The Vinland Map is Fake

From YaleNews (hat tip: Dan Franke): 

The Vinland Map, once hailed as the earliest depiction of the New World, is awash in 20th-century ink. A team of conservators and conservation scientists at Yale has found compelling new evidence for this conclusion through the most thorough analysis yet performed on the infamous parchment map.

Acquired by Yale in the mid-1960s, the purported 15th-century map depicts a pre-Columbian “Vinlanda Insula,” a section of North America’s coastline southwest of Greenland. While earlier studies had detected evidence of modern inks at various points on the map, the new Yale analysis examined the entire document’s elemental composition using state-of-the-art tools and techniques that were previously unavailable.

The analysis revealed that a titanium compound used in inks first produced in the 1920s pervades the map’s lines and text.

The Vinland Map is a fake,” said Raymond Clemens, curator of early books and manuscripts at Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, which houses the map. “There is no reasonable doubt here. This new analysis should put the matter to rest.”

The new study also uncovered evidence that the map deception was intentional. A Latin inscription on its back, possibly a bookbinder’s note guiding the assembly of the Speculum Historiale — an authentic medieval volume and the likely source of the map’s calfskin parchment — is overwritten with modern ink to appear like instructions for binding the map within the genuine 15th-century manuscript.

The altered inscription certainly seems like an attempt to make people believe the map was created at the same time as the Speculum Historiale,” Clemens said. “It’s powerful evidence that this is a forgery, not an innocent creation by a third party that was co-opted by someone else, although it doesn’t tell us who perpetrated the deception.”

Yale created a sensation in 1965 when it announced the Vinland Map’s existence and published a scholarly book about it by Yale librarians and curators at the British Museum in London. Its discovery seemed to demonstrate that Norsemen were the first Europeans to reach the New World, landing in the Americas well before Columbus’ first voyage. (Archeological discoveries at L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland during the 1960s confirmed that the Vikings had built settlements in the Americas long before Columbus sailed.)

From the beginning, however, scholars began to question the map’s authenticity. And over time an overwhelming consensus has emerged that it is indeed a 20th-century forgery.

More at the link.

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