Another interesting piece of evidence that I found was this mosaic of a fruit bowl from Pompeii (you can see the full mosaic here). To the very right of the bowl is what looks like a pineapple, which should have been known in ancient Rome... so what's going on here? There are, apparently, two schools of thought on what this mosaic shows - the first that it is a pineapple, and the second that it is in fact a pinecone, which the Romans would place among their fruits because it symbolised fertility (there's not really that much difference between the two, and the word 'pineapple' used to be used to describe pinecones as well). At the moment, the more accepted theory (by quite a long way) is that this is a pinecone depicted, given the fact that it's native to Italy, and since it would be quite difficult to transport a fresh pineapple across the Atlantic. It looks like this is another piece of evidence which doesn't really stand up to much testing after all (even if it is remarkable pineapple shaped to me).
The next piece of evidence that lends itself to the argument that the Romans did know about America is this sculpture from Calixtlahuaca (destroyed in 1510, 9 years before the arrival of Cortez). The style of the hair and beard is typical od the Severian emperors, giving a date of around 200 AD. Thermoluminescence dating doesn't disprove this, but is so inaccurate that it doesn't support it either - the results show that the head was produced some time between 730 and 2880 years ago.
puts its age at around 1800 years old (backed up by the beard and hair style which are typical of around 200 AD under the Severian emperors), so it's certainly real rather than a fake. How it got where it was is a little harder to determine though. One source claimed that a student placed it there as a prank during the excavation, although I couldn't find any evidence for this. Another more credible source by the anthropologist Dr Robert Heine-Geldern suggested that it came from Indo-China, known to trade both with Europe and the new World. I find this a more convincing theory personally, as an isolated find, particularly one from a tomb destroyed in 1510, doesn't exactly prove that the Romans had travelled to or traded with America. For that, I'll be needing some stronger evidence... and this would about do it, I should think!
The final result of all this searching? Well, it's taught me quite a few skills that will be useful in researching later on, as I'd often find some information on one website, and then a second (more reliable) source would contradict what I'd just read. At other times, a second website would actually clear up some confusion or add new details, and so I could build up a clearer picture using both of the sources together. I'm not entirely sure that I'm convinced by any interpretation that claims the Romans intentionally tried to find America, or set out to trade with the New World, but I am of the opinion that some Romans may have discovered America accidentally when they were blown off course, as the shipwreck in Guanabara Bay is pretty solid evidence (though it'd be better if I could see pictures of course).
Thank you to Zoe Lane for giving me the rough ideas that formed this blog post, and to you for reading, please leave a comment and let me know what you think, or head over to my Facebook page and give me a like! Next time I'll probably be doing a write up on Mary Beard's lecture on 'Laughter in Ancient Rome' that I mentioned a few posts ago, which isn't too far off now...