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Old 07-08-2010, 10:25 PM
 
Location: Los Angeles area
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I am picking up on one aspect of a recently closed thread which one poster suggested should be a separate thread. I do not understand the outrage which the term "discovery" of the New World provokes in some people. As long as the thing discovered was not previously known to the discoverer, then the term is accurate (as in discovering a new restaurant which does not imply the "discoverer" was the first ever customer). It is so obvious that native peoples were already here; how is that relevant? To say that Columbus discovered America does not in any way validate or justify the subsequent brutality. Rather, it just states a fact: The Europeans didn't know about the existence of the New World until Columbus discovered it for them. I already understood as a third grader in the early 1950's that native Americans had gotten a raw deal, and I cannot even say that my teachers and textbooks were especially sophisticated. This is all so obvious, yet there is controvery. Why?
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Old 07-09-2010, 08:27 AM
 
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I have no problem with the use of the word "discover" when applied to the people who first saw America 20,000+ years ago. The first Europeans see the continent were probably the Vikings in the 10th century, who also slaughtered the indigenous people. Of course, there are people claiming that:
  • the Egyptians came over around 2000 BCE.
  • the people from Carthage came over before 100 BCE.
  • St. Brendan the Navigator was the first European to discover America in the 6th century (Columbus seems to have believed this story as he talked about St. Brenden).
  • the Chinese came over in 1421 (highly controversial).

While most of the above is conjecture and remains to be verified by scientists, it's clear that Columbus did not discover the new world, nor was he the first European to do so. The big controversy is over Columbus, who never even saw the continent (North or South). Not the word. I don't think anyone would argue that the discovery occurred some 20,000 years ago by probably Asians, but scientists still have to nail that down.

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary gives the definition of discover as:
Quote:
1 a : to make known or visible : expose b archaic : display
2 a : to obtain sight or knowledge of for the first time : find <discover the solution> b : find out <discovered he was out of gas>
Others did both of these before Columbus so it's interesting, controversial, and incorrect to give Columbus any credit for discovering America. He doesn't even deserve credit for discovering Hispanola since the indigenous people in FL and Central America knew about it, according to my understanding of Bartolomé de las Casas' writings.

To answer your question succinctly, I personally don't have a problem with the concept of discovery, but I do take issue with who is credited with discovering it.
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Old 07-09-2010, 09:24 AM
 
Location: Los Angeles area
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We are talking past each other. The definition and use of the verb discover, even the one that you quoted, goes beyond the concept of finding something for the first time. (See your 1 a above). Only if we assume that "discover" can only mean to find something for the first time ever does your semantic quibbling hold up. However, it is clear that "discover" goes beyond that meaning, as in discovering one's keys on the couch (maybe someone saw them there before), discovering a "new" restaurant (others have eaten there before), or (as in your quote) discovering one is out of gas (perhaps one's wife already knew it!). We all know about the Vikings, and we all know about people crossing the Bering land bridge, but how is that relevant? Even if all the other claims you mentioned turn out to be true, they would still be irrelevant, because the Europeans of Columbus' time did not know of the existence of what we now call North and South America (to which, in a general sense, the islands of the Caribbean belong) and so for those Europeans, Columbus was indeed the discoverer. If yet another example is needed, Isaac Newton and Leibnitz independently discovered differential calculus. Neither knew of the other's work at the time the work was carried out. So it is meaningless quibbling to want to disqualify one or the other based on the time lapse (one week, one month, one year?). Both discovered it!

Moderator cut: Please discuss the topic, not each other.

Last edited by Escort Rider; 07-09-2010 at 09:35 AM..
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Old 07-09-2010, 10:21 AM
 
Location: Østenfor sol og vestenfor måne
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There is no evidence, by the way, that today's Native Americans are descendants of the first humans to encounter the America's. There have been several waves of migrations from Asia and those that crossed the Bering Strait land-bridge ~10,000 years ago are just one of them. It is possible that the descendants of the first humans to see North America are extinct or in South America.
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Old 07-09-2010, 11:29 AM
 
Location: Los Angeles area
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ABQConvict View Post
There is no evidence, by the way, that today's Native Americans are descendants of the first humans to encounter the America's. There have been several waves of migrations from Asia and those that crossed the Bering Strait land-bridge ~10,000 years ago are just one of them. It is possible that the descendants of the first humans to see North America are extinct or in South America.
That is fascinating and I would like to know more. Do you have a link or a book title? Of course it has nothing to do with the argument I am having with Peppermint about the meaning and proper use of the word "discover".

To Peppermint: Isn't it odd how we agree on all the facts and our discussion revolves on how we have chosen to use that one word (discover)? Probably wasn't worth the energy I put into it!
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Old 07-09-2010, 11:30 AM
 
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I'm assuming that a lot of people don't agree with the term "discovery" because it implies and strengthens the notion that the Americas were devoid of any meaningful populations at the time of Columbus. "Discovery" at that time also implied that the spoils of Discovery were the real intent of the voyage and not some harmless mapping exercise. The uproar over the use of the term is really just the spearhead of a movement to erase the history of subjugation of American Indians by European "discoverers". That portion of US history has now been amended to include the fact that the indigenous people of America had quite a large population in both north and south America and therefore Columbus' "discovery" should be part of Spain's history not that of the US.
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Old 07-09-2010, 11:34 AM
 
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For anyone interested in a good read on the subject of pre Columbus America, Charles C mann's book, "1491" is one of the best early US histories available.
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Old 07-09-2010, 11:48 AM
 
Location: Los Angeles area
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Default Implications

Quote:
Originally Posted by jertheber View Post
I'm assuming that a lot of people don't agree with the term "discovery" because it implies and strengthens the notion that the Americas were devoid of any meaningful populations at the time of Columbus. "Discovery" at that time also implied that the spoils of Discovery were the real intent of the voyage and not some harmless mapping exercise. The uproar over the use of the term is really just the spearhead of a movement to erase the history of subjugation of American Indians by European "discoverers". That portion of US history has now been amended to include the fact that the indigenous people of America had quite a large population in both north and south America and therefore Columbus' "discovery" should be part of Spain's history not that of the US.
I do not see why the use of "discovery" should imply the notion that "the Americas were devoid of any meaningful populations at the time of Columbus". Indeed, Columbus discovered (not in quotes) not only land, but also the populations (or a small subset of them) that inhabited that land. No one has ever disputed this, as far as I know. I agree that Columbus' discovery (not in quotes) has more to do with the history of Spain than that of the U.S., but in a very broad sense it is the origin of our history because it led eventually to the colonization of North and South America by European countries.
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Old 07-09-2010, 11:54 AM
 
Location: Philaburbia
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Columbus didn't know the continent existed. Nobody he knew was aware it existed.

Same with the Vikings, and anyone else who happened upon the continent before Columbus.

Sounds like "discovery" to me.
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Old 07-09-2010, 01:41 PM
 
2,319 posts, read 4,802,305 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ABQConvict View Post
There is no evidence, by the way, that today's Native Americans are descendants of the first humans to encounter the America's. There have been several waves of migrations from Asia and those that crossed the Bering Strait land-bridge ~10,000 years ago are just one of them. It is possible that the descendants of the first humans to see North America are extinct or in South America.
Mitochondrial DNA testing has consistently shown that American Indians share genetic markers with Asians and Siberians. There is also DNA evidence that some present day American Indians share genetic markers from Europeans. Using the mitochondrial DNA to date these genetic markers, it looks like Europeans may have found America 10,000+ years ago. Researchers are still running this down. It will likely take decades to sort that out.

If you are postulating that the continent was peopled over 20-30K years ago but that those people died/were killed, I can't provide evidence to support or deny that claim. To my knowledge, there is no evidence to support that idea. I won't say it didn't happen, but given present information, it's unlikely.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Escort Rider View Post
To Peppermint: Isn't it odd how we agree on all the facts and our discussion revolves on how we have chosen to use that one word (discover)? Probably wasn't worth the energy I put into it!
I actually think that discussions like this are beneficial. They allow me to see another perspective and to flesh out my ideas.

So, back to "discover". You said,

Quote:
Originally Posted by Escort Rider View Post
Even if all the other claims you mentioned turn out to be true, they would still be irrelevant, because the Europeans of Columbus' time did not know of the existence of what we now call North and South America (to which, in a general sense, the islands of the Caribbean belong) and so for those Europeans, Columbus was indeed the discoverer.
Columbus never reached the mainland. Northern Europeans, naming the Icelandics, did know about North America. It's a broad brush to say "Europeans didn't know". Also, it's very western Euro-centric. We are arguing over Columbus though. This isn't the subject of your original post. I am more than happy to discuss Columbus, but I think I've answered your OP about discovery. The rest will be slightly off-topic, and I'm not sure this is the thread for it.

It is not true that Europeans didn't know about the New World. Icelandic maps from the 16th century, prior to Columbus' voyages, show the northern part of North America. However, the Vikings didn't find gold or anything like it. There was no great story here. There were no permanent settlements. Archeologists aren't certain why - hostile natives and harsh climate might be part of it. Some scientists believe that trading might have continued between the two (indigenous peoples & the Vikings) for 400 years, meaning it might have ended just before Columbus arrived.

Like I said before, my issue is Columbus being the discoverer. It's incorrect. One of the many incorrect stories told in American history.
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