Narragansett | For centuries it was believed that Christopher Columbus was the first man from the Old continent to cross the Atlantic to the New World, but new evidence from a research team from the University of Rhode Island suggests Muslim seafarers might just be the first people to have settled on the shores of America, a possibility that could rewrite history as we know it.
The discovery completely took the researchers by surprise admits professor Evan Yuriesco, in charge of the research team.
“ We were expecting to find traces of prehistoric Native American settlements, as we have in the area for the past decades. We were not prepared to find 9th century clay pots containing ancient manuscripts written in the Arabic language “ he explains.
The team of researchers fell upon what could be the mass tomb of 9th century seafarers. The four skeletons that have been found on the site are in a state of advanced decomposition which could make DNA testing impossible, warns the expert, although the teeth showed premature decay which could explain the cause of death by a poor diet or an unknown illness.
A number of items were also found, as cloths, coins and two scimitars, yet the remaining artifacts were in such a bad state that they are barely recognizable, as rust has destroyed any possible recognizable trace of writing on the swords and coins, and the pieces of cloth having rotten due to age and the extreme humidity of the area.
Two clay pots were also found in a surprisingly good state, one of them containing the precious manuscripts and the other a mixture of unidentified dried spices which, when identified, could bring further proof of the origin of these sea dwellers.
Islamic medieval scholar Karim Ibn Fallah from the University of Massachussets has determined that the age of the manuscripts is from the 9th century based on the Kufic script of the manuscripts. “Kufic is the oldest calligraphic form of the various Arabic scripts and consists of a modified form of the old Nabataean script” he explains. “Kufic developed around the end of the 7th century in Kufa, Iraq, from which it takes its name. The discovery of Kufic scripts in pre-Columbus America is extremely fascinating” he adds, visibly excited.
Byron Kent, museologist at the Smithsonian, admits the find is extremely troubling. “There is no question that Arab maps were the best in the world, but none of the existing early maps demonstrates any knowledge of the Americas” he ponders. Even though the burden of historical evidence has been against the idea of Muslim populations traveling across the Atlantic in pre-Columbus times, the expert does not dispute that Muslims could have beaten Columbus to the New World.
“They certainly possessed the technological expertise to have done so; but, until now, there was no reliable evidence that they did. This discovery, however, is compelling proof that they, in fact, did” admits the expert.
Richard Francaviglia of Willamette University and Best Selling author of “Far Beyond the Western Sea of the Arabs…’: Reinterpreting Claims about Pre-Columbian Muslims in the Americas” also admits the discovery is unexpected.
“The premise of pre-Columbian Islam in the New World is attractive because it is so plausible. The navigational accomplishments of Muslims were significant indeed. The record confirms that they rapidly explored and colonized a substantial portion of the Old World by the ninth and tenth centuries CE. Columbus himself was clearly indebted to Muslim seafaring skills, and there is little doubt that Muslims had the technological expertise to have reached the New World”.
Muslim historian and geographer Abul-Hassan Ali Ibn Al-Hussain Al-Masudi (871-957 CE) wrote in his book Muruj adh-dhahab wa maadin aljawhar (The meadows of gold and quarries of jewels) that during the rule of the Muslim caliph of Spain Abdullah Ibn Mohammad (888-912 CE), a Muslim navigator, Khashkhash Ibn Saeed Ibn Aswad, from Cortoba, Spain sailed from Delba (Palos) in 889 CE, crossed the Atlantic, reached an unknown territory (ard majhoola) and returned with fabulous treasures. In Al-Masudi’s map of the world there is a large area in the ocean of darkness and fog which he referred to as the unknown territory, which many scholars believe to be the Americas.