I hate to drag this kinda-sorta back on topic, but...last night History International had a two hour program on "Who Really Discovered America?" Honestly I still think that Columbus is really the only one who counts as the "discoverer" because whomever else got here before him didn't bother to ignite the massive wave of colonization and momentus change in the world which Columbus wrought. That said, it was an interesting show.
They've managed to finally get an extremely thorough mapping of ocean currents using floats with GPS transponders. Several thousand of these have been dumped into the oceans all over the world, and their movements have been tracked via computer. With these current charts, they're able to more accurately determine how long various voyages would have taken, and what routes would have made most sense.
They pretty much ruled out the Chinese visiting the West Coast. The anchor stones which have been found off the California coast have been determined through analysis to most likely be from 19th Century fishing junks which are known to have fished off the California coast. Saint Brendan? No definitive archaeological evidence, though interestingly, Columbus apparently made a trip to Galway before his voyage, to gather information on the Brendan legend. There is a site near Groton, Connecticut which is claimed to bear strong resemblance to an early Christian worship site, and there are symbols which look like Chi-Rho's on stones around the entrance. Maddoc of Wales? Not so much. Absolutely no evidence at all.
Interestingly, the very early Japanese may have made the trip in dugout canoes, no less. After a massive volcanice eruption, larger than Krakatoa, devastated Kyushu, it's believed a good portion of the population amscrayed, and their route would have taken them north from Japan, and following the coast along eastern Siberia, across the Bering Strait and then following the west coast of N. America, ultimately reaching Chile. Evidence points to the Japanese teaching the Chilean natives pottery--styles of pottery and design motifs match. Even more provocatively, is the existance of mummies found in the desert which had been infected with the HTLV-1 virus. This virus is only found one other place--Japan. Also, video of the tribe shows distinct Asian features in the people, including pronounced epicanthic folds.
Yet another possible early visit was by the Polynesians, again to an island off Chile. Bones show distinctive Polynesian features--Polynesian skulls are "pentagonal" when viewed from the rear, as opposed to Eurasian rounded skulls. Also, Polynesians have a "rocker jaw", with a rounded lower mandible. Eurasian lower mandibles are squared off. Unfortunately, the burial site they're excavating has not yet yielded viable DNA for testing. As one researcher put it, the Polynesians were an extremely accomplished nautical people, who regularly undertook long voyages of discovery just for the sake of discovery. To imagine that they'd miss those two huge "islands" to the east is to defy probability.
Edited by Jim Martin, 30 July 2010 - 0933 AM.