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Viking Deception, The

Program Overview

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Vinland Map NOVA investigates the history and authenticity of the Vinland Map, a document believed by some to be the first to depict America, and to date to 1440, half a century before Columbus' famous voyage.

The program:

  • recounts the Vinland Sagas, 13th-century chronicles that relate Leif Erikson's discovery of Vinland, an island named after the vines found growing there.

  • reports how the Vinland Map first came to light in 1957 when an Italian book dealer tried unsuccessfully to authenticate a world map bound in a 15th-century manuscript titled the Tartar Relation.

  • notes that the map indicates an island labeled Vinland located at approximately where North America would be and includes a short description that details the island's discovery by the Vikings.

  • details how the manuscript was sold to an American dealer who used watermarks and worm holes to try to date the Tartar Relation and the map.

  • describes how the discovery of a manuscript titled the Speculum Historiale led to the belief—confirmed by the location of worm holes—that the Speculum, the Vinland Map, and the Tartar Relation had once all been part of the same medieval volume.

  • relates Yale University's subsequent purchase and unveiling of the map.

  • reports on archeological finds from a fishing village in Newfoundland that provided evidence that the Vikings had reached North American shores prior to Christopher Columbus.

  • notes that when scholars questioned the map's genuineness, Yale officials agreed to scientific tests to verify the map's authenticity.

  • reviews the testing of the map's ink, including analyzing the ink under different lights and microscopes, comparing it to medieval inks, testing it at the atomic level, and subjecting it to microprobe spectroscopy.

  • notes that evidence indicated that the map was a forgery.

  • concludes with a proposed suspect who might have created the map—an Austrian Jesuit priest and map authority who may have made the map as a private exercise, thinking that it should exist but never believing it would be seen by others.

Taping Rights: Can be used up to one year after the program is taped off the air.

Teacher's Guide
Viking Deception, The
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