For decades, researchers at Yale and elsewhere have questioned the authenticity of a map that shows a Viking’s journey to North America. The school now says that the matter is closed.
Suspicions swirled around Greenland, which looked so good that it was clearly suspicious, and questions soon spread across the map: about wormholes, handwriting, and most importantly, strangely crumbling ink.
For more than half a century, scholars have struggled over the authenticity of the Vineland Map, which Yale University presented to the world in 1965; At the time, calling it evidence of Viking explorations in the western Atlantic, the first European depiction of North America and a precious medieval treasure.
Yale now says someone duped a lot of people.
“The Vineland Map is a fake,” said Raymond Clemens, curator of early books and manuscripts at the Beneke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale. a statement this month. “There’s no reasonable doubt here. This new analysis should put the matter to rest.”
The university said a team of conservators and scientists, analyzing elements in the map’s lines and text, found high levels of the titanium compound used in inks that were first made in the 1920s. Mr Clemens said the team hopes to publish an article in a scientific journal. Ars Technicahandjob Smithsonian Magazine And gizmodo, among other news outlets, reported the findings this month.
Elizabeth Ashman Rowe, an associate professor of Scandinavian history at the University of Cambridge, said it was “deeply satisfying to have the strongest possible scientific confirmation of historians’ longstanding arguments that the Vinland map had to be a forgery.”
Experts in the field, she said, had long determined that the map was a forgery. kensington runestone, a carved stone on a farm in Minnesota that scholars have found to be a 19th-century hoax. But the debate over the map continued, with decades of competing claims.
“It went on like a tennis match for 20 years or more,” said William Fitzhugh, curator of North American archeology at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. “We need to put a lid on this can,” he said, praising the Yale team for their work being thoughtful and well done.
The researchers also found that a Latin inscription on the back of the map was overwritten with modern ink, which Mr. Clemens called “powerful evidence that it was a forgery, not an innocent creation by a third party that was co-opted by someone else.” was chosen. .”
The map can be traced back to at least 1957, after Lawrence Witten, an antiquarian in New Haven, Conn., acquired it from an unknown source in Europe. He sold the parchment to philanthropist Paul Mellon, who donated it to Yale.
In 1965, Yale revealed the map to the public, showing stories in major newspapers, including: front pages of . At the time, experts in the school believed that the map was compiled around 1440, about 50 years before Christopher Columbus’s westward march.
Archaeologists and scholars have no doubt that a small number of Norse peoples arrived in the region of Newfoundland and the Gulf of St. Lawrence around AD 1000, both in 13th-century legends about the journey and the archaeological remains of a Viking settlement. was accompanied by evidence. the site is called L’Anse aux Meadows, in Newfoundland.
There were probably fewer than 100 people on those voyages, and the travelers landed on shores where Native peoples lived in great numbers, said Gisli Sigurdsson, professor of Norse studies at the Arni Magnusson Institute in Iceland.
Mr Sigurdsson said, “The stories, told and repeated through the generations, remember the general condition of the land: There are lands beyond Greenland, but they are really out of our reach, too far and too much to travel. are dangerous.” He added that the Vikings, however, “continued to brag about what a great and wonderful adventure it was.”
When the Vinland Map appeared in 1965, shortly after the discovery of Foundland caused a sensation, scholars quickly became suspicious of the parchment. While the curator of maps at Yale’s library at the time saw the “surprisingly accurate” drawing of Greenland as evidence of Viking exploration, others saw it as the mark of an artist looking at 20th-century maps.
Greenland’s north coast was drawn “suspiciously similar to what you can see on modern maps”, Mr Sigurdsson said. “Greenland is so close to the real Greenland, it’s hard to believe that anyone would have drawn such a map in the Middle Ages.”
It was also impossible for a medieval writer to know that Greenland – drawn for centuries as a peninsula – was an island. “Information about the geography of the western Atlantic may have taken the form of lore and advice passed orally from sailor to sailor,” Dr Rowe said. “They didn’t use maps for navigation.”
Cartographers raised other questions. He noticed that its ink was “cracking in a very strange way that medieval map ink would not crumble,” Dr. Fitzhug said.
The trials began, and the debate ended ink, handwriting and other elements The map lasted for decades. Scholars also raised questions about whether the holes in the map corresponded to a wormhole in an authentic medieval volume believed to be the source of the map’s calf parchment.
In 1974, Yale stated that research indicated it “may be forgery.” In 1987, scientists at the University of California argued that it might be real. In the 2000s, various researchers published conflicting studies about it, even as the number of defenders of the map dwindled.
“No one in the real field of Norse studies or Vinland studies has long believed in the authenticity of the maps,” Mr Sigurdsson said.
Like the Kensington runestone, however, the map fuels mythology about the first Europeans in the Americas, said Dale Kedward, a map historian at the Arnie Magnusson Institute.
“The Vineland map is just one in a long series of forgery that is about demonstrating a medieval European presence on American soil,” he said. “It is used to undermine indigenous First Nations history, and is associated with the partisan, nationalist historiography that developed in Europe.”
Dr Rowe said whoever created the map “may have been motivated by a desire to raise the international importance of Viking Age exploitation when Norway was one of the poorest countries in Europe.”
But he and other experts said the display of the map as a fake had not caused any damage to the area. “The map is irrelevant to our understanding of Norse travel west of Greenland,” she said.
Yale now hopes to close the issue. “Objects like the Vinland Map take up a lot of intellectual air space,” Mr. Clemens said in a university statement. “We don’t want this controversy to continue.”
Map historian Mr. Cadewards said that modern technology would easily catch such forgery today, but that the map had deceived “some wonderful scholars” over the years.
“This is part of the history of the map which is quite sad,” he said. “But whoever did this must have been a really skilled calligrapher—it’s not easy to do—at least with familiarity with medieval maps.”
Mr Clemens said the map would remain in Yale’s collection, calling it a “historic object in itself” and “a great example of a forgery that had international ramifications.”