How Old Should A Highway Be Before You Tell It It Is Adopted?

I was having lunch at the local burger place when I saw the title above being flashed as a small sign on wall during a national TV sports show. It did not seem to be part of any sports story. Perhaps you came to this site because you searched the Internet for an explanation of the question. I searched and found an answer for myself.

I am tagging this as Story-Starter because it reminded me of a local highway. Well it is local in my neighborhood, but it could be local in your neighborhood or many neighborhoods across America. Here the highway has been labeled The Christopher Columbus Highway. Christopher Columbus, as you may know, thought he had discovered islands near an old continent. Well, not an old continent exactly, as the earth is young, but a previously known continent. It was not until his third or fourth voyage that Columbus and one of his mates started to suspect they were looking at an unknown continent. They were actually exploring South American as it would come to be known. Columbus discovered many of the Caribbean islands, including Cuba. Cuba was so large that Columbus mistook it for a continent. He never quite got to Florida.

If Columbus had been born later, he might have landed in Florida and heart heard of another distant shore. He might have traveled from the Sunshine State to the Golden State. Columbus was looking for gold, of course, and he would have traveled west looking for Beverly Hills. He kept looking for mythological golden cities, so it would make sense to look for the city in California of which it has been said, “All the gold in California is in a bank in Beverly Hills.” The myths Columbus sought had less foundation in fact.

OK, so if Columbus had done all that, it might make sense to name Interstate-10 “The Christopher Columbus Highway.” But let’s take a moment to learn about the sailors who found North America (probably not the first to do so). There is a rock near Newport, Rhode Island, that is engraved (in translation), “Sailors of Tarshish.” That is a standard way of establishing your arrival on landing and also, more than likely, the formula for claiming early in history. Tarshish was a city on the Iberian Peninsula. The Mediterranean Sea was blocked off to exit by other maritime kingdoms by 800 B. C. This has caused historians to date the stone engraving in Newport, Rhode Island as before 800 B. C.

Is there another way to date the inscription? Possibly. Tarshish is mentioned a number of times in the Bible.

  • Genesis 10:4 — Tarshish was a son of Javan, a son of Japheth, a son of Noah. Javan was the founder of Japan. Some of his descendants settled in what became Germany had have been erroneously labeled Levantines.
  • 1 Kings 10:22 — For the king had at sea a navy of Tarshish with the navy of Hiram: once in three year’s bringing gold, and silver, ivory, and apes, and peacocks.
  • 1 Kings 22:48 — Jehoshaphat made ships of Tarshish to go to Ophir for gold: but they went not; for the ships were broken at Eziongeber.
  • 2 Chronicles 10:37 — … And the ships were broken, that they were not able to go to Tarshish.
  • Esther 1:14 — Tarshish a prince of Persia and Media who had access to the king’s face.
  • Psalm 48, not a Psalm of David — 48:7 — With the east wind Thou dost break the ships of Tarshish.

That Tarshish was mentioned in Psalms hints that the sailors of Tarshish were know as early as early as David’s time. However, this is not a Psalm of David. It is a psalm of the sons of Korah. Korah was destroyed in Moses’ time, but a few were spared and became servants of David, in fact an important division of his military. (see How Old Should A Highway Be Before You Tell It It Is Adopted? viewed 2015-11-25). So while the psalm was not written by King David, it is more than likely to have been written by one of his contemporaries. The bottom line is that it appears that sailors from Tarshish were blown ashore at least by the time of King David who reigned about 1000 to 960 BC. Columbus was not only born too soon, he was born too late!

Since the descendants of the sailors from Tarshish, or other later immigrants from Tarshish now live in California and south into Mexico, it probably is time to tell Interstate-10 it is adopted. It really should be named the Sailors of Tarshish Highway. (and maybe we should apply to the present day Tartessians for green cards instead of requiring them to have them.)


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