Presentation to Bridgeville Area Historical Society casts light on Columbus expedition

| Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, 9:08 p.m.

The January program meeting for the Bridgeville Area Historical Society featured a return visit by Larry Gallant; his topic was “Columbus was Last: A Heretical View of Who Was First.”

Gallant, the librarian for the Peters Creek Historical Society, is a proponent of alternative history. He is also the editor of “Ancient American Magazine, whose purpose “is to describe the prehistory of the American Continent, regardless of presently fashionable beliefs — to provide a public forum for certified experts and non-professionals alike to freely express their views without fear nor favor.” His presentation was consistent with this philosophy.

Gallant believes there were contacts between the indigenous people in North America and other civilizations for thousands of years before Columbus' arrival in 1492. His time-line begins with the “Copper Culture” in the Great Lakes region in 5000 BC, which he believes was responsible for the establishment of the Bronze Age in the Near East. This involved mining and refining large quantities of copper in Michigan, shipping it down the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico, and then transporting it across the Atlantic and through the Mediterranean to the Levant.

He then mentions visits by Phoenician explorers in 3400 BC, by Celts and Egyptians around 3000 BC, by Chinese in 2640 BC, Vikings and West Africans around 2000 BC, and Hindus around 100 AD.

As for Columbus' expedition, the speaker presented several non-traditional interpretations, based on the assumption that Queen Isabella was not its sponsor. One suggestion was that the voyage was funded by financiers looking for a new home for Jewish refugees. Another explanation was that it was a Knights Templar project, even though the Knights had been disbanded 180 years earlier.

The Knights Templar theory is based on the fact that the sails on Columbus' flagship, the Santa Maria, were decorated with large red crosses, as were the Templars' shields. This, of course, ignores the fact that all Spanish ships sported the cross as a symbol of the Kingdom. The speaker suggested the Templars went underground when Grand Master Jacques de Molay was burned at the stake in 1314, and are still a major behind-the-scenes factor in world politics today.

Gallant surprised the audience by reporting that Columbus had spotted a UFO the day before land was sighted and suggested we “check the Internet” for verification. Sure enough, I was able to find a website that confirms his seeing “a light glimmering at a great distance.”

Most of the alternative versions of history the speaker presented were based on the discovery of anomalous artifacts, some of which are adequately documented. An example was the existence of what appear to be cobs of corn on sculptures in Scotland and India that predated Columbus' “discovery of the New World.”

Gallant's belief that the Chinese had visited the Americas before Columbus is derived from a well-known book by Gavin Menzies, entitled “1421, the Year China Discovered the World.” It is based on a well-documented historical event, a series of ocean voyages by fleets led by Admiral Zheng He in the early 1420s. It is believed they reached India, Japan, and Arabia. Menzies used his imagination and the knowledge of some mysterious artifacts found in strange places to concoct a story of worldwide exploration, one that has been rejected by the historical establishment.

Another anti-establishment theory is related to the alleged discovery of an Egyptian tomb in the cliffs of the Grand Canyon and the subsequent conspiracy by the Smithsonian Museum to keep this information from the public. This topic is widely reported in the “conspiracy” press.

Gallant finished his presentation by postulating that some great catastrophe had occurred about 3000 BC, destroying a highly developed civilization and forcing the survivors to revert back to the Bronze Age. He believes this has happened numerous times in the past and that our civilization is merely the most recent of many predecessors.

I think it is constructive for all of us to be aware of the numerous unexplained historical artifacts that have been discovered and of the equally numerous speculative theories they have generated. There may well be truth in some of them; in the meantime it is wise for us to be skeptical.

The next society program, at 1:30 p.m. on Feb. 24, promises to be another good one. Jack Puglisi's topic, “The 1800 Election,” will be presented in the Chartiers Room of the Bridgeville Volunteer Fire Department. The public is cordially invited.

John Oyler, a columnist for Trib Total Media, can be reached at 412-343-1652 or

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