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New Doubts Over Authenticity of Vinland Map

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    NHNE News List Current Members: 656 Subscribe/unsubscribe/archive info at the bottom of this message. ... FRESH DOUBT OVER AMERICA MAP BBC Tuesday, 30 July,
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 30, 2002
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      NHNE News List
      Current Members: 656
      Subscribe/unsubscribe/archive info at the bottom of this message.


      Tuesday, 30 July, 2002


      More doubt has been cast over a supposedly medieval map of America drawn up
      prior to the voyage of Christopher Columbus.

      Many scientists believe the so-called Vinland Map, owned by Yale University
      and valued at $20m, is in fact a 20th Century fake.

      Controversy has raged over the claim for the past 35 years.

      And this week, experts from University College, London, UK, said that fresh
      analysis of the ink on the map added weight to this allegation.

      Interestingly, their study was published at the same time as the details
      were released of a radiocarbon dating study of the parchment itself.

      This shows that parchment at least is likely to be from the 15th Century,
      even if the actual map was drawn on much later.

      Viking influence

      The Vinland Map appears to show - to a high level of accuracy - not only the
      main countries of western, northern and Mediterranean Europe, but also
      Greenland and Iceland.

      But what really caused a stir when the map was unveiled in 1965 was the
      inclusion of "Vinland", a small area to the west of Greenland perhaps
      depicting a section of the east coast of Canada or the US.

      If the map were genuine, it would pre-date the feted voyage of Christopher
      Columbus by some years - and would possibly have relied instead on the
      experiences of Viking explorers who may well have reached North America in
      the 10th or 11th Centuries.

      This would make the Vinland Map the earliest cartographic representation of
      North America.

      But is it real?

      Laser scattering

      The University College London study, led by Professor Robin Clark, and
      published in the journal Analytical Chemistry, used a technique involving
      laser light to examine the lines drawn on to the parchment.

      The light is scattered in different wavelengths dependent on the chemical
      composition of the ink, so the compounds involved can be identified.

      The Vinland Map is curious in that there is a yellowish line directly
      underneath a black line on top.

      Professor Clark's study found traces of a chemical called anatase - a form
      of titanium dioxide - in the yellow lines at several points on the map.

      This pigment was not synthesized as part of inks until at least the 1920s -
      strongly suggesting that the map is a modern fake.

      The London team found no anatase anywhere else on the map, pointing to it
      being a constituent of the yellow line rather than a product of later

      Yellow key

      The reason for the presence of the yellow line is key to the authenticity of
      the map.

      Medieval iron-based inks tend to erode over time, leaving a yellow or brown

      The London team also proved that the black inks used on the map were not

      Some have speculated that a forger may have included the yellow line to make
      it look like this kind of deterioration was occurring.

      Professor Clark told BBC News Online that while he can only guess at the
      precise provenance of the map, his work means it is highly unlikely to be
      prior to the 1920s.

      'Good fake'

      He said: "I can't see how it could have been done in the 15th Century.

      "I don't know how it was made, but I can't think of any other explanation."

      Some scientists suggest that the titanium dioxide could be the product of
      long-term deterioration of ancient inks, but Professor Clark remains

      "We have not seen this titanium dioxide on any other ancient manuscripts,
      and we have used this microscopy to look at thousands.

      "But if it does prove to be a forgery, it's a very good one."

      Carbon clue

      The radiocarbon dating study, published in the journal Radiocarbon,
      pinpoints the manufacture of the parchment on which the map is drawn to
      approximately AD 1434.

      This is 60 years before the Columbus expedition.

      It means that the parchment could conceivably have been produced to coincide
      with the Catholic Council of Basel, convened a half-century before the
      Columbus voyage.

      Dr Garman Harbottle, who carried out the study, said: "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."


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