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Maps, Explorers & Adventurers => Maps, Cartographers & Cartography => Topic started by: Bianca on October 04, 2007, 07:22:42 pm

Title: VINLAND Map
Post by: Bianca on October 04, 2007, 07:22:42 pm

Title: Re: VINLAND Map
Post by: Bianca on October 04, 2007, 07:31:32 pm

The Vinland map is purportedly a 15th century Mappa Mundi, redrawn from a 13th century original.

-In addition to showing Africa, Asia and Europe, the map depicts a large island west of Greenland in the Atlantic called Vinland; the map describes this region as having been visited in the 11th century. If authentic, such evidence is an important addition to archeological findings such as the L'Anse aux Meadows site, documenting pre-Columbian Norse travels to the Americas. To date it is not definitely decided if the map is fake or authentic, but most scholars tend to believe that it is a fake, especially since tests found round anatase crystals in the ink; although the parchment may be original.

The map was discovered bound together with a codex, Historia Tartarorum ("Description of the Tartars," sometimes referred to as the Tartar Relation).

The Historia is a manuscript of undoubted authenticity that was at some point bound with the Vinland Map. It is a description of the history and manners of the Mongols that appears to be an early version of the memoir of Giovanni da Pian del Carpine (q.v. for full details), an Italian Franciscan friar who in 1245 made a trip to the supreme khan at Karakoram. Carpine went on to write a more robust account of his travels, but the shorter "Tartar Relation" survived until the 15th century by being included as an addendum to a volume of Vincent of Beauvais's encyclopedic "Historical Mirror" (Speculum historiale).

The map first came to light in 1957 (three years before the discovery of the Norse site at L'Anse aux Meadows in 1960) and was offered to Yale University by an alumnus who had become an antiquarian book dealer. Unable to afford the asking price, and concerned that the dealer refused to reveal the provenance of the item, Yale contacted another alumnus, Paul Mellon, who agreed to buy it and donate it to the university if it could be authenticated.

Recognising its potential importance as the earliest map to show America, Mellon insisted that the authentication, conducted by two British Museum curators and a Yale librarian, must be carried out in secret. This was to prove controversial, as the trio were unable to consult specialists.

After years of study they decided the map was authentic, Mellon donated it to Yale, and it was revealed to the world in 1965, simultaneously with the publication of the team's research findings as an elegant book, The Vinland Map and Tartar Relation by Dr. Raleigh Ashlin Skelton et al. In 1995 Yale released a second edition of the book, including new articles arguing that the map is authentic. The New York Times reported that insurers valued the map at $25 million.

Title: Re: VINLAND Map
Post by: Bianca on October 04, 2007, 07:34:41 pm


In the absence of a clear provenance for the map, there have been claims that it is a forgery (somewhat strengthened by the 1957 dealer's admission, printed in the second edition of the Skelton book, that he had told lies during the authentication process) and examinations by a number of institutions have returned conflicting results.

Dating of parchment

Radiocarbon dating, performed by physicist Douglass Donahue and chemists Jacqueline Olin and Garman Harbottle, place the origin of the parchment somewhere between 1423 and 1445, although the entire map appears to have been coated with an unknown substance sometime in the 1950s.

This could have been part of a previously undocumented attempt at preservation, or could have been done by a forger as part of the process of drawing a new map on a previously-used piece of 15th century parchment. It is unclear whether the ink on the map is on top of this more recent layer of material or not.

Title: Re: VINLAND Map
Post by: Bianca on October 04, 2007, 07:39:57 pm

Dating of ink (a Controversy)

Detailed examination of the map at the British Museum in 1967 revealed that the ink was unlike anything the scientific staff there had ever seen. In 1974, with new technology becoming available, Yale sent the map for chemical analysis by forensic specialist Walter McCrone whose team dated the ink to after 1923 due to the presence of anatase (titanium dioxide) –in a rounded crystalline form manufactured for use in pale pigments since the 1920s, which suggests that the "yellowing" of ink on the map was faked.

Although in 1992 Dr. Thomas Cahill of University of California, Davis found natural anatase in a variety of medieval manuscripts, the rounded crystals in the ink from the map were characteristic of the synthetic product.

In July 2002, the authenticity of the map was again challenged. Using Raman spectroscopy, the small remaining traces of black pigment in the ink were confirmed to be carbon-based, which should not have generated the yellowish residue (superficially characteristic of the decay of an iron-based ink) which is all that now survives over most of the length of the map's lines.

All of the other pages of the Historia Tartorum and Speculum historiale were written using standard medieval iron-based ink. Nevertheless, chemist Jacqueline Olin, a retired researcher with the Smithsonian Institution, has conducted experiments which suggest a chain of circumstances that could conceivably have led to the production of the map ink in medieval times (though she herself did not produce finished ink).

Title: Re: VINLAND Map
Post by: Bianca on October 04, 2007, 07:43:48 pm

Content of map

Finally, there are a number of questions about the actual content of the map.

The original authentication team recognised that it bore strong resemblances to a map made in the 1430s by Italian mariner Andrea Bianco (oddly, even to the extent of cutting off Africa where Bianco's map has a page fold) but with changes of shape, and major revisions in the far east and west.

The most surprising thing about the revisions is that the map depicts Greenland as an island of the correct size and shape (while Norway, of which Greenland was just a colony, is wildly inaccurate) although most contemporary Scandinavian accounts– including a rare map from 1427– depict Greenland as a peninsula joined to northern Russia.

For practical purposes, the Polar ice cap made this description true, and Greenland is not known to have been successfully circumnavigated until the 20th century.

Skelton wondered also whether the revisions in the far east were meant to represent Japan, which would be another remarkable achievement for 14th century cartography. In addition, the text uses a Latin form of Leif Eriksson's name ("Erissonius") more consistent with 17th century norms and with transmission through a French or Italian source.

Thirdly, the Latin captions include several usages of the diphthong æ; this was almost unknown in later medieval times (a simple e was written instead) and although the diphthong was revived by Italian humanist scholars in the early 1400s, it is found only in documents of deliberately classicising style produced by Italian scribes, and never in conjunction with a Gothic style of script such as we see in the Map.

Finally, Vikings were known for their navigation skills and did not use maps in nautical travel.

For this reason, some experts question why this map would have been created.

Title: Re: VINLAND Map
Post by: Bianca on October 04, 2007, 07:45:38 pm

Other evidence for Vinland

Regardless of whether or not the map is genuine, it has been independently proven to general satisfaction that Greenland was settled by Vikings around 970, a settlement which lasted until the fifteenth century.

In regards to the Americas, the archaeological finds in L'Anse aux Meadows in present day Newfoundland, Canada, show that there was a Viking settlement which predates Christopher Columbus and his finding of the New World in 1492.

The "Skalholt" map (marked 1570) depicts what can only be northern Newfoundland and calls it "Promontorium Winlandia", at the exact position of the L'Anse aux Meadows Norse site and parallel to England.

Also note how the "finger" of Newfoundland (on a modern map) "points" in the direction of southern Greenland and is so depicted on the Skalholt map.

Title: Re: VINLAND Map
Post by: Bianca on October 04, 2007, 08:53:36 pm

There are few more tantalizing or notorious historical documents than the Vinland map.

A faded, yellowing scrap of parchment bearing a faint tracery of lines, the map apparently shows the eastern seaboard of North America - yet it was drawn at least half a century before Columbus reached the New World.

It seems to present unshakeable proof that the Vikings were the real discoverers of the Americas.

But for 40 years, a bitter debate over its authenticity has raged among cartographers, historians and scientists. Despite chemical analysis and radiocarbon tests, the case remained unresolved.

Now, in an exclusive investigation, NOVA presents fresh evidence confirming that the map was probably one of the cleverest forgeries of all time, and probes who might have wanted to carry out the deception.

In this enthralling cartographic detective story, NOVA pursues a trail from Scandinavia to Austria, Switzerland, London and the U.S.