IH03 – B. C. 1000 Newport, Rhode Island

Sailors of Tarshish

Barry Fell in America, B. C., suggests that colonists from Syria had settled in the lower Guadalquivir River area in southwestern Spain where they engaged in trading for metals mined by the natives, who were mostly Basques. In fact the eponym of the city of Tarshish was a prince in Syria.

Fell notes that this settlement¬† had occurred by the eighth century B.C. It is likely that the settlement had been made prior to the reign of King David of Israel in 1000 B.C.¬† Warrior poets who were contemporaries of David wrote about ships of Tarshish being blown by an east wind. For David’s contemporaries to have written of the event the news must have returned to them in their own time. For that reason I put the landing at Newport, Rhode Island at 1000 B.C. Further support for a tenth century B.C. date for the Tarshish ships is the multitude of references to Tarshish in the time of Solomon.

I was standing in my wife’s store several years ago reading for the third or fourth time Fell’s account of the ships of Tarshish. The Greeks called the city Tartessos, hence the language is called Tartessian. I heard some customers speaking a strange language. I asked them what they were speaking. It was the very language I was reading about. There are about four thousand speakers of Tartessian in my community in Southern California. There is a much larger body of them south of the border in Mexico. The ancient language that Fell speaks of as a dead language is very much alive!

By the dates given by Fell, 700 B.C. to 600 B.C. there must have been an established time-table of voyages from Tarshish to America. The trading partnership of the merchants of Tarshish with their Basque neighbors adds to the possibility that Tarshish ships brought Celtic miners to dig out metals in America. Later the entrance to the Mediterranean was controlled by Carthage which carried on its own trade in America until its fleets were destroyed by Rome in the first Punic War.

One interesting thing about the landing of these advanced Europeans at Newport, Rhode Island, is the proximity to the Indian village on the Mystic River in Connecticut. That site was considered to be advanced in its time and was a good neighborhood for merchant mariners to establish shop in the Pilgrim settlement. The village was a source of jealousy among competing tribes in the area. Did the local tribe benefit from an infusion of European technology thousands of years earlier?


Exploring History through Ancestry and Literature