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According to a legend that probably emerged towards the end of the 16th century, Madoc is said to have been a Welsh prince and illegitimate son of King Owain Gwynedd , who landed in America around 1170 (more than 300 years before Christopher Columbus ) and is said to have founded settlements there . The English founders of this thesis in the 16th century had a solid interest in defending it in order to assert older rights to America than the Spaniards.

The legend

After King Owain Gwynedd's death in 1170, his at least 16 sons fought over inheritance and reign. To avoid the fighting, Madoc is said to have decided to sail westward. This expedition is said to have led Madoc across the north coast of Ireland to Mobile Bay in what is now Alabama . According to legend, Madoc returned to Wales, told of his discovery there and gathered adventurers to colonize the new territory. In 1170 Madoc sailed west again with ten ships, since then there has been no trace of him. According to legend, he reached America again and settled in what is now Georgia , Kentucky or Tennessee . Due to wars against the Indians, Madoc is said to have withdrawn with his men to the Missouri River , where he founded the Mandan tribe , which was eventually almost completely exterminated by the smallpox virus in the 19th century .

Although King Owain had a handsome number of children of two wives and at least four lovers, there is no document or reference to a Prince Madoc.

Madoc as one of the first white settlers in North America?

This hypothesis is based primarily on four arguments, the counter-arguments of which are listed here:

Indian earthworks and stone structures

Sketch of the fortress on the Ohio River

In the 18th and early 19th centuries, earthworks and stone structures were found in the eastern United States . Due to racist prejudice, the white settlers did not trust the Indians to build such cultural buildings because of their size and design. They were assigned to an unknown culture called moundbuilders . In particular, three stone structures that have been interpreted as fortresses, two in Manchester , Tennessee and Louisville , Kentucky , both on the Ohio River and one in DeSoto Falls in Alabama , were puzzling. Dating was the 12th century, several centuries before Columbus discovered the continent .

There were various theories about the moundbuilders, the Madoc thesis is based on a superficial similarity between the building in Alabama and the remains of Dolwyddelan Castle , the birthplace of Madoc. The region between the Ohio River and the DeSoto Falls has been declared the area Madoc may have advanced into. A legend of the Cherokee , according to which the stone fortresses were built "by white men who came across the great water," fits in with this.

However, more detailed investigations showed that the Cherokee settled the region well after the construction of the facilities, and the alleged similarity to Dolwyddelan Castle is based on its stone tower, which was only built at the beginning of the 13th century, after Madoc's alleged crossing . The moundbuilders have since been exposed as a false assumption that the earthworks and stone structures come from various Indian cultures, including the Adena culture , the Hopewell culture and the most highly developed Mississippi culture .

The "white" Indians

Mandan in a coracle

There were also rumors about a "white" Indian tribe . The painter George Catlin was the first to research the culture of the Mandan , an Indian tribe in North Dakota. The Mandan differed significantly in their culture from all other known Indian tribes, for example they made blue glass beads, which no other Indian tribe could produce. According to the mythology of the Mandan, the highest deity of the Mandan, Lone Man , was the only survivor stranded on a hill on the prairie after a huge flood . He was covered in white paint all over his body and ended up in a canoe. The mythology of the Mandan reveals astonishing parallels to the biblical story. The cult of the dead and the construction of the Mandan villages are also similar to the Welsh tradition. There was also a noticeably large number of blonde or blue-eyed tribesmen among the Mandan. They used a language not dissimilar to Welsh and they used boats that are not found anywhere else in North America. However, the boats were similar to the small, oval, braided rowboats that were common in Madoc's time in Wales (so-called Welsh Coracles ).

These observations were not confirmed by the Lewis and Clark expedition . The Mandan language also belongs to the Sioux language family .

The legend among the North American Indians, which described a kingdom in the north-east of the continent founded by white men, most likely relates to the Viking settlers of the 11th century. In the course of colonization, European settlers also mixed with various Indian tribes, and that already in the early 16th century. Genetic studies in 2006 clearly showed that the Mandan had no ancestors from Wales.

Clark's grave find

Allegedly, George Rogers Clark , the older brother of William Clark , discovered a tombstone dated 1186 on the north bank of the Ohio River in 1799 by chance. Six skeletons were exhumed that had the Welsh coat of arms engraved on a brass breastplate. The breastplate was decorated with a mermaid and a harp . Also on it was a Latin inscription, which translated means something like " virtuous deeds always deserve reward ". Clark concluded that they could only be Madoc men. In the Ohio River area there is also a stone fortress discovered by Clark.

There is not the slightest hint of a grave find in Clark's biography.

The name "Mandan"

The companions of Madocs were called Madawgwys by the Welsh . According to Catlin, this name could easily have been derived from Mandan .

Web links


  • George Catlin: Letters and Notes on the North American Indians. Edited and with an Introduction by Michael MacDonald Mooney. Clarkson N. Potter, New York NY 1975, ISBN 0-517-52016-8 .
  • Richard Deacon: Madoc and the Discovery of America. Some New Light on an Old Controversy. George Braziller, New York NY 1967.
  • Frances Gibson: The Seafarers. Pre-Columbian Voyages to America. Dorrance & Company, Philadelphia PA 1974, ISBN 0-8059-1938-4 .
  • Samuel Eliot Morison : The European Discovery of America. The Northern Voyages. AD 500-1600. Oxford University Press, New York NY 1971.
  • Dana Olson: The Legend of Prince Madoc. Discoverer of America in 1170 AD and the History of the Welsh Colonists, also known as the White Indians or the Moon-Eyed People. = Legend of Prince Madoc and the White Indians. Olson Enterprises, Jeffersonville IN 2001, ISBN 0-9677903-0-1 .
  • Frederick J. Pohl: Atlantic Crossings Before Columbus. WW Norton, New York NY 1961.
  • Ellen Pugh: Brave His Soul. The Story of Prince Madog of Wales and His Discovery of America in 1170. Dodd, Mead & Company, New York NY 1970, ISBN 0-396-06190-7 .
  • Hans-Peter Schmitz: Mandan / Madoc / Madowgwys. The search for the roots of the Mandan people. In: Magazine for American Studies. Issue 1, 2001, ISSN  0170-2513 , pp. 60-61.

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Josiah Priest: American antiquities and discoveries in the West . Hoffman & Whit, Albany / NY 1833, p. 267. in the Google book search
  2. ^ Snowdonia National Park: Dolwyddelan Castle. (No longer available online.) Archived from the original on October 18, 2014 ; accessed on October 13, 2014 . Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /