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It is our pleasure to announce the finding of a prehistoric map of South America on the wall of a storage room in the Wupatki National Monument, near Flagstaff, Arizona [see Wupatki fig. 1 on MapHist website]. In the room were traces of cotton, maize, tobacco seeds, cheno-am, opuntia, cholla, tomatillo, and ceramics that may indicate that this room was used to store trading goods, and which may explain the presence of the map. Wupatki is part of a masonry pueblo and cliff dwelling culture that left the area around 1300 AD, which provides a clear terminus a quo, making this representation of South America well before Columbian contact all the more exciting.
Fig. 1 General view of Wupatki National Monument, Arizona
The map, illustrated at [Wupatki fig. 2], is approximately 50 cm long and is carved in relief into the vertical wall. It shows the whole continent of South America and some offshore islands. A comparison of key coordinates on the Wupatki map with a modern map of South America (overlaid in Wupatki fig. 3) reveals a Spearman's rho coefficient of rank correlation of .9387, translating into a coefficient of determination of just over 88%, meaning that there is an extremely high high degree of spatial association between the Wupatki map and the modern map of South America, much more than could be accounted for purely by coincidence.
Fig. 2 (left) The Wupatki Map of South America
Fig. 3 (right) Composite of modern map (from Goode's Atlas) and the Wupatki map of South America
The offshore islands in the Wupatki map may represent the the present day Malvinas (or Falkland Islands). The grouping corresponds closely to the grouping of the West and East Falklands and the much smaller island to the south may be intended to represent the plethora of small islands (about 200) that are considered part of the archipelago. Their position has been moved somewhat to the north, but this might be explained by the cartographer's need to appease an influential trading partner.
The Isthmus of Panama is missing on the map, suggesting that it was derived from an earlier map made at the time that there was no land bridge between North and South America (a configuration that occurs on several of the world maps of Martin Waldseemüller).
We eagerly await further research on this map and its role in our understanding of the trading economies of the prehistoric Americas and the possibility of a pre-Columbian circumnavigation of the South American continent.
Arthur H. Robinson Professor Emeritus
University of Wisconsin
550 North Park Street
MADISON WI 53706-1491