Marco Polo ‘never reached China’ and picked up tales of the Orient from others, Italians claim

Posted: 08/10/2011 in all marine news

Mail Online – 

One of history’s greatest explorers, may in fact have been a conman, it was claimed yesterday.

Far from being a trader who spent years in China and the Far East, he probably never went further east than the Black Sea, according to a team of archaeologists.

They suspect the Venetian adventurer picked up stories about the mysterious lands of the Orient from fellow traders around the Black Sea who related tales of China, Japan and the Mongol Empire in the 13th century.

He then put the stories together in a book commonly called The Travels of Marco Polo, aailed as one of the first travel books, iy purports to be his account of his journeys through Persia, Asia and the Far East between 1271 and 1291.

It details his relations with Kublai Khan, the Mongol ruler who became Emperor of China.

But now an Italian team of archaeologists studying in Japan have cast doubts about one of Italy’s great national heroes — although there have been competing claims to him from Croatia, which argues he was born there.

The doubters told Italian history magazine Focus Storia that there were numerous inconsistencies and inaccuracies in Marco Polo’s description of Kublai Khan’s attempted invasions of Japan in 1274 and 1281.

‘He confuses the two, mixing up details about the first expedition with those of the second.

‘In his account of the first invasion, he describes the fleet leaving Korea and being hit by a typhoon before it reached the Japanese coast,’ said Professor Daniele Petrella of the University of Naples, the leader of the archaeology team.

‘But that happened in 1281 – is it really possible that a supposed eye witness could confuse events which were seven years apart?’

He said that Polo’s description of the Mongol fleet did not square with the remains of ships that the team had excavated in Japan, as he had written of ships with five masts, while those which had been found had only three.

‘It was during our dig that doubts began to emerge about much of what he wrote,’ said Prof. Petrella.

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