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European Knowledge of the New World State Prior to 1492 Essay

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Updated: Jan 13th, 2022

From antiquity, men have always been baffled by the unknown. Their desire to learn and get to understand the unknown is often suppressed by fear. Faced with the challenge of having to answer questions touching on the unknown, most men will more often than not curl back into the comfort of their imaginations due to fear. None can ever claim ignorance, for doing so would be unmanly. Instead, each man will endeavor to give an answer whose source is his sole imagination. Though the required answers should be uniform, most often, the answers given will vary from one person to another depending on the creativity of his or her imaginations. The answers so given will normally be full of mystery and stereotypes. Eventually the subjects will conclude by stating that the unknown will always remain unknown for danger awaits anyone daring enough to tamper with the established order of things. So, exactly how did the Europeans view the world prior to 1492?

Scientific advances in the late fifteenth century could not do much in demystifying the outer world to the Europeans. However, knowledge accruing later during renaissance led to innovations in the fields of trade and ship building that sparked Europeans’ desire to search for new markets. The new markets would by extension act as sources of raw materials and precious stones. Little was know of Atlantic islands and west coast of Africa was it not for the 15th century Portuguese navigator, Prince Henry de Avis. He led a group of experts into carrying out great feats of explorations. His efforts revolutionalized people’s outlook on geography, cartography, and navigation.

Before renaissance and the subsequent innovations, Europeans take on the new world was quite bizarre. People drew all manner of maps trying give illustrate how real and imagined world looked like. People had stated adopting an open mind approach towards theories of the universe that had been proposed hundreds of years before this period. For instance, Casper Vopel based on Ptolemy’s idea proposed that planet Earth formed the center of the universe and people widely believed this notion before 1492. However, the idea of an Earth centered universe commonly called Vopel globe was to be challenged later by the 1543 sun centered theory of the universe put forth by Nicola us Copernicus.

There were so many misconceptions regarding the nature of continents. For instance, it was held that Asia and North America were joined together as one. This misconception was to be propagated later by Caspar Vopel who sanctioned its legitimacy. He went further as to draw diagrams that he alleged were a clear illustration of how Asia and America joined together.

Before this period, Europeans composed literature that was intended to serve as a guide when navigating across the open seas and oceans. Navigators relied on these books for directions. These books and the zodiac were taken as a reliable guide when navigating.

During 1482, the first world map was reproduced. However, this map was not an actual representation of Earths geography. It was a copy cat translation of Claudius Ptolemy who had at first drawn during hundreds of century earlier. In 1410, the Italians first undertook to translate the map from Greek into Latin. In total, 12 such maps were printed in Germany.

The map showed the extent of European knowledge of cartography before the expeditions of Christopher Columbus’ in the year 1492 which served as an eye opener. The map showed exaggerated depictions of the inhabited world. The actual area that was inhabited from east to west of the longitude was only 108 degrees while this Ptolemaic map indicated that it was 180 degrees. This meant that a large portion of the Earth was an accounted for and for this reason Columbus set out to establish the tactual truth much later.

Europeans were also mislead by Ptolemy into believing that the Indian Ocean was not an open body of water but rather enclosed between land masses. Five years down the line, the Portuguese Bartholomew Dietz proved that notion to be wrong when he went round the Cape of Good Hope. Green land was perceived to be part of Europe by way of being directly connected as a peninsula. On Ptolemy’s map, America was not named and it was later brought into the light much later by Christopher Columbus.

It was speculated that the inhabitants of the new world amounted to three million. However, after 1492, studies placed that number to be in excess of well over eighty million. It was also discovered that this people were not as backwards as Europeans speculated. Evidence from anthropologists has proven the contrary to be true. For instance, it is held that an ancient Empire by the name Machu Picchu run an advanced agricultural laboratory from where great experiments were done including domestication of maize plant. Recent studies show that it was people from the new world who over three thousand varieties of potatoes and maize.

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