Once thought to be the first depiction of North America, the Vinland Map has become infamous.
Researchers analyzed the ink and concluded that it was from the 1920s. It is not the 15-century landmark in cartography, as it was initially claimed to be. This map is a deliberate forgery.
Although there were some doubts about the authenticity and reliability of the Vinland Map, the XRF (Xray fluorescence spectrum) and field emission scan electron microscopy(FE-SEM), techniques used to examine the chemicals in ink are the best ways to view the document.
The map was analysed using macro X-ray fluorescence spectrumroscopy. (Yale University)
Raymond Clemens is the curator of early books at the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University. He believes that the Vinland Map is a fabrication. "There is no reason to doubt this. This new analysis should resolve the issue.
Carbon dating places the date of the map parchment at 600 years old. However, the ink is high in titanium and contains fewer barium elements than you would find in the first commercially produced titanium-white pigments from the 1920s.
You can find Anatase all over the map, which is a type of titanium dioxide that was used in the same period. It is not possible to find the iron gallink that medieval scribes used, which is made of iron sulphate and powdered gall nuts as well as a binder substance.
Researchers were also able compare the Vinland Map to manuscripts from the 15th Century, and found lower levels of titanium in the ink.
Chemical breakdown of the inscription at the back of this map. (Yale University)
An inscription links the map to the Speculum Historiale on the back of this map, which is a Middle Ages encyclopedia. This is most likely where parchment was used to forge the map. The new analysis shows that the original Latin inscription has been overwritten using titanium ink signs, indicating a deliberate forgery.
Clemens says that the altered inscription "certainly seems like an effort to make people believe that the map was created at a time when the Speculum Historiale" is true. It is strong evidence that this is not an innocent creation of a third party, but it does not reveal who did the deception.
The Vinland Map was first offered to museums in 1957 with a brief medieval text. It shows the so-called "Vinlanda Insula", a part of North America's coast to the southwest of Greenland. It was used to support the notion that Vikings had reached the continent and mapped it long before Christopher Columbus.
Although the Norse colonization in North America is widely accepted, the map does not support it. This is evident from the time taken to analyze the document and the comparisons with other historical works that have been confirmed.
According to the researchers, the new analysis shows that the most recent equipment and scanning techniques can provide definitive answers as to which historic documents are authentic and which are not. This allows us all to concentrate our attention on the former.
Clemens says objects like the Vinland Map take up a lot intellectual space. We don't want this controversy to continue. There are many fascinating and fun things we should be looking at that can tell us about medieval exploration and travel.