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Who Discovered America Before Columbus?

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Although the Italian explorer, Christopher Columbus is often credited to the discovery of America, some believe it is not entirely true. According to some historians, the first Europeans to discover America were the Vikings. They reached America during the 11th century. They are often called as Norse sailors. The Norse sailors were a group of sailors that included explorers, merchants, warriors, and pirates.

A map of Viking's journey to North AmericaThe map above shows the Viking’s journey as they went to discover North America, about 500 years before Columbus found it. In 985 AD, Erik the Red reach Greenland & his son, Leif Eriksson eventually reach Newfoundland in 1000 AD.

The Viking Age

From the late eighth century to the mid 11th century, they explored, traded, and settled in different parts of Europe and the North Atlantic islands, including the continental North America. These timeline is also famously known as the Viking Age. Most of the Vikings or Norse sailor had Scandinavian origins. Later, they created settlements in various colonies. They also established several colonies in the continental North America. These colonies are known as the Norse colonies of North America.

No permanent settlements were made

They have also established colonies in Greenland at about the same time. These colonies in Greenland lasted for about 500 years but the colonies in North America were not developed to permanent colonies. Historians suggest that they mainly explored the continental North America for natural resources. At that time, Greenland was suffering from deforestation while the continental of North America had plenty of supply of furs, lumber and other resources. The reason for not establishing a permanent colony in North America, however, has remained unclear to historians.

The arrival of Christopher Columbus

Many speculate that the real reason was the hostile relation with the native people. The age of Vikings ended in the 12th century, mainly with the empowering of medieval Church, who outlawed the slavery tradition of the Vikings, which was their main source of income. With the voyage of Christopher Columbus, the Europeans gained a foothold in America, ending the short-lived settlements of the Viking on the continent.

What about the Natives?

You are right! Native Americans (Paleo-Indian) were the first to set foot in America. This probably happened around 16,500 – 13,000 years ago. OMG!

More on America

  1. Facts about North America
  2. Facts about The U.S.