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Investigate the Vinland Map

  • By Susan K. Lewis
  • Posted 02.08.05
  • NOVA

Is the Vinland Map, which depicts Viking forays to North America, a priceless document made before Columbia’s voyage to the New World, or is it a brilliant 20th-century forgery? Take a close look at the map and its suspicious details with this high-resolution and annotated image, and decide for yourself.

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Is the famous map of Viking adventures in North America a fake? Examine the telltale evidence and decide for yourself.

This feature originally appeared on the site for the NOVA program The Viking Deception.

Background Notes

When Yale University announced in 1965 that it had acquired a pre-Columbian map of the known world showing Viking adventures to North America, the case for the Vinland Map's authenticity seemed solid. After all, three renowned experts in medieval documents had assessed the map for Yale, taking nearly seven years to prepare what was to be the definitive defense, a weighty book titled The Vinland Map and the Tartar Relation. It argued that the map, along with the Tartar Relation and the Speculum Historiale, both undeniably genuine medieval texts, were once all bound together—a single volume created circa 1437 for use at a conference of the Roman Catholic Church. Yet Yale's three scholars had worked in isolation, never testing their conclusions with outside experts, and as soon as Yale unveiled the map other scholars began voicing doubt. Since then Yale, to its credit, has spearheaded intensive scientific study of the map, much of which has put its authenticity in question.

Credits

Photos

(Vinland Map)
Courtesy of Beineke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University
(anatase crystals)
Courtesy of M. Douma/WebExhibits.org
(off-register map ink)
Courtesy of Yale University Press
(map sliver)
Courtesy of Brookhaven National Laboratory
(carbon dating)
© WGBH/NOVA

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