Who Was the First Person to Discover America?

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The discovery of America is most commonly attributed to Christopher Columbus, as it was he who revealed the Americas to early-modern Europe. Scholars entertain many alternative answers to who discovered America depending on the specific parameters of what constitutes “discovery.”

Christopher Columbus set out to circumnavigate the world and expected to reach land in Japan. When he instead arrived in the Bahamas, which he believed to be the East Indies, he was met by the indigenous population. Therefore, the Americas were discovered thousands of years in advance by the peoples now collectively called Native Americans. Columbus was also not the first European to spot the Americas. That distinction goes to either the Norse explorer Leif Ericson or the merchant Bjarni Herjólfsson, based on interpretations of medieval, Icelandic sagas.