalogue. The word order suggests a scriptural tradition related to a Greek version produced in Alexandria, Egypt, as does his spelling; and finally, he gives inordinate prominence to the words ‘brought you out of Egypt.’
One Samaritan synagogue in Palestine, at Sha’alvim, in Judea N.W. of Jerusalem, simultaneously bears religious inscriptions in Samaritan letters and secular inscriptions in Greek. Another at Tell Quasile in Tel Aviv shows considerable Greek architectural influence. In his book, Pummer reports that the Samaritan wedding service even today contains a few words of Greek, and that a Samaritan deed of divorce from Egypt, dating to 586 A.D., is written in Greek.
The late Professor Frank Hibben, a retired University of New Mexico archaeologist, who first saw the text on the Los Lunas Decalogue Stone in 1933, was convinced that the inscription is ancient and thus authentic. And some say that “2000 years would not be an unreasonable estimate of its age.”
Another interesting find was in 1889. The Smithsonian discovered a stone in a burial mound in eastern Tennessee on which is inscribed ancient Hebrew lettering. Known as The Bat Creek Stone, experts have identified its letters as being Paleo-Hebrew dating from the first or second century A.D. The Bat Creek Stone was professionally excavated from an undisturbed burial mound in Eastern Tennessee by the Smithsonian’s Mound Survey project. The inscription appeared to be ancient Semitic. The late Semitic languages scholar, Cyrus Gordon, confirmed that it is Semitic, and specifically Paleo-Hebrew of approximately the first or second century A.D. Hebrew scholar and archaeologist, Robert Stieglitz, confirmed Gordon’s reading of the longer word. The main line would read, RQ, LYHWD[M], i.e. “Only for Judea,” or “Only for the Judeans.” In 1988, wood fragments found with the inscription were Carbon-14 dated to somewhere between 32 A.D. and 769 A.D. This range is consistent with Gordon’s dating of the letters. (Above right: The inscription on the Bat Creek Stone.)(12)
Also, in June, 1860, David Wyrick found an artifact on the general shape of a keystone near Newark, Ohio that is covered in four ancient Hebrew inscriptions translated as: “Holy of Holies,” “King of the Earth,” “The Law of God” and “The Word of God.” In November of that same year, Wyrick found an inscribed stone in a burial mound about 10 miles south of Newark, Ohio. The stone is inscribed on all sides with a condensed version of the Ten Commandments or Decalogue, in a peculiar form of post-Exilic square Hebrew letters. A robed and bearded figure on the front is identified as Moses in letters fanning over his head.
And Pastor Alan Campbell stated, “not only were there North Europeans on the American continent long before the voyage of Columbus, but also that Phoenicians/Israelites sailed from the Middle East through the Mediterranean and across the Atlantic to these shores centuries before the birth of Christ.”
Celts in the Americas Before Columbus
Pastor Campbell, under the heading, “The Ancient Celts Came to America,” also made reference to Professor Fell, of Harvard University, in these words: “The name Celts was the designation given to those peoples who emerged from the same geographical location where the so called ‘Lost Tribes of Israel’ had disappeared from an earlier stage of world history. These people migrated across Europe to settle in the British Isles and the coasts of France and Spain. They were a well organized sea power at the time when Julius Caesar and his Roman legions invaded Britain in 55 B.C.; and he, in fact, makes reference to their ocean-going vessels. Professor Fell has now identified the megalithic structures at Mystery Hill, New Hampshire as a type of temple observatory dedicated to the ancient Celtic sun-god Bel (it was for worshipping this same Baal that their Israelite ancestors had been cast out of Palestine). He claims that other sites dedicated to this same deity and to other Celtic gods and goddesses have been located in Vermont, together with Celtic burial urns and other artifacts.”(13)
Also, an outcropping in Colorado was inscribed with “peculiar markings,” which are excellent examples of Consainne Ogam writing — a type ascribed to ancient Celts.(14)
Welsh in the Americas Before Columbus
The above referenced Popular Mechanics magazine also made mention of some Welsh who came to North America in about 1170 A.D., which had a very interesting encounter.
“Two ancient manuscripts from Abbeys of Strat Florida and Conway in Wales declare that the Welsh prince, Madoc, reached the New World in 1170 A.D. ... Where did the Welsh go? They very possibly landed on the coast of Alabama on the point where Fort Morgan was built to guard the entrance to Mobile Bay. What happened to the Welsh colony? Indian legend and ethnological indications suggest that they may have gone up the Mississippi to the Ohio Valley, where Indian tribes claimed to have white ancestors. Tribes also told the first Anglo-American settlers of a furious battle that took place on Sand Island in the Ohio river in which the ‘white Indians’ were defeated by the ‘red’ Indians.” (See Popular Mechanics, July 1963, p. 189.)
Chinese in the Americas Before Columbus
The world is round, not flat. For the Ancient seafaring people of China, a voyage to the Americas by the normal sea currents was as easy as following the coast lines of Asia to America. There is growing archeological evidence showing that during the Shang Dynasty, about 1500 B.C., such voyages were made. Ancient Chinese written records of this period are few, but what does exist gives no detailed account of such things.
The Kuroshio current is a northern equatorial current flowing west to east up along the east coasts of Taiwan and Japan. If any ancient Chinese seafarer followed this current, they would indeed have been able to cross the great distance of the Pacific ocean and reach North, Central and South America.(15)
Dr. Heine-Geldern, who assisted Dr. Payon after the discovery of the little Roman head, said that “Roman traders and possibly ambassadors not only reached India, but southeast Asia and China. He goes on to say that his own studies of various sites indicate there was extensive trade between Asia and America from 700 B.C. to 220 A.D. Enormous four-masted Chinese Junks sailed from island to island through the South Seas and probably crossed the wide Pacific to visit Mexico.” (Popular Mechanics, July 1963, p. 73.)
An ancient poem, written by a 3rd century Chinese poet, describes a place that is often referred to in Chinese folklore as the “Birthplace of the Sun.” It was a place well known in ancient China. It appears frequently in poetry and around the 2nd century BC, one Han emperor is said to have sent an expedition to colonize this land. The little poem reads in English:
East of the Eastern Ocean lie
The shores of the Land of Fu-sang.
If, after landing there, you travel
East for 10,000 li
You will come to another ocean, blue,
Vast, huge, boundless.
In A.D. 499, a Chinese monk, Hui Shen, returned to China claiming to have spent 40 years in the land of “Fu-Sang” (Fusang). He left a record of the country he visited, which has been recorded in official histories.
Hui Shen is said to have been a mendicant Gondaran monk and to have appeared in the court of the Emperor Wu Ti at Jingzhou in Southern Qi, in 499 A.D. His adventures, which are described by Yao Sialian in the 7th century Book of Liang, describes his voyage in both known and unknown lands. Starting around 455 A.D., he traveled to the coast of China, to Japan, Korea, to the Kamchatka Peninsula, then to Fusang. Fusang, he reports, is some 20,000 Chinese Li (a Chinese Li is about 1/3 of a mile) east of Kamchatka. This would place it somewhere around, what is today, British Columbia, and eighteenth century map-makers placed it in North America, usually near, what is today, Washington or Vancouver. (Above: The 1776 Zatta Map of the Pacific Northwest Showing Fusang.)
While it is a subject of debate, numerous scholars and historians have embraced the idea that the Chinese not only visited the New World, but maintained regular contact with it, and maintained an active back and forth communication. Given the advanced state of shipbuilding, and navigation in ancient China, the Chinese were capable of launching expeditions across the Pacific.
Ancient Chinese coins, ship anchors, and other relics have been discovered along the American coast — some dating back as much as 2,000 years. Also, Hui Shen’s descriptions do correspond somewhat with what we know of the New World around 450 A.D. And modern DNA studies have confirmed that most Native American, as well as East Asian peoples, are Mongolian.(16) Legends, of the Shang dynasty, 221 B.C., state that a king led his people on a journey to the east, with some historians believing that he took them across the Bering Strait to North America.
The Chinese classic, the Shan Hai King, of about 2250 B.C, contains what seems to be an accurate description of the Grand Canyon. Peanuts and corn have been found at ancient Chinese sites dating back to 3000 BC. The orthodox view is that neither of these plants left their native America before their export by European colonists in 16th century A.D.
In the summer of 1882, a miner in British Columbia found 30 Chinese coins 25 feet below the surface. The examined coins of this style were invented by the Emperor Huungt around 2637 B.C.; underwater explorations off the California coast have yielded stone artifacts that seem to be anchors and line weights, which style and type of stone point to Chinese origins. In 1904, Dr. John Fryer, professor of Oriental languages at U.C. Berkeley, declared: “This is undoubtedly the work of Mongolians.... the Chinese would naturally wall themselves in, as they do in all of their towns in China.”(17)
This chapter points out some rather interesting things: we find that ancient Phoenicians could have arrived in North and South America at about the same time that Lehi landed in North America, and even much earlier, showing that trans-Atlantic travel was not only possible, but verifiable. If both the Egyptians and Phoenicians had already sailed to North and South America around 2000 B.C. and after, as did other cultures, there is a very good possibility that Lehi would have known there was a way to sail to the promised land, particularly if the Lord directed him.
It is also most interesting that the Welsh knew of “white” Indians up the Ohio river, and of a great battle where the “red” Indians defeated the “white” Indians. Is this not reminiscent of what the Book of Mormon said happened at the end of their history? Could some of those white Indians have been remnants of the Phoenicians, Egyptians, Romans or Mauritanians, beside those of the Nephites?
As an example of how people of North America influenced one another, I would like to present a statement from a Wisconsin historical web site; speaking of ancient burials it said, “Burials were accompanied by ceremonial and exotic goods, such as copper ornaments, fine stone tools made from imported materials, ground-stone artifacts, and bone tools. Exotic materials were obtained through long-distance trade, including obsidian from Yellowstone, hornstone from Indiana, chalcedony from the Dakotas and marine shell from the Gulf coast. Sometimes caches of fine ceremonial items made of these materials were buried with the dead, and sometimes they were buried as offerings in their own right.”(18)
When Christopher Columbus first set sail in 1492, it is very possible that he knew that other peoples had already been to the big islands across the great western sea. He had already sailed to Iceland, knew what the English, Irish and Welsh sailors had to say about the Atlantic. And He also knew of the voyages that the Portuguese Joao Corte Real had made across the Northwest Atlantic, which voyages reached the Gulf of St. Lawrence in 1743, the same St. Lawrence to which Lehi possibly sailed.
When Nephi was commanded to build a boat for the long sea voyage to the promised land, we know that such technology was available at the time. How did the third-grade educated New York farm boy know that? So, again, Joseph Smith was right on target when the Book of Mormon suggested the possibility of sea travel from the Middle East to North America in 600 B.C., even though many of his critics said otherwise.
Therefore, considering the evidence, one might say that Lehi and his people were not alone when they eventually arrived in their promised land, and that Columbus was rather a Johnny-come-lately to the New World, as the map that follows points out. (Map below complements of Popular Mechanics Magazine, July 1963.)