The Phoenicians were an ancient people who lived along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean, in the area of present-day Lebanon. They were the greatest seamen of the ancient world, and their ships carried the goods and the soldiers of many other lands, including Egypt, Persia, and Greece.
In the seventh century B.C., an Egyptian pharaoh wanted to send a fleet of ships around the continent of Africa. Quite naturally, the pharaoh chose Phoenicians for the job.
A Phoenician fleet set out on the Red Sea, sailed down the east coast of Africa, rounded the southern tip of the continent, and then sailed back to the Mediterranean, becoming the first known ships to sail around Africa. It’s possible that one ship from this fleet was the first vessel from the Old World to reach the shores of America!
During the nineteenth century, a museum director in Brazil declared that a stone found in his country bore characters of the alphabet used by the ancient Phoenicians.
According to his translation, the stone tells the tale of a Phoenician ship that was blown off course during a trip around Africa and landed on the “new shore” close to where the stone was found.
Some experts believe that the markings on the stone aren’t old enough to have been made by ancient Phoenicians. However, if the stone really does contain a message from a lost Phoenician ship, then this ship was the first known vessel from the Mediterranean region ever to reach America, some 22 centuries before Columbus set sail!