Coming to America
First humans believed to arrive in America 15 to 20 thousand years ago. Following the arrival of the Native Americans, there is a time gap, with the Vikings sailing over about 1,000 years ago. And then came the rest of the Europeans, starting with Columbus.
The permanent naming of the continent dates to 1507 when two Germans, the scholar Ringmann and the cartographer Waldseemueller decided that the New World ought to be named something to mark it on maps, and they specifically felt that it should be named after an early European discoverer. For this honor they elected Amerigo Vespucci, who reputedly first sailed to present day Central America in 1497. It is unclear why Columbus was passed over in naming consideration.
The two German gentlemen also felt that it was time to name a continent after a male, since both Asia and Europe have received women’s names and Africa is derived from either Latin “sunny” or Phoenician “dust”.
The name America was derived from Amerige, meaning the “Land of Amerigo.”
Today is Amerigo’s birthday, having been born in Florence in 1454. Interestingly, Amerigo was reputedly unaware that his name was being used in maps before his death in 1512.
Here is a much later map of the Americas, still waiting to be fully charted by Europeans. It is Visccher’s 1677 map, with California shown as an island, which was the common belief in those days.
Steve Kovacs and his wife Theresa reside in Loveland, Ohio where they raised their two children. He is a passionate collector of antique maps.
Visit his antique map boutique world-on-paper online. Watch for his daily feature Steve Kovacs: Antique Maps & Fun Facts here on Loveland Beacon