In 1494, two years after Christopher Columbus arrived in the New World, the Italian painter Pinturicchio composed a fresco in the Vatican's Apostolic Palace. While cleaning it, an art restorer discovered what appears to be an image of Native Americans:
The discovery was unveiled by Antonio Paolucci, the director of the Vatican Museums, in L'Osservatore Romano, the city state's daily newspaper.
Prof Paolucci suggests that the "nude men, who are decorated with feathers and seem to be dancing," were inspired by the descriptions of tribesmen that Columbus brought back from his travels.
Columbus's voyages across the Atlantic were commissioned by Spain, but Prof Paolucci said the Vatican would inevitably have heard of his discoveries, particularly given that the Pope at the time, Alexander VI, the notorious Rodrigo Borgia, was Spanish.
(Photo: Vatican Museums)