The Other Side Continent, by Michail Varvarousis ISBN 9781478772408
Four out of five stars
Presented as new results based on research, this book does not provide anything new. It is an organized and more popular description of the historical evidence for contact between the people of the two hemispheres well before the time of Christopher Columbus and his famous voyages.
In general, the history books date the interaction between the hemispheres as starting in 1492, which is largely incorrect. It has been documented that Norse explorers established colonies in Greenland, Canada and the New England area of the United States as far back as the 10th century CE and this knowledge would have filtered down to the rest of Europe. This is of course five hundred years before the voyages of Columbus. In fact it has been said that the Norse explorers called it Greenland in order to entice colonists to the new land. Furthermore, there is some historical evidence that Columbus used the stories of the Norse experiences to convince his royal backers to finance his expedition.
The Vikings were great explorers and colonizers, their expeditions went as far south as North Africa, even extending as far east as Constantinople and the Middle East. Norse raiders carried out attacks in Spain and established major colonies along the Volga River. The Norse also had sustained diplomatic relations with the Islamic world. From this it is clear that the Norse knowledge of the existence of the continents of the western hemisphere would have been passed along to the people of southern Europe and Africa.
The author mentions this as well as states some of the legends of a continent far to the west across the Atlantic Ocean. These legends go back to the time of the ancient Greeks and there is strong evidence that daring teams of ancient mariners crossed the Atlantic in boats made of papyrus. In 1970, Norwegian ethnologist Thor Heyerdahl and a team sailed a papyrus boat from Morocco to Barbados in only 57 days. When dealing with human actions, the maxim is that if it is possible to do it, humans will do it. Therefore, it seems reasonable to believe that the legends of the “lost continent” far to the west were based on facts.
Read as a consolidation and a summary, this is a good book of popular history, putting forward the thesis that there was at least sporadic contact between the hemispheres prior to Columbus. However, it is nothing more than that, if the reader’s interest is aroused, there are many other, more scholarly works that can be read.