August 29, 2002
5:19 PM   Subscribe

Evidence since the early 1800s hinted that Welsh prince Madoc ab Owain Gwynedd and a colony of Welsh settlers discovered America in the 10th Century and eventually became assimilated as American Indians. New discoveries using DNA from graves in TN and England could show Madoc was actually a relative of King Aurthur and sailed to America in 562 AD! The historians Wilson and Blackett who have a loyal and cult-like following were also commissioned to produce a detailed genealogy of the Bush family by former President George Bush (senior).
posted by stbalbach (25 comments total)
Favorite quote:

"As Bernard De Voto well observed, the insubstantial world of fairies and folklore is as real as the visable world to Celtic peoples."
posted by stbalbach at 5:21 PM on August 29, 2002

You gotta love a Press Release that begins:

Howard Kimberley is latest in a long line of liars uttering a catalogue of libel and distortion. Obviously it is impractical to try to refute this plethora of fabrications that have characterised the attempts to sabotage our historical research in Wales.
posted by vacapinta at 5:38 PM on August 29, 2002

I am feeble and have trouble following this. Does this mean Bush family assimilated from the Welsh and are really American Indians? Can they open a casino now? Did he smoke a long pipe which Democrat detractors confused with illegal substances? Please explain.
posted by Postroad at 5:47 PM on August 29, 2002

But what about the Vikings?

Seriously, though, I'm not sure how to take these claims. There have been faked runestones (geocities) all over the American southeast for a long time. There is real evidence of Viking settlement at L'Anse-aux-Meadows. Maybe our archaeological techniques aren't really advanced enough yet. Maybe people are eager to prove increasingly earlier settlement or contact of the New World by Europeans as a way of devaluing First Nations/Aboriginal Peoples' claim on the land.
posted by kate_fairfax at 6:50 PM on August 29, 2002

Bwah-ha-ha-ha! I knew it! You may all vacate the premises now - otherwise, rent will be due at the first of each month. No personal checks please.
posted by yhbc at 7:19 PM on August 29, 2002

thanks postroad, now i have a half chewed starburst on my screen.
posted by clavdivs at 7:22 PM on August 29, 2002

It wasn't the Vikings! It was the Irish!

Specifically, St. Brendan in the early 6th century.

Seriously, though, I have a lot of trouble believing Columbus was the first European to 'discover' the new world. There are far too many Native American myths and legends about people with distinctly Northern European features that predate Columbus. I don't know if it is the same among all the tribes, but that seems to be the case among the Iroquois (of which my husband is a member).
posted by Kellydamnit at 7:24 PM on August 29, 2002

Columbus. He didn't even land in America, only islands in the Carribean. His crew was all convicts given their freedom if they went, because no one else wanted to. He raped and murdered the natives, returned to Spain in chains, discovered nothing. It was all Amerigo Vespucci. Or the Vikings, Irish or Welsh. whatever.
posted by ac at 8:26 PM on August 29, 2002

I am feeble and have trouble following this.

now there's a tagline!
posted by y2karl at 8:46 PM on August 29, 2002

It was all Amerigo Vespucci. Or the Vikings, Irish or Welsh. whatever.

Or Mali, for that matter...

Not that, considering the by any means necessary mode of acquisition, not to mention the upstanding types all around among the early conquistadors and colonizers, why anyone would wish to take credit for being the first isn't a question that comes to mind. It wasn't like the old joke that went
How did the Italians invade Poland?
rhey walked in backwards waving with big smiles on their faces, saying Bye! See ya! Had a wonderful time! Thanks for everything!
posted by y2karl at 9:08 PM on August 29, 2002

karl! I don't get that joke, and it's really bothering me. Why did they come in backwards? And who were they waving to?
posted by ac at 9:27 PM on August 29, 2002

For those of you who have been following this, there have been recent developments concerning the authenticity of the Vinland Map.

Although the debate had been considered settled - that it was indeed a hoax - there are now more reasons to believe that this roller-coaster ride will continue for a while. Here's the Nature article from August 1.

I own a copy of Skelton, Marston and Painters fascinating book The Vinland Map and the Tartar Relation (1995 edition). Here is an excerpt from the book jacket:

The Vinland Map, dated to about AD 1440 - at least fifty years before Columbus landed in the Americas - is a unique map of the world that shows an outline of ther northeast American coast and a legend describing its discovery in about 1000 by Leif Eirikkson, the Norseman from Greenland. The Map was published by Yale University Press in 1965 and generated an enormous amount of debate. Chemical analysis of the ink later suggested that the map might be a forgery, but recent appraisals of both scientific and humanist evidence argue that it is indeed authentic
posted by vacapinta at 10:30 PM on August 29, 2002

I've seen the Vinland map in person at the Beinecke, and if it's a forgery, it's a pretty impressive one.

Here's a fairly hi-res colour image of the map. (clicking on the image opens up the large version)

You're right, vacapinta, that Skelton, Marston and Painters book is a terrific one.
posted by evanizer at 11:21 PM on August 29, 2002

Many of the grave mounds found in the American mid West, including those at Bat Creek, Tennessee

Tennessee is in the midwest? Elvis will be so disappointed.
posted by bingo at 2:06 AM on August 30, 2002

For more information about Leif Eriksson, see here.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 4:49 AM on August 30, 2002

Pshaw, quiet clearly it was Christ who got here first.
posted by piskycritter at 5:50 AM on August 30, 2002

ac: They were waving at the Poles, of course! It's a two-fer slur in that it plays on the alleged lack of martial prowess of one group and the same for the intellect of another. But it's so mild for ethnic humor and rather sweet. Heard it from my very Polish uncle.
posted by y2karl at 8:16 AM on August 30, 2002

ac: The Caribbean is in America.

I'm with kate_fairfax. I'm half Swede, so I'm inclined to credit the Vikings for getting here, but I certainly don't think it was impossible for anyone else. Heck, Thor Heyerdahl pretty much showed it was a cinch for anyone with luck and patience. There were lots of seafaring cultures that could have made the journey -- the Basque believe they reached the Grand Banks and Newfoundland at least as early as 1500 and possibly much earlier. The first documented Breton fishermen made landfall in 1504.

What is certain is that Portugal and Spain had interests in the New World that lay on land, specifically maintaining their dominance of trade with East Asia. They viewed maps and navigation with the gravity of state secrets. (Apparently the establishment of the Roanoke colony by Sir Walter Raleigh was only possible because of a "renegade" Portuguese navigator, and Raleigh also has a connection to a spy mission to steal Spanish maps.) The were the first, then, to put all these explorations down and record details that would assist mapmakers. Whalers wouldn't need such detail, at least in those days; fishermen might only be interested in land for minor resupply forays. It makes sense that there were undocumented contacts with the New World.

Incidentally, another group of "white Indians" is the Lumbee of South Carolina. They are not recognized by the US as an official tribe because they are "too white", i.e. assimiliated from a BIA standpoint. (How white are they? One famous Lumbee is Heather Locklear -- a common Lumbee last name.) But many Lumbee believe they may be descended from early colonists, perhaps even the lost Roanoke colony itself, or other small groups of settlers -- some French Huguenot possibilities exist -- in the middle 1500s. All I can say is, it doesn't seem impossible.

And I'm surprised there hasn't been more use of DNA sampling to investigate these questions.
posted by dhartung at 8:43 AM on August 30, 2002

Hen wlad fy nhadau ... America?

These are interesting theories that have been around for a while. As dhartung says, it's interesting that DNA sampling is only starting to be used (although not being a biologist I have no idea what the limitations are on this technology).

The Lumbee also reside in the eponymous Lumberton, NC.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 9:08 AM on August 30, 2002

I'm half Swede, so I'm inclined to credit the Vikings for getting here

I'm part native Mexican so I'm inclined to credit them for getting here. :)

And I'm surprised there hasn't been more use of DNA sampling to investigate these questions.

I dont understand. There has been genetic studies of general DNA lineages undertaken.

Its hopeless with tribes like the Lumbee though (unless they have an ancient burial site we can dig up). Inevitable post-Columbian 'mixing' would tend to wash out any other recent pre-Columbian migrations unless they occured long enough ago to show up in studies of the mitochondrial DNA.
posted by vacapinta at 9:41 AM on August 30, 2002

Also, apart from the Lumbee, there are the Croatans of Virginia, Ramapaughs of northern New Jersey aka the Jackson Whites, the blended with black tribes like the Moors of Delaware or the Ben Ishmaels--as Hakim Bey has noted.
posted by y2karl at 9:49 AM on August 30, 2002

...and the Melungeons, too.
posted by cowboy_sally at 10:13 AM on August 30, 2002

So, which is it? Was Madoc from the 6th century, or 1170? I'm confused, at best.
posted by schampeo at 12:23 PM on August 30, 2002

Well, Columbus never landed on the American mainland is what I meant. I'm pretty sure not too many people know that. Except mefi'ers of course, we're all smart :]
posted by ac at 6:53 PM on August 30, 2002

Thanks, stbalbach. I love this alt.history stuff.
posted by aflakete at 10:03 PM on August 30, 2002

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