Ancient Roman Shipwrecks?

A few weeks ago, surveyors were examining the Mediterranean Sea in preparation for a new gas pipeline. In the process, they discovered two ancient shipwrecks in deep waters. Did ancient sailors risk the open seas?

Do shipwrecks indicate ancient Roman sailors risked the open seas?

Do shipwrecks indicate ancient Roman sailors risked the open seas?
Description: Fresco of a Roman Ship (2nd/3rd Century AD)
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Ancient Roman Shipwrecks?

We talk a lot about pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact here at Guerrilla Explorer. Over the years, scholars have speculated that various civilizations traveled to America long before Christopher Columbus and even the Vikings. Other scholars have argued for travel going the other way, most notably Topa Inca Yupanqui’s legendary expedition in 1480.

So, these ancient shipwrecks take on additional interest in our eyes. If ancient Roman merchants were willing to travel outside of coastal routes, then it’s certainly possible a few of them might’ve decided to test the ocean itself.

The shipwrecks in question date back to the third century. They were found between Corfu and Italy under 0.7 to 0.9 miles of seawater. This is rather unusual as most shipwrecks from that era are discovered under just 100 to 130 feet of water.

“There are many Roman shipwrecks, but these are in deep waters. They were not sailing close to the coast. The conventional theory was that, as these were small vessels up to 25 meters (80 feet) long, they did not have the capacity to navigate far from the coast, so that if there was a wreck they would be close enough to the coast to save the crew.” ~ Angeliki Simossi, Head of Greece’s Underwater Antiquities Department

Now, its possible these ships were pushed off-shore in a storm. Plus, undersea currents might’ve caused the wreckage to shift over time. Also, these ships could’ve been helmed by unusually brave (or foolhardy) captains who were more prone to test limits. However, other ancient wrecks have been found far from land over the last decade or two, leading some scholars to question “the coast hugging theory.”

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Unfortunately, Greece has yet to release the exact location of the shipwrecks. Thus, it’s impossible to draw too many conclusions. According to Simossi, the ships had not been “sailing close to the coast.” But it remains to be seen how far away they actually got from coastal routes.

“In antiquity, ships didn’t sail around with depth finders and keep track of how deep they were. It was more how far they were on the surface in relation to land. After 30 meters of depth the boat’s safe, so if it’s 30 meters (100 feet) or 3,000 meters it’s a little irrelevant.” ~ Jeffrey Royal, Director of RPM Nautical Foundation

So, for now, we’ll wait for more information. But if these ships were found far off-shore, it’ll add a little bit of hope to the theory that ancient mariners ventured further into the seas than we once believed. Maybe, just maybe, a few of them set sail many centuries ago and headed into the ocean, hoping to discover a New World.

Did the Incas visit the Old World?

Around 1480, Topa Inca Yupanqui embarked on a mysterious voyage. Did the Incas travel clear across the Pacific Ocean…prior to the Europeans?

Pre-Columbian Mystery: Did the Incas visit the Old World?

Pre-Columbian Mystery: Did the Incas visit the Old World?
Description: Drawing of Topa Inca Yupanqui
Attribution: Guaman Poma (1615)
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Pre-Columbian Mystery: Did the Incas visit the Old World?

In 1572, Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa wrote a famous book entitled, The History of the Incas. He wrote it while in Cuzco, the capital of the Inca Empire, a mere 40 years after Spanish conquistadors arrived in the city. He took great pains to record the history and mythology of the Incas, even going so far as to solicit feedback from them during public readings.

In his tome, he described a nine to twelve-month voyage conducted by the tenth Sapa Inca (or king), Topa Inca Yupanqui. Supposedly, this pre-Columbian voyage took the Incas to two islands known as Avachumbi (or Outer Island) and Ninachumbi (Fire Island). Here are some excerpts from the original text:

“Tupac Inca was a man of lofty and ambitious ideas, and was not satisfied with the regions he had already conquered. So he determined to challenge a happy fortune, and see if it would favour him by sea…

The Inca, having this certainty, determined to go there. He caused an immense number of balsas to be constructed, in which he embarked more than 20,000 chosen men…

Tupac Inca navigated and sailed on until he discovered the islands of Avachumbi and Ninachumbi, and returned, bringing back with him black people, gold, a chair of brass, and a skin and jaw bone of a horse. These trophies were preserved in the fortress of Cuzco until the Spaniards came…

An Inca now living had charge of this skin and jaw bone of a horse. He gave this account, and the rest who were present corroborated it. His name is Urco Huaranca. I am particular about this because to those who know anything of the Indies it will appear a strange thing and difficult to believe. The duration of this expedition undertaken by Tupac Inca was nine months, others say a year, and, as he was so long absent, every one believed he was dead…” ~ Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa, The History of the Incas

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Some scholars believe the veracity of this account of a pre-Columbian voyage. They point to the Galápagos Islands as well as Easter Island as possible locations for Avachumbi and Ninachumbi. Others believe the account is mythological and indeed, the text backs this up to a certain point. Prior to embarking on his pre-Columbian expedition, Topa Inca supposedly consulted a strange man named Antarqui. Antarqui, who was able to talk to the dead as well as fly, used his magic to determine the islands were real. Only then did Topa Inca set sail.

A pre-Columbian journey by the Incas certainly seems feasible. Unfortunately, no physical evidence of it remains. However, that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Someday soon, archaeologists might uncover a huaraca or a tokapu while investigating an island somewhere in the Pacific Ocean…and in the process, rewrite history.

Did Ancient Greeks Discover America?

In 1492, Christoper Columbus sailed “the ocean blue.” But did he really lead the first (or even the second) expedition to reach North America? Or did Pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact exist?

Did Plutarch record ancient pre-columbian travel?

Did Plutarch record ancient pre-Columbian travel?
Description: Drawing of Plutarch
Attribution: Parallel Lives, Amyot translation, 1565
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Pre-Columbian Mystery: Did Ancient Greeks Discover America?

One of our favorite subjects here at Guerrilla Explorer is pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact. Over the years, scholars have speculated that everyone from the ancient Romans to the Polynesians to the Japanese sailed to America long before Christopher Columbus. There is also evidence of travel going the other way as well, most notably Topa Inca Yupanqui’s legendary expedition in 1480.

We now know the Vikings reached Greenland in the late 900s. And it seems fairly likely that Polynesians traveled to South America between 300 and 1200. However, theories of other trans-oceanic expeditions have yet to be proven. Now, researchers have a new theory to study, thanks Dr. Minas Tsikritsis. Based on his analysis of Plutarch’s text, “On the Apparent Face in the Orb of the Moon,” Dr. Tsikritsis believes the Greeks visited the new world…all the way back in 86!

Here’s more on the possibility of pre-Columbian contact from Canada Greek Reporter:

Dr. Tsikritsis states that, “even before the time of Christopher Columbus, there was a communication which began during the Minoan era and continued until the Hellenistic times. The purpose of these travels during the Bronze Age was related to trade and the transportation of pure copper from Lake Superior of Canada.”

According to his findings it seems that after the first Minoan merchants, the Mycenaeans continued the journey, and, as reported by Plutarch, they sent Hercules to revitalize the presence of the Greek element, which had been diminished by the continuous miscegenation with the locals. Later, during the Iron Age, the interest in the region declined and until the Hellenistic time, it remained only as a conventional ceremonial tradition. So every thirty years some ships were sent to the areas that followed the worship of Cronus in order to renew the priest personnel.

The ancient text by Plutarch states that the dialogue coordinator, Lambrias, asks Sylla the Carthagean to narrate once more a story that he had heard from the servants of the temple of Cronus in Carthage. The story was originally told by a foreigner who was visiting the temple and came from the great continent.

According to Tsikritsis, who analyzed the data with the aid of a special computer program, “the information that is mentioned in the text confirms the description of a journey in 86 AD from Canada to Carthage.”

(See Canada Greek Reporter for more on pre-Columbian contact)

Who Really Discovered America?

More than anyone else, Christopher Columbus is responsible for connecting the Old World to the New World. But he wasn’t the first person to reach America. So, who discovered America?

Who Discovered America?

Who Discovered America?
Christopher Columbus lands on the shores of the New World
Painted by Dióscoro Teófilo Puebla Tolín
Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Who Discovered America?

I’ve long favored the idea that pre-Columbian contact between the “Old World” and “New World” was far more extensive than the history books would have you believe. And given recent evidence, it appears those history books may need to be rewritten. Someday soon, we may actually be able to determine who discovered America. But for now, there’s growing evidence that ancient Europeans once traveled to America. Here’s more on who discovered America from The Telegraph:

In a discovery that could rewrite the history of the Americas, archaeologists have found a number of stone tools dating back between 19,000 and 26,000 years, and bearing remarkable similarities to those made in Europe.

…The tools could reassert the long dismissed and discredited claim that Europeans in the form of Christopher Columbus and his crew were the first to discover the New World…

(See The Telegraph for more on who discovered America)