We know that ancient peoples travelled vast distances. The Vikings travelled west to Greenland, then Newfoundland, and east and south down the Volga to the Black Sea. The Phoenicians, Egyptians and Minoans travelled the length of the Mediterranean then through the Pillars of Hercules and beyond. The Phoenicians sailed north to England, the Egyptians sailed south along the African coast and, according to at least one American TV program, the Minoans not only crossed the Atlantic to North America, but actually made it to the west end of Lake Superior. Which would have been quite a journey considering that the Saint Laurence Seaway wasn’t built until a couple of thousand years later.
The Inca walked the length of South America. Polynesians sailed all over the Pacific. In later years the Irish, then the Basques sailed across the Atlantic looking for fish, the Arabs sailed and traded across the Indian Ocean, a Chinese expedition sailed round the world, Marco Polo rode the length of Asia, and the Jesuits went everywhere they could, hoping they would find people to believe their stories.
That is what we know, but what can we speculate? Was there a chronicler on every journey to ensure its adventures, trials, and triumphs would be known to later generations? It’s unlikely. What exploits were never recorded and remain unknown? That’s where we can find our stories. Don’t underestimate your neighbor’s ancestors.
What if a Viking ship headed south along the American East Coast? Perhaps they made it to the Caribbean and stayed. Perhaps they just liked the weather, or perhaps their ship ran aground on an island during a hurricane and the captain fell for a dusky Caribbean maiden who sheltered them. Perhaps they turned east across the Gulf of Mexico and ended up meeting the Maya or the Aztecs. Vikings travelling to Tenochtitlan. Now, there’s a story.
Or the Vikings sailed out of the Black Sea and reached Egypt. Having dragged huge stones across the desert to build the pyramids many centuries earlier, the Egyptians knew how to haul things across the sand and would have had the Viking longboats in the Red Sea before you could say ‘build us a canal Monsieur de Lesseps.” Then where would they have gone? Africa, India, Australia, or farther. Surely there is a story there. Check the tales of the Arabian Nights for blond warriors. Sinbad and the Vikings, maybe.
Who might have visited Mount Kailas, the navel of the world? Alexander the Great, Marco Polo, the Jesuit Priests.
In his novel, Creation, Gore Vidal’s protagonist travels from Greece to China, meeting the famous men of his day. Each incident in this tale could have produced a story itself.
And, of course, there is Atlantis, Mu, Lemuria, or Doggerland with its mammoths. Each of these lost continents could have stories of visitors, or stories of their own heroes and villains.
And as continental drift continues to separate Europe and Africa to the east from the Americas to the west, what tales could there be of seismic cataclysms. But please, no dystopian stories, we need optimism in today’s world.Or just go nuts. Inuit in the Sahara. Axumites (ancient Ethiopians) sailing up the Amazon. Tibetan monks in New Zealand. Crusaders visiting Great Zimbabwe. Apaches at the court of Charlemagne. Tall Maasai stepping onto the Antarctic ice shelf. And so forth. There are no limits.