As Americans celebrated Columbus Day, a Harvard professor reiterated his belief that neither Columbus nor Leif Ericson was the first European to reach the New World.
Europeans and Africans visited North America as early as 800 B.C., Howard B. Fell, professor of Invertebrate Biology, said yesterday. The immigrants came from the Iberian Peninsula and North Africa. They left linguistic marks across the continent, which are Fell's chief clues in his investigation.
"We have compiled 150 pages of chants from ancient Pima in the American Southeast," Fell said. Fell has proven that the chants, once thought to be undecipherable, are written in pure Iberic and Maghrib, languages prevalent in Spain and Morocco.
"The chants relate many familiar tales, including the Semitic creation story and Aesop's fables," Fell says. "They also clarify a good dcal of pre-Columbian American history, such as the events surrounding the collapse of the ancient Hohokam Empire."
Fell's research shows that Iberic was the near-universal language of North America by the 12th century A.D. Fell says that Iberic inscriptions are "practically everywhere you look" on the continent.