Italians knew about America 150 years before Columbus voyage

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Italians knew about America 150 years before Columbus voyage

The people of Genoa knew of the Americas more than 150 years before their most famous son arrived in the New World, according to research out of the University of Milan.

A Genoese friar recorded an account from sailors of an awe-inspiring continent beyond Greenland, inhabited by “huge giants,” in 1340, long before Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492, The Times of London reports.

Paolo  Chiesa
Paolo Chiesa led the research at the University of Milan.
University of Milan

“In this land, there are buildings with such huge slabs of stone that nobody could build with them, except huge giants. There are also green trees, animals and a great quantity of birds,” the friar, Galvaneus Flamma, wrote in a singular tome called the Cronica Universalis.

“This astonishing find is the first known report to circulate in the Mediterranean of the American continent, and if Columbus was aware of what these sailors knew it might have helped convince him make his voyage,” said Paolo Chiesa, who led the research at the University of Milan. His team’s findings appear in Terrae Incognitae, the Journal of the Society for the History of Discoveries.

The stories were passed down from Viking sailors, who historians say first visited North America around the year 1000.

“Nordic legends describe the trips, but until now there has been no evidence that word of this land spread to the Mediterranean,” said Chiesa.

Only one copy of the Cronica Univesalis exists and it was sold by Christie’s to a private American collector in 1996 for $14,950.

A chromolithograph by Louis Prang and Company.
A Genoese friar recorded an account from sailors of a continent beyond Greenland in 1340.
Bettmann Archive
Portrait of a Man, Said to be Christopher Columbus
The people of Genoa knew America existed more than 150 years before Christopher Columbus, according to the research.
Heritage Art/Heritage Images via Getty Images

It remains unpublished, although a public edition is planned, The Times reports.

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