Skip to comments."Vinland Map" Parchment Predates Columbus's Arrival In North America
Posted on 07/30/2002 11:11:50 AM PDT by sourcery
Scientists from the University of Arizona, the U.S. Department of Energys Brookhaven National Laboratory, and the Smithsonian Institution have used carbon-dating technology to determine the age of a controversial parchment that might be the first-ever map of North America. In a paper to be published in the July 2002 issue of the journal Radiocarbon, the scientists conclude that the so-called Vinland Map parchment dates to approximately 1434 A.D., or nearly 60 years before Christopher Columbus set foot in the West Indies. Many scholars have agreed that if the Vinland Map is authentic, it is the first known cartographic representation of North America, and its date would be key in establishing the history of European knowledge of the lands bordering the western Atlantic Ocean, said chemist Garman Harbottle, the lead Brookhaven researcher on the project. If it is, in fact, a forgery, then the forger was surely one of the most skillful criminals ever to pursue that line of work.
Housed in Yale Universitys Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, the map shows Europe (including Scandinavia), Northern Africa, Asia and the Far East, all of which were known by 15th-century travelers. In the northwest Atlantic Ocean, however, it also shows the Island of Vinland, which has been taken to represent an unknown part of present-day Labrador, Newfoundland, or Baffin Island. Text on the map reads, in part, By God's will, after a long voyage from the island of Greenland to the south toward the most distant remaining parts of the western ocean sea, sailing southward amidst the ice, the companions Bjarni and Leif Eiriksson discovered a new land, extremely fertile and even having vines, ... which island they named Vinland.
The map, drawn in ink and measuring 27.8 x 41.0 centimeters, surfaced in Europe in the mid-1950s, but had no distinct record of prior ownership or provenance in any famous library. The map and the accompanying Tartar Relation, a manuscript of undoubted authenticity that was at some point bound with the Vinland Map in book form, were purchased in 1958 for $1 million by Paul A. Mellon, known for his many important gifts to Yale, and, at Mellon's request, subjected to an exhaustive six-year investigation.
In 1965 the Yale University Press published The Vinland Map and the Tartar Relation, a detailed study by R.A. Skelton, T. E. Marston and G. D. Painter that firmly argued for the maps authenticity, connecting it with the Catholic Churchs Council of Basel (A.D. 1431-1449), which was convened a half-century before Columbuss voyage. Two scientific conferences, in 1966 and 1996, featured strong debates over the maps authenticity, but no final determination could be made based on the available facts.
Beginning in 1995, Harbottle, along with Douglas J. Donahue, University of Arizona, and Jacqueline S. Olin, Smithsonian Center for Materials Research and Education, undertook a detailed scientific study of the parchment. The scientists traveled to Yale, where they were allowed to trim a 3-inch-long sliver off the bottom edge of the parchment for analysis. Using the National Science Foundation-University of Arizonas Accelerator Mass Spectrometer, the scientists determined a precision date of 1434 A.D. plus or minus 11 years. The unusually high precision of the date was possible because the parchments date fell in a very favorable region of the carbon-14 dating calibration curve. This new analysis of the map parchment reaffirms the association with the Council of Basel since it dates exactly to that time period, and makes a strong case for the maps authenticity.
Several previous studies challenging the maps authenticity have focused on the chemical composition of the ink used to draw it. Some initial work found anatase, a particular form of titanium dioxide, in the ink. Since anatase only went into commercial production in the 20th century, some concluded that the ink was also a 20th-century product, making the map a forgery. Recent testing, however, only revealed trace quantities of titanium, whose presence may be a result of contamination, the chemical deterioration of the ink over the centuries, or may even have been present naturally in the ink used in medieval times. Another recent study detected carbon, which has also has been presented as evidence of a forgery. However, carbon can also be found in medieval ink. Current carbon-dating technology does not permit the dating of samples as small as the actual ink lines on the map.
While the date result itself cannot prove that the map is authentic, it is an important piece of new evidence that must be considered by those who argue that the map is a forgery and without cartographic merit, said Harbottle.
Editor's Note: The original news release can be found at http://www.bnl.gov/bnlweb/pubaf/pr/2002/bnlpr072902a.htm
These Norsemen were very devout Catholics, like Columbus. This was long before Garrison's Lutheran church suppers, with all that gooey Campbell's Mushroom soup holding everything together.
Sic transit gloria.
An interesting map-related factoid is that an early map, taken to be Ptolomaic, shows Cuba, and seems to be a redrawing of a much older map but done with no knowledge of map projections. The older map would have been a polar projection centered on Egypt, and would have possibly been before Phoenicians. Lot of maybes, but something is going on.
One odd fact about this Vinland map, though, if it is genuine, is that it would be the only clear connection between America and the Roman Empire, which gave its last gasp at the Council of Basel.
They know it is Viking, but was there originally more to it? It might be nothing more than a tower, a lookout.
Seems that things around the world were were a bit warmer, must have been the CO2 emissions from all those Viking Long Boats.
A church just like it, on same scale, is in Cambridge, England. There are others in Scandinavia. All date to the 1050- 1300 era.
Columbus is debunked by this? No, he was a great hero of the Christian faith, and that is why he did it-- he said it was so that the Christian faith could be refreshed and find new strength to continue its mortal combat with Islam.
But the Norse and Swedes and Icelanders and Greenlanders were regularly contacting and trading with America from c985- 1485 AD, where an established colony existed in Vinland.
Said when golden coaches return to their inherent pumpkinness.
BTW in the movie "Patton" the general explains that when a legion returned to Rome in triumph, the general of the legion would lead a parade past the emporer. Riding in the chariot next to the general was a slave who held a golden wreath over the general's head. The wreath signified his triumphs. At the same time the slave whispered in the general's ear, "Sic transit gloria mundi".
My particular favorite was Caesar's oft used phrase in his Gallc Commentaries, "Quae cum ita sunt".
The place in Newfoundland where there is purported to be the original Norse settlement is now even devoid of trees.
During that time period the Norse were growing grains in Southern Greenland.
That climatological period of time is known as the "Midevil Maximum". it was followed by the "Little Ice Age" when the Norse vanished from Greenland. The reason for the Norse leaving N. America is less clear.
You do the math.
Two ships --possibly intending to settle or colonize SOMEWHERE or other, came to some little grief at that spot on the coast, and went to some trouble to thoroughly repair one or both of their vessels. Probably had just limped in. Women and livestock were along to some degree.
This very early on, as likely c982-7 as later around 1012. Greenland was only receiving its first settlers itself, then! These 2 ships may have been headed for Greenland to settle, and missed it, running too far south to make Cape Farewell--a common problem for Greenland-bound sailors all during the Viking heydays.
Quite a lot of work was done, they stayed over two winters, then sailed away in the second spring, thus they were there some 18 months in all and then sailed away never to look back, never to return. Probably they went on to Greenland, their intended destination all along! If Vinland had been their destination, they would have had no reason to do their boat repair way up there in the harsh Arctic, for Vinland too was forested, so they could have gone on to their goal, and lived permanently. Only a complete dire sinking emergency could explain Lantsy Meadows in that case. No evidence any other Vikings ever returned to that site.
The kindest explanation would be that since Greenland had no timber, these were Greenlanders seeking the nearest timbered coast, there to renew/rebuild their vessels. Maybe they built a third vessel from scratch!
Again, nothing to do with Vinland, nothing to do with the Vinland map, never any grapes, never any wheat, never ANYTHING, except a good place to repair ships, with bog iron nearby even --which they DID work, for the iron fittings and etc needed.
It is very unclear that any Norse who lived in North America ever DID leave it, I am sure they died here. Roger Williams, the first Englishman or white of any kind, to settle in the 17th century on Narragansett Bay, the central Vinland featured area, said that in his opinion the local "Indians" were all descended from Icelanders at least in part, as was their language. He also says that those who later converted to Protestantism and English dress and farming, could not be distinguised from the other English colonists by their looks, but only by their speech.
Verrazano who visited in about 1515 or so, said the natives there were "white"-- totally white, whiter than Venetian Italians or his own crew. Avoid common mistranslations, look at what he actually wrote in his own tongue! He also saw two blond white children on a dock near Portsmouth, NH, but was prevented by foul winds and his hurry to get back to Europe before winter, from coming ashore there as the children beckoned him to do.
The Portuguese, BTW, when asked where they had gotten these tough, hardworking workers ="Labradors" in Portuguese-- lied and said they had found them in the wastes of what we call "Labrador"== a joke 500 years old now.
They didn't want to disclose where they really had got them, so they could maybe come back and get more. Certainly they didn't want to tell the English.
There is no incontrovertible proof of that. For one thing, the technology to actually date the ink doesn't exist yet, because there's not enough ink for a meaningful result. And no one has actually done the requisite comparative testing of the inks on comparably old documents to permit any definitive statements to be made on the matter.
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Note: this topic is from 7/30/2002.