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What Point(s) of Departure Would the Native Americans Need to Sail Across the Atlantic and Colonize

Full title is actually "What Point(s) of Departure Would the Native Americans Need to Sail Across the Atlantic and Colonize Europe?"



Sometime last year on DeviantArt, I found this map by MoshiDungo:






The title of the map is What if the Americas colonised Europe? As the title explicitly implies, it shows a pre-Columbian Europe being colonized by American sailors, rather than the other way around. Unfortunately, the cartographer wasn't clear on what the points of departure are to make this possible, which raises the question:



What point of departure, or pointS of departure, would I need for Native American tribes to sail across the Atlantic and stake their claims on Europe?
 

CupofJoe

Myth Weaver
They would need the technology too.
A lot depends on the ships/boats available.
The winds and currents would be a given, that is not going to change much.
Following the Viking routes [as seem to have been done here], and with their capability of ships, you would be looking at Greenland and the northeast of the continent as a starting point. Maybe down as far as Long Island and out of the St Lawrence River.
But if there were more ocean-going ships and my [long distant] memory of Atlantic winds and currents holds, there would also be a southern route. From the eastern seaboard and Caribbean to the Azores and then up the coast of Spain, France, etc...
 

ThinkerX

Myth Weaver
Gulf current runs clockwise in the North Atlantic. They'd follow that.

Points of origin would need adequate timber, artisans of appropriate skill, and good harbors. Native Americans, far as I know, didn't use sails. That'd require changing - maybe a big divine revelation type deal. High order civilization would also be desirable. Taking all that into account...

best options would put the fleets origin's in what is now Mexico/Central America (Maya culture, maybe) or possibly one or another of the isolated North American 'city states,' maybe operating from harbors in what is now NYC or a bit further south.
 

Stevie

Minstrel
They came all that way and began a settlement in Aberdeen!? I'm not surprised the arrow shows them heading home after that;)

Seriously though, Orkney makes more sense as a landfall and a departure point going west. Natural harbour and more easily conquered and defended than mainland Scotland. The Vikings, the Hudson Bay Company and the British Navy all based themselves there (not all at the same time, mind).
 

CupofJoe

Myth Weaver
There is growing evidence that Orkney may have been [was] the epicentre of the British neolithic Henge building that lead to places like Stonehenge much further south. If people could get to and from Orkney to places in the British Isles [and maybe further?], it wouldn't be too big of a stretch to write a story where a group "island hopped" from North America to Europe.
 

Stevie

Minstrel
Orkney does have some stunning neolithic architecture. Mae's Howe is a standout example, made all the better by Viking grafitti carved on it. As I recall, one runic inscription goes something like, "Ragnar Hairy-Breeks was here." Pure class.
 
What would be plausible to me would be perhaps a full circle from Polynesian people- moving Into Central America with the technology and vision to keep on moving-- through the Gulf and on to Europe. Picking up culture and peoples along the way-
 

Mad Swede

Maester
OK, the chart you've posted ignores how long it takes to sail. The Vikings sailed westwards from the westernmost parts of Norway, first to the Shetlands, then to the Faroes and then onto Iceland and after that Greenland. From Greenland they seem to have gone on down towards Labrador. The reason for this is that that route is about the optimum route given how long you can sail in an open longship without becoming too tired. That limits the stages to 2-3 days sailing, 4 days at most.

So, assuming your Native Americans have the same sort of ship building and navigating ability as the Vikings, then the optimum route is up the coast towards Labrador, then across to Greenland. From there, the current would help them reach Iceland. After that, they might reach either the Faroes or at a stretch the Norwegian coast around Bergen or Stavanger. From the Faroes they could reach the Shetlands and then the northern parts of Scotland. Depending on the wind they might also make landfall on the Hebridies having sailed from Iceland, but as with the route from Iceland to Norway this is a real stretch which would require some luck.

To use any other route you'd need a bigger ship (as a minimum something the size of John Cabot's Matthew) and it would take several weeks to make the crossing directly across the Atlantic.
 

Miles Lacey

Maester
images

Perhaps this map could help?

I would argue that the shortest point across the Atlantic (and the first used by trans-Atlantic airships) is between Brazil and western Africa so you could have indigenous Americans crossing from Brazil to western Africa then moving up the African coast to Europe via Spain or Portugal.

For the Native Americans to cross the North Atlantic they would need to be used to navigating in a very cold environment. The cold, more than anything else, would hinder their movements. It's easy to forget that the earliest European travellers who stepped foot in North America were used to living and sailing in very cold and harsh conditions. However, not even they were hardy enough to survive for long in North America.
 
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To answer the original question, their point of departure could have been pretty much anywhere along the coast of North America. As long as you follow a coastline your point of departure doesn't matter all that much, since you can restock important supplies along the way. It only really becomes important once you sail away from the coast. They could have started in Florida, made their way up the North American coast and from there across to Greenland, Iceland and Europe. Maybe not as likely as starting further North, but not impossible either. There's even no navigation issues as you follow the coast. Just keep it on your left side and you're good to go.

They could have started further south as well of course, but then travelling to Western Africa makes more sense, since it becomes a lot shorter. Maybe not at first, but definitely after the first wave figured out there is land there somewhere.
 

LCatala

Minstrel
Sailling across the Atlantic is the easy part. Having native Americans colonize Europe however would require so many things to be completely different that you might as well just write a fantasy story from scratch, because the result will bear no ressemblance to actual history, or even to semi-plausible alternative history.

Some required changes would include:

— Native americans arrive much earlier in America so that their civilizations have more time to diversify and to compete with each other and thus have a faster rate of technological and logistical progress.
— They domesticate the local megafauna instead of hunting it to extinction, so they have the logistics and food supply to support much greater demography and larger, more centralized states, and develop diseases that will be deadly to the Europeans.
— America having east-west instead of north-south mountain ranges, so that groups that have specialized to live in one type of climate can more easily migrate across the continent, thus creating much more competion and exchanges between groups (similarly to what happened in Europe).
— Somehow independently developing gunpowder (which likely was an accident to begin with in our world) and advanced meltaworking techniques to get even a fighting chance against Europeans.

And even there that's still get you to an "evened field" level between Europeans and Native Americans. To get the Native Americans to win and colonize Europe would require even more stretches.
 
Dave Duncan has the "Jaguar Warriors" - which gives a fantasy version Aztec society a leg up in terms of magic that evens things out a bit.

you can always do the "Because Magic" - which is valid in our genre!
 
Sailling across the Atlantic is the easy part. Having native Americans colonize Europe however would require so many things to be completely different that you might as well just write a fantasy story from scratch, because the result will bear no ressemblance to actual history, or even to semi-plausible alternative history.

Some required changes would include:

— Native americans arrive much earlier in America so that their civilizations have more time to diversify and to compete with each other and thus have a faster rate of technological and logistical progress.
— They domesticate the local megafauna instead of hunting it to extinction, so they have the logistics and food supply to support much greater demography and larger, more centralized states, and develop diseases that will be deadly to the Europeans.
— America having east-west instead of north-south mountain ranges, so that groups that have specialized to live in one type of climate can more easily migrate across the continent, thus creating much more competion and exchanges between groups (similarly to what happened in Europe).
— Somehow independently developing gunpowder (which likely was an accident to begin with in our world) and advanced meltaworking techniques to get even a fighting chance against Europeans.

And even there that's still get you to an "evened field" level between Europeans and Native Americans. To get the Native Americans to win and colonize Europe would require even more stretches.
Actually, the only real change required is that Native Americans carry many diseases the Europeans have no immunities to, but aren't significantly affected by European diseases. In our timeline, the reverse was true, and that was the real reason the Native American population was so decimated. Weaponry only played a small part. For one thing, the Native Americans were fighting on their own turf, and were fighting most fiercely because they were being invaded, both of which gave them some advantages over the invaders. For another, they quickly adopted the new technologies the Europeans brought. By the time settlers started invading the Great Plains, the indigenous were meeting them with guns and horses--and were even better horseback fighters than the U.S. cavalry. It wasn't bows and arrows and spears versus guns for long enough to make a difference.

Had it not been for disease wiping out so many of the indigenous, America would still have as many of its indigenous people as Africa does.

To cross the ocean and invade Europe, they would have to have had the technology to do it and the motivation. So, somewhat more advanced sailing technology than they actually did develop, and conditions at home being such that a significant subset of the population would want to seek their fortunes elsewhere.

The Americas did see large migrations over large swaths of the continent in pre-contact times, sometimes due to war. For example, the Creeks are a Mayan people, pushed far north by war in the south. The Apache are Plains people, but got pushed into the southwest by other tribes migrating into their territory. Many of the tribes considered to be Plains people were from the east and pushed west. And don't forget the vast Iroquois Confederacy, born of alliances and treaties to rival Europe on the eve of World War I.
 

Graham J. Darling

New Member
"Guns, Germs and Steel" by Jared Diamond (1997; Pulitzer Prize 1998) would seem highly relevant to this topic.

From Guns, Germs, and Steel - Wikipedia:
The prologue opens with an account of Diamond's conversation with Yali, a New Guinean politician. The conversation turned to the obvious differences in power and technology between Yali's people and the Europeans who dominated the land for 200 years, differences that neither of them considered due to any genetic superiority of Europeans. Yali asked, using the local term "cargo" for inventions and manufactured goods, "Why is it that you white people developed so much cargo and brought it to New Guinea, but we black people had little cargo of our own?" (p. 14)
 

KC Trae Becker

Troubadour
If Native Americans had taken Lief Erickson's expedition hostage and returned to Greenland in large numbers they could have been in a good position to invade Europe if they had had a high degree of natural immunity to the Bubonic plague. European numbers were at a critically low point in the thirteen hundreds.
 
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