Carthaginians in The New World

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Carthaginians in The New World, A Radical Theory
(c) 1999 Roy A Decker, Oroblanco

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Evidence of ancient explorers traveling to the new world does exist, and more than a single anomaly.

Published by kind courtesy of Mr. Roy A. Decker. All comments regarding this particular article publication should be addressed to Mr. Decker.

The Biblical Clues

The legendary mines of King Solomon made him the wealthiest ruler of his time (900 BC).  The exact location or even the existence has been hotly debated, however the Bible itself is fairly well proven in historical data, moreover there is no mention of "King Solomon's Mines" - rather it states flatly that he contacted his friend and ally to the north, King Hiram to hire his men to build and man his fleet of vessels.  Hiram was ruler of Tyre in Phoenicia, whose sailing men were renowned for their wide ranging travels.  The fleet left from the Red Sea port of Ezion Geber, and returned to Joppa and Tyre, ports on the Mediterranean.  The voyage took three years, each time returning laden with silver, gold, ivory, gems, spices and incense, and rare "almug" wood.   The fleet had gone to the fabulous lands of Tarshish and Ophir, which are mentioned elsewhere in the Bible as being rich in precious metals and other trade items.  Tarshish is situated in southwestern Spain, and was known to the Greeks as Tartessus. The book of Jonah in the Old Testament provides further proof of the location of Tarshish, since Jonah fled to Joppa where he boarded a "ship of Tarshish" to flee there, so it is evident that voyages could depart in either direction, east or west from the Levant.  Ophir has not been found, but the name itself is a clue to its origins.  The Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians rarely (if ever) used a name for a city or town ending in "IR" - while the Phoenicians did - for example Agadir in Iberia, or Rusaddir on the north coast of Africa.  Tarshish was a Celt-Iberian city, destroyed by Celts in the pay of Carthage in about 500 BC.  Carthage soon became the pre-eminent sea power in the western Mediterranean, up to the disastrous wars with Rome.  Josephus, a first century AD Hebrew historian who served the Romans thought that Ophir was merely Sophir, or India and that the "golden chersonessus" was also India.  The Greeks proved that idea false, as little gold was found there by them and in fact most gold there was imported as well.  Furthermore it would have been cheaper and faster to travel there overland rather than risk the lengthy 3 year sea voyage, a ridiculous length of time if the ships were merely traveling from the Red Sea to India and back.

Able Seamen

After several disastrous conflicts with the Assyrians, Pharaoh Necho (700bc) searched for a new way to defeat his dangerous enemies to the north.  His first project was to construct a canal to connect the Mediterranean with the Red Sea, which would enable him to move his forces by sea with great rapidity and perhaps defeat his foes.  During the construction, he had a nightmare, and when he turned to his soothsayers for explanation, they told him that the canal would indeed function as a highway for armies and navies - FOR HIS ENEMIES!  He immediately scratched construction on the canal (which would not be completed for centuries!) and turned to the possibility of moving his armies around the continent of Africa by sea to outflank his enemy.  He turned to those renowned sailors of Tyre, Sidon and Byblos (Phoenicia) and contracted a fleet to sail from the Red Sea around the continent of Africa.  The fleet set sail and took three years to complete the voyage, returning in the third summer*.  One of the participants stated they had the Sun on "their right hand" as they rounded the tip of southern Africa.  Herodotus took this as "proof" they were lying, as that was considered impossible!  Today we know that is proof they did in fact travel south of the Equator.  The voyage took too long to be much use for moving armies rapidly so the idea was forgotten.

*Herodotus also notes that the feat of circumnavigation of Africa was soon duplicated by the Carthaginians.

Phoenician sailors set out from their homeland on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean to trade, explore and to found colonies.  They had competition from the Greeks, but managed to set colonies on most of the islands in the Mediterranean, along the north coast of Africa (including one named Carthago, Carchedon to the Greeks, or Carthage - from the punic Qart-Hadasht meaning "New Town") and along the coast of Spain (then called Iberia by the Greeks).  They built small trading settlements through the Sahara desert and scattered through the middle east.  They were able to navigate by the stars, unlike their Greek and Roman counterparts who without any compass were forced to sail within sight of land at all times.

The New Town

Carthage had two beautiful harbors, an inner and outer, her location (in modern day Tunisia near Tunis) was excellent for seagoing trade and she prospered. The mother country (Phoenicia) fell to conquerors, but Carthage grew in strength.  Around 500 BC, she sent out explorers (Hanno and his brother Himilco) to explore and colonize the Atlantic coast of Africa and the coast of Spain, France, and reached England, which they called the "Tin Isles" for the metal they traded for. Tarshish had become a rival, and Carthage got her Celtiberian allies to utterly destroy the city about this time.   She came into conflict with the expanding Greeks over possession of Spain, Marseilles, France and crucially in Sicily.  The wars lasted 200 years with Carthage emerging the victor inspite of heavy losses.  Massalia (today Marseilles France) and Syracusa remained Greek but the other areas became Carthaginian or Punic.  (Punic is the term used by the Romans to refer to the Carthaginians, from Phoinike, as the Greeks called them.)  Carthage had a good working relationship with the numerous Celts who populated Spain, France, and the British Isles, often hiring them as soldiers.  (In fact almost a third of Hannibal's army were Celts who were readily trained and equipped.)

We should keep in mind that the history of Carthage was written by her enemies, who painted them as evil avaricious greedy people, more concerned with money and deceit than honor. To a large degree this is undeserved - even Herodotus records them as trading "with perfect honesty" and any success on their part in outsmarting an enemy was described as "deceit".   Almost nothing remains of their literature and culture, though it is known that some must have been of high quality. Some modern scholars state that Carthage had no body of literature, but this I find doubtful since the Phoenicians originated the alphabet!  King Juba of Mauretania referred to the Punic books on geography, as did Sallust.  On the fall of Carthage, several libraries of Punic books were given to the princes of Numidia for their part in the war by the Romans. A treatise on agriculture written by Mago (probably the youngest brother of Hannibal who was named Mago, but there were several others with that name) was highly esteemed by the Romans who eventually published a number of copies. There seems to have been a Punic or rather Phoenician style of architecture too, for even King Solomon hired Phoenicians to build his temple.  A horseshoe style or semi-circle seems to have been popular.  (*see below) Furniture and metalwork of Carthage was highly esteemed by her trading neighbors, and their glass products (including trade beads) were very popular. Raisin wine, a speciality of Carthage was especially prized by the Romans.  Jewelry manufacture was important, and one type of semi-precious stone was even called after Carthage, the Carbuncle.  Trade was most important though and Carthage was very involved in the spice trade as well as virtually every other commodity one can think of in ancient times including exotic goods like billets of ebony wood, ivory, bulk metals in ingots such as copper and all-important tin - vital for production of bronze - as well as perfumes, incense and horses as well as slaves. The sea trade was only one part of her trading empire though, it is often forgotten that overland caravans beat a steady path to Carthage from deep in sub-Saharan Africa and as far away as Persia and Aethiopia.

When Alexander completed his conquest, Carthage sent letters of congratulations and gifts - although fortunately for them Alexander didn't turn his attention to them.  Alexander was apparently planning on an expedition against Carthage and Italy, but died of a fever before completing his preparations.  The question of whether or not he could have been successful is moot, however it would have been a different sort of war than the Persian conquest.  Carthage would not likely collapse after a defeat or two, Alexander was short on manpower (he was forced to reorganize his phalanxes with only the front three ranks being Macedonians, the remainder Persian and other levees) and how the naval conflict would resolve is unknown.  Rome and Carthage were allied at this time, and the Romans were fond of saying that if Alexander had gone west instead of east he would not be known as "The Great".

When Tyre fell to Nebuchadrezzar in 576 BC, Carthage gained ascendancy over the other Phoenician colonies, including Utica and Gades (or Agadir, today modern Cadiz) even though they were older, becoming a de-facto capital of what remained of the Phoenician empire.   Carthage was protector and trading partner for these numerous colonies, and she sent out colonists to establish new cities and in some cases to re-establish them where former Tyrian colonies had failed or been conquered. Allying with the Etruscans of Italy, the Carthaginians were able to exclude the Greeks from further expansion into the western Mediterranean and after the fall of Tarshish, Carthage held the straits of Gibraltar closed to any foreign vessels.

Other than the scant record from the periplus of Hanno, whatever records of exploration and colonization were lost when Carthage was utterly destroyed by Rome in 146BC.  However, several of the early treaties between Rome and Carthage still exist (in the latin) and one fact does stand out from them - that Carthage specifically did not want any foreigners to travel or do business beyond the Pillars of Hercules (today Gibraltar) - at least not without the permission of the Carthaginian Senate and an official of the government must be present.

Early Drug Use

Recently tests were run on ancient Egyptian mummies, that came up with astounding results.  Evidence of their use of cocaine and  nicotine showed up - in spite of the fact these are New World products!  While some scholars are saying this must be from some African plants that were similar but now extinct (doubtful, but possible.  One plant of particular interest was the "Silphium" plant, which was cultivated in what is now modern Cyrenaica in Libya - the plant was esteemed for many uses including medicinal and food. The plant seems to have gone extinct about the time of the Roman conquest of the area.)  Silphium closely resembles the Anise plant (the licorice flavor) so may have been related.  According to accepted history, China was not known to the west until the Roman empire yet genuine silk threads have been found on ancient Egyptian mummies too - proving that contact was more far reaching and far older than previously thought.

The more likely scenario is that there was indeed contact between the old world and the new which involved trade.  In my opinion the Egyptians were not particularly good seamen, but the Phoenicians were!    The trade routes they used were jealously guarded secrets, and their ability to navigate was well known.  When the mother land was conquered, first by Babylonians and later by Persians and Greeks, most of the trading colonies became allied with Carthage.  Carthaginian traders were quick to duplicate the navigational feats of their forefathers and to fill the void in providing trade goods. Thor Heyerdahl's famous "Ra Expeditions" proved that cross oceanic travel was possible even with the reed boats of Egypt, but navigation without compass would have been difficult.

It can be argued that the Egyptians had some method of using the stars for navigation, as the near perfect alignments of the pyramids could attest.  However, it is my opinion that the Sphinx and certain other monuments ascribed to the Egyptians are in fact much older (circa 10000 years.) Egyptians did venture on the seas to the "mythical" land of Punt, a place which can be identified with Sumatra though theories abound as to its location including the Great Lakes of North America.  A point to consider here is found in one of the ancient Egyptian inscriptions describing the expedition of Queen Hatshepsut to Punt - part of the text states "...the Phoenicians..." but the remainder of the text is missing.  It is in a part of the text which is supposed to be a statement by the King of Punt, pointing out the secret path to the land and mentioning the "steps of Myrrh".  The Puntese already knew of the Phoenicians by this early date, and to go a step further the Puntese were also called Puoeni by the Egyptians, which is a term also used to describe Phoenicians.  The Puntese were most likely Phoenician colonists.

 The Phoenicians were known to navigate by the stars, and in fact the Romans called the North star the "Punic Star" because of its use by them for navigation, but did not understand how. Another navigation tool called the "gnomon" was used to determine the latitude by the position of the Sun. A Greek sea-captain from Massilia (now Marsielles in France) named Pytheas learned the use of it and used it in his exploration of the Atlantic coast of Europe, noting that the Northern Star is not precisely at the North Pole as well as other remarkable scientific observations including the midnight sun at high latitudes and fog banks.  On his return to Massilia, Pytheas was rewarded by his Greek fellow citizens with ridicule and scorn, an attitude that persists to this day among some scholars.

Another navigational instrument which probably was in use by Phoenicians was the cross-staff, a long sighting staff with uprights set at various spots which allowed the user to determine latitude as well as direction.  Furthermore, some instinctive oceanic navigation skill was very probable among these sailors - similar to the unerring way Polynesians could find their way to tiny specks of land in the vast expanse of the Pacific simply by observing the formations of clouds, the flights of birds and even the way waves form far from land.  A short passage from the Greek book "Argonautica" describing the man who was to be the navigator for the fictional voyage - as being able to judge the time for sailing by the wind and the sky, and the direction to land by the swell of the sea.

Punic Calling Cards

The islands of the Canaries have stone ruins, the most imposing being a number of 'stepped' pyramidal structures located right in the middle of a town.  Farther out in the Atlantic, the Azores have turned up with a hoard of Carthaginian coins, a statue of the 'horse' of Carthage, and a number of pottery fragments that could be Punic, but cannot be definitely ascribed to them.  The official view?  "May have been a ship that got lost."  Along the Atlantic seaboard of the Americas a number of stone "steles" (monuments) have been found, usually inscribed in (of course) Punic, and many have the name of Hanno -the admiral sent out from Carthage with the express mission of exploration and colonization about 500 BC.  Oddly, in northeastern Pennsylvania near the town of Hawley, one of these stone steles was found, inscribed in Punic ("This monument placed by Hanno, do not deface") of course this must be yet another "hoax".  Some universities are now saying that the Phoenician seafarers may have been trafficking the entire circumnavigable coast of Africa and the coast of India as early as 1500 to 1200 BC.

The alphabets of India, Ceylon and Sumatra all originated from Phoenician - this is eloquent evidence of far ranging contact.
Inscriptions on stone are found throughout the Americas, and coins of Carthage have been found in a number of states.   Nearly all have been found close to navigable waters, and oddly all are of the earliest issues of Carthage, none later than the First Punic war have turned up.  A metal urn with Phoenician themes and likely a Carthaginian trade item was unearthed near the junction of the Chenango and Susquehanna rivers in New York.

Divers investigating the odd stone formation off Bimini Island found a shipwreck, that dated to the 1800's - while searching they found that it lay atop an older shipwreck, one that is positively Phoenician and dates to approximately 1000BC! Dr J Manson Valentine of Yale university confirmed the origins of the wreck.  Evidence of other ancient shipwrecks exists, in particular a Punic vessel located off the coast of Honduras as well as one found "deeply buried in sand" in Mexico in the 19th century, another which is as yet unidentified off the coast of Texas as well as what was probably a Roman trading vessel off Beverly Massachusetts.

Carthaginian amphorae have been found in the Americas, as well as weapons, oil lamps, glass "trade" beads along the St Lawrence river among other "anomalous" finds.

Ancient historians

The Syracusan (Greek 100bc) historian Diodorus said the Carthaginians had a "large island" which was located "far out in the Atlantic ocean" - on which there were "many mountains" and "large navigable rivers".  The land was rich in gold, gems, spices, etc.  He stated that the Phoenicians had found it "by accident" while founding colonies on the west coast of Africa when some ships got lost.  The Atlantic currents do in fact run straight at South America from that region so it would be possible for a lost ship to travel there, and the return voyage would be made easier by following the oceanic currents north then back east across the ocean.  In fact this has happened in recent years, a small African fishing boat got lost in a storm and ended up on the coast of Brazil!  In 1488 a certain Jean Cousin of Dieppe France, while sailing down the west coast of Africa was caught in a storm and blown across to Brazil. (This is four years prior to Columbus's more famous voyage.)  The actual meteorological conditions do support this as probable.  Diodorus said they (the Carthaginians) were "keeping it secret"!

Other historians (Herodotus and Polybius) have hinted at its existence, and further explained some of the other colonies.  The coast south of Lixus was described as "teeming" with Punic trading colonies.  One of the colonies founded by Hanno (500bc) which has not been located correctly was Cerne, (pronounced Ker-neh)  it is my opinion this is today the Canary islands.  When first discovered by the Portuguese, they found light skinned people, who had "writings" they themselves could not read and asked their Portuguese visitors if they could.  They did not know what had become of their "motherland" - and this is taken by some authors to be proof of Atlantean influence, but I believe they were survivors of Cerne.  The Portuguese were unimpressed with the people or their ruins and writings, and killed them - they also burnt the writings as possible heresy!

One of Plutarch's (2nd century ad) less known works* also states quite clearly the state of affairs.  He cited a document which was found in the ruins of the old city of Carthage.  He said the Carthaginians knew of a  "true continent" which was located far to the west of Britain.  He added that "greeks" had gone there and intermarried with the local peoples.  The "greeks" who lived there, laughed at the people in Europe, which they said was a mere island by comparison - while they lived on the true continent which bordered the whole west side of the Atlantic.

*Moralia XII, On The Face Of The Moon

It is my opinion that the "big island" was the Americas!  I do not think the Carthaginian explorers founded big cities in the new world, rather they were more interested in commerce.  There are several arguments against their having contact, one of which is there is not any ruins of any fort.  However, there are a number of ancient earthwork fortifications scattered through the Ohio river valley that date to (about) 200bc - the height of the power of Carthage. Some strange artifacts have turned up in these ruins (called the Hopewell culture) including one amulet that appears very much Hebrew!  In some of these ruins there are long stone structures that look remarkably like the 'boat sheds' used by Punic and Greek sailors to protect their ships during foul weather.  Location is a problem, but they are close to a river even though the river is today too shallow for navigation, it may well have been deeper then.

Supposedly there are no written evidence of ancient contact, but in fact there have been a great number of writings found inscribed on stone scattered throughout the Americas.  A number of them have been studied and deciphered, many by Barry Fell.  (His books America BC and Saga America contain a good deal on this) Although they are nearly always denounced as "hoaxes" it is strange that only recently are many readable!  Most have been in an ancient Celtic script called Ogam, and quite a number are Iberian and Punic, while some are even Egyptian!   The seamanship of the ancient Celts is little respected, yet no less than an authority than Julius Caesar described their ships as quite large compared to his small Roman vessels, capable of traveling in the open seas!

The strange ruins of Mystery Hill in New Hampshire are in fact the remains of a Punic-Celtic colony.  Aristotle mentioned that the Carthaginians had once attempted a colony in their "secret land" but later withdrew it, blocking others from attempting it including their allies the Etruscans and even the Tyrians fleeing the wrath of Alexander. Several other sites in New England are obviously related as well as a likely connection with the strange stone walls of southern California and several native American tribes of the southwest such as the Pima and Zuni.

More information...

The true history of the Phoenician peoples and in particular the remarkable Carthaginians has never been told, virtually all we know of them is what was written by their enemies who were trying to paint them in the worst possible tones.  Some of the worst of their practices such as human sacrifice were really nothing unusual for many cultures of their time.  Even the supposedly civilized Romans buried alive two Gauls in an attempt to fulfill a prophecy which claimed that some part of Rome must be home to Gauls - not to mention the slaughter of countless thousands for entertainment! The Carthaginians may well have been the most accomplished explorers in history.

In conclusion here are a few collected articles for you to judge for yourself.  I am working on a book to further explain this and present the evidence, if you are interested drop me a line at (the old address at USA.NET is discontinued 7/31/01) with your name and address, I will contact you to let you know when publication begins.  (Please, no spam.  It will not be opened or read.)  *update, book project is still unfinished with new information now being added - anyone who has information and or photos they would like included is welcome to submit it for inclusion and full credit to sources.

Additional reading: America" link on this Web site.

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