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Coins Show Who Really Discovered America
By Dr. Sol Taylor
Saturday, April 29, 2006
nly Wisconsin does not observe Columbus Day on Oct. 12 each year. The large Norwegian American population believes, with good reason, that Columbus does not deserve the honor as the first European to discover the New World.
The actual person or persons who came here some 300 years before Columbus remain anonymous except possibly for Leif Erikson and a few others who may have ventured farther westward from Greenland 600 to 700 years ago.
In 1961 a small, dime-sized silver coin was unearthed from a rubbish pile at Blue Hill, Maine. At first, it was described as an early English coin of the 12th Century. When the coin was closely examined by Peter Seaby of the noted numismatic London coin firm, it was positively identified as a Norwegian coin of Olaf III Kyrre, of the period 1067-1093.
This gave solid evidence that Norse seamen had touched ashore on the coast of Maine and probably also at sites along the coasts of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.
Additional archaeological evidence such as fire sites, other artifacts and written records of the period in Norway allude to ventures beyond the islands of the Shetlands, Orkneys, Hebrides, Iceland and Greenland.
These isolated and probably uninhabited, inhospitable sites were not suitable for encampments or settlements; the visits were more likely stopovers to replenish supplies such as wood, water and maybe game.
Here and in many other cases, coins or even a single coin have offered solid, dated archaeological evidence to establish visitation by foreign venturers.
In the story told by Ed Rochette in "The Romance of Coin Collecting," another theory was that Norse coins were often exchanged with Eskimos in Greenland who wore them as jewelry with holes drilled in them. The Eskimos may have then been the ones who left such relics at their camp sites along the northeastern coasts.
Similar pieces to the Blue Hill coin also show either a missing piece or a hole, indicating they were used as jewelry.
Dr. Sol Taylor of Sherman Oaks is president of the Society of Lincoln Cent Collectors and author of The Standard Guide to the Lincoln Cent. Click here for ordering information.
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