One Mysterious Map
Some researchers believe that this familiar looking map was made over 50 years before Columbus set sail and embarked on his journey around the world. But theories suggest that Europeans landed on American soil nearly half a millennium before that…
The mainstream opinion for hundreds of years has been that Christopher Columbus had originally hoped to find the Indies. His travels eventually led him to the Caribbean, where he established settlements on the island of Hispaniola. This paved the way for the European colonization of the New World, which included North, South and Central America. But did someone else from the European continent get to this part of the world before Columbus? There has been uncertainty surrounding this question for years. Until now…
The Vinland Map
Let’s start at Yale University, with someone who recently brought this topic to the surface. Geologist Richard Raiswell specializes in maps and has been granted permission to analyze one of the most expensive and secretly kept maps on the planet – The Vinland Map. But what makes this map so unique and the subject of so much intense debate and speculation? Well, to get to the bottom of this secret, there are two details that Raiswell believes hold the key…
There are two important things to consider about this map, which was once insured for $25 million dollars. Firstly, it depicts the three continents that were known during the 15th Century – Europe, Asia and Africa. Then you have this little mass of land called “Vinlanda,” where America is supposed to be. Secondly, carbon dating proves that it was made during the mid-1400s. What is fascinating about this is that it is believed to have been made over 50 years before Columbus arrived in these parts.
Who Discovered It?
Well, there are actually inscriptions on the map naming two individuals by the names of Leif and Bjarni. This could very well be the famous historical Viking figure – Leif Erikson. He was born to an Icelandic outlaw family around 970AD and was considered one of the best sailors of his time. In fact, it is part of Viking lore that Leif founded Vinland. The Vikings sailed from Iceland to Greenland and then from Greenland to North America.
Was It The Vikings?
In order to prove this theory, Danish researchers have created medieval style ships to recreate the journey. Esben Jessend, the leader of the team, revealed that the Vikings relied on little more than the elements to navigate their way to North America. But the Vikings apparently also used fascinating navigational techniques such as compasses that dictated direction based on light and shadow. But if it’s true, why did the Vikings never write down their findings? Was it all through word of mouth?
Ivy League Investigation
At Yale University, three scholars worked together to secretly decode the map. Researcher Randall Rosenfeld has studied the scholars’ work intensely, realizing that every little detail was crucial to unlocking the truth of the map. This was evident in a document that accompanied the map, The Tartar Relation. According to Rosenfeld, a watermark was found on it, which he could trace back to 15th Century Central Europe. The theory goes that Catholic affiliates in Basil may have commissioned the map….
The Yale team were eager to reveal their findings to the public, and decided to on Columbus Day, 1964. After questioning Columbus’ discovery of America with this theory, many were offended and even disgusted. One of the most notable communities to take offense was the Italian community. “You and I are here in America because Columbus came, not anybody else,” one community leader said, in outrage. It was a controversial idea that elicited a raw emotional response from so many people.
But in recent times, a site in Newfoundland, Canada has been converted into a popular tourist attraction. It is believed to have originally been a Viking settlement. If this is the case, then it would suggest that the Vikings actually got to America about 500 years before Columbus did. Also, this is when Leif Erikson was alive. But although the settlement failed, it still operates as an important excavation site and provides crucial information about the Vikings’ brief stay.
One clue to determining the Vikings’ journey was a food item. Butternuts were apparently a popular food for the Vikings. But it didn’t grow near Lance Aux Meadows, where the settlement was. If the Vikings could travel this far, then they could easily travel to America. This also means that there’s a chance that there are many other Viking settlements throughout North America. But still, there was no clear archeological evidence as to where the map was unearthed.
It Doesn’t Add Up
One of the craziest things about the map is that although the Viking age came to an end in around 1100, the map is believed to have been constructed over 400 years later. The only thing that can explain this is that there was an unbroken chain of information, passed down from generation to generation. Vikings rarely wrote down their findings. One thing is for sure, we can’t ignore this strange phenomenon and the many connections that can be made through history.
Since the day it was discovered, the Vinland map has caused much confusion amongst scholars and researchers. Not only does the map suggest that Vikings arrived in America long before Columbus, but that the Catholic church was actually aware of this. This also implies that Columbus knew of this potential fact and may also explain why his desire was to find the Indies, not America. But make no mistake, the Vinland map has many holes in it, both literally and metaphorically…
Truth Or Lies?
The map hasn’t gone without its fair share of scrutiny. Many researchers have questioned the map’s validity, with some claiming that forgery isn’t out of the realm of possibility. “There are a lot of reasons why you might forge something,” Dr. Caroline Dodds Pennock of the University of Sheffield said. “Most likely for money, I would think, or else for scholarly cache. These things tend to come down to one or the other.” But there are arguments against this…
Pieces Of A Puzzle
The Tartar Relation was written in the thirteenth century and is connected to the map. The book documents a meeting between Christian missionaries and the members of Genghis Khan’s Mongol Empire. Someone tried to sell it, along with the map. However, the deal didn’t go through. But when a third document called The Historical Mirror was found, it was brought together with the other two. Wormholes show that the three were part of one manuscript at some point.
Timing Is Key
However, Rosenfeld believes that there could be some tricks at play here. “You can fake wormholes. And for a forger, the best way to create wormholes is to use real worms.” Although he isn’t fully convinced that the map is fake, he thinks there is a chance that forgery could have taken place. The key detail is that the wormholes only imply that the three documents were bound together at some point in its history. It doesn’t mean that they were always together…
Another crucial detail is what ink was used to create the map. One theory is that the forger could create their own ink reminiscent of medieval ink to create an illusion that it was made much earlier than it actually was. There are clear ingredients that, when put together in the right way, can create “medieval ink.” Hypothetically, you could design a map in 2017 that looked like a map that was made at the times of the Vikings.
One Potential Flaw
But there is a huge factor that could completely debunk the theory altogether. In 1973, a test was undertaken at Yale University to analyze the ink’s chemical makeup. Scientists found a modern chemical compound that has only been used in ink since the turn of 20th century – titanium dioxide, also known as anatase. This was a huge indicator that the map was made only in the last century, and in turn, suggesting that it was, in fact, a fake.
Natural Or Manmade?
However, some scientists asserted that this did not mean that the map was forged. This is because anatase is actually able to form naturally from sands and other materials. The debates seemed to go back and forth between scientists, researchers, and historians for years. And to this day, no definitive answer has been agreed upon regarding the nature of the ink. However, with time, new scientific advances would help to clarify exactly when the map was created.
Then, carbon dating was introduced, a definitive way to trace the exact dates as to when a certain material came to be. So Yale researchers sliced a small piece of parchment off the map and initiated the test. When the results came in, the researchers couldn’t believe what they were about to find. They showed that the material was in fact from the 15th century – specifically, pre-Columbus. But this isn’t the end of the investigation, by any means…
Rosenfeld also made it clear just how easy it is to forge things using the right materials. A forger could easily take pages from books that include materials from the 15th century. Seeing that the map was, at one stage, insured at $25 million, these expensive materials could prove to be worthwhile investments for forgers. “You’ve got this ready-made parchment, animal killed in the middle ages,” Rosenfeld said. “Prepared…using medieval techniques and materials. That’s just perfect if you want to forge.”
Not A Work Of Art
Another thing going against researchers hopes for the map’s validity is the fact that most medieval maps were expensive works of art. They were colorful, extravagant and meticulously crafted. But the Vinland map certainly wasn’t. Also, as demonstrated by Raiswell, the map is a very inaccurate depiction of what the Earth actually looks like. So if it wasn’t made to impress, and was not fit for navigational purposes, what was it made for, if anything?
There is one more fascinating thing about the map that tips the scale as far as skeptics are concerned. Before the 20th Century, most maps suggested that Greenland was connected to Europe. It was never circumnavigated until that point. However, the Vinland map breaks this rule. It suggests that the Vikings already circumvented the large island potentially by the 11th Century. How could someone from the middle ages have illustrated Greenland to look so similar to how it is depicted today?
A Shocking Twist
All the research was then compiled together by one scholar. She actually claims to know who made the map and when it was made – the 20th Century. Kirsten Seaver notes how the map depicts the Vikings as believers in Christ. “I figured that has to be somebody who wants to point out how important the Roman Church was.” In an audacious claim, she cites an unlikely connection that will turn the very nature of the Vinland map on its head…
Seaver is a firm believer that the Viking map was merely a theoretical study constructed by a member of the Catholic Church. She claims that Father Joseph Fischer, a well-respected historian, was responsible for creating the map back in the 1930s. His motive for creating the map was as follows: he couldn’t fathom how people could travel so far to new, unchartered land and not want others to know about it. He was in desperate search for answers.
Search For Superiority
However, Seaver’s wildest theory was that Fisher’s motives were in light of German suppression of the Catholic Church. “They wanted to have hairy-chested Vikings in their heritage,” she said. Fisher didn’t want the Germans to discover his work after he died and allow it to further their superiority complex. But they wouldn’t have liked the idea that the Catholic Church had discovered so much of the world before they did. But that’s not the end of the story…
An Incredible Lie
Another detail that Seaver believes to be true is that the map was taken and eventually resurfaced after the war had ended. It would then be sold under the false pretense that it was hundreds of years old. All of these theories lend credence to the idea that the map was in fact, forged, hidden and then sold for millions. This obviously has not been confirmed as of yet, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility.
Every Letter Is Crucial
Handwriting expert Robert Baier is an expert in forgery and upon inspecting the map and its accompanying documents, believes that they were not written by the same person. “Every mature writer has writing habits that are unique to themselves,” he said. “These are unconscious habits, that can’t even be changed if someone is trying to disguise their writing.” His results regarding the handwriting suggested that the letters attached to the map were written by somebody else.
The most amazing thing about the map is the duality it presents. Its peculiarity does not prove its authenticity. However, it does not disprove it either. And according to Rosenfeld, there is simply not enough evidence to prove one way or the other. “Some days I think this could very well be original,” he said. “I wake up other days and think there is no way this is original.” And to this day, neither theory has been unequivocally confirmed.
One thing is for sure – whoever did write the Vinland map, they are well respected by all who seek to unravel the secrets of it. There is no denying the skill, precision, and patience that went into the construction of it, whether it is a piece of forgery or a genuine map detailing the expedition across the Atlantic. The theory, though, that there were people who found America before Christopher Columbus did is nowadays seriously considered by most researchers.
The American Dream
Whether it was truly created by a medieval scholar or a 20th-century priest, there is no denying the mystery that surrounds this enigmatic document. At the very least, the map seeks to explain the journey that someone, at some point in history, embarked on in order to discover the land that has evolved into the United States of America. The map has undoubtedly inspired much debate and will continue to do so until the truth is finally revealed.