Thursday, April 12, 2012

Who Was First?: Discovering the Americas

By Russell Freedman
Published by Clarion Books
Copyright © 2007

We are all taught in grade school that “in fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue”. Columbus is given much of the credit for discovery the Americas. We still have national holiday designated for his seeming accomplishment. But did Christopher Columbus really discover America?

“Who was first?” examines that question in relative detail providing accurate summations of probable discoverers of America prior to 1492. This list includes among others the Chinese and of course the Vikings. Though the evidence seems a bit light on the side of the Chinese the case is made that it is certainly within the realm of possibility. On the other hand there seems to be much more proof to crown the Vikings as discoverers of America which pre-dates Chinese exploration and makes it a moot point.     

However no discussion of the discovery of America would be complete without taking a look at the Native Americans who were already present in the time of Columbus and the Viking’s Leif Eriksson. The question is briefly posed: where did these natives come from? The Answer that we are familiar with is that they came across Beringia (the arctic land bridge) from Asia, but there is some thought that their may be some natives of European origin as well. While some may not agree with the Radio-carbon dates provided in this portion of the book, The Native migration order, fossil finds, and routes of travel are more or less accurate if not the dates.

“Who was First?” is a great educational book for the 4th through the 8th grade. It is even a good book for the adult looking for clear and succinct information on the subject, as it was a quick read and it kept my attention.

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