The Vinland Map, the controversy continues

Every few years I post an update about the Vinland Map (a map, supposedly from the early 15th century, showing part of North America). In 2002 I posted that an analysis of the map's ink proved it was a fake, but in 2003 I wrote that a new study indicated it might be genuine. And in 2004 I linked to a Scientific American article that described historian Kirsten Seaver's theory that the map was created in the 1930s by a German Jesuit priest, Father Josef Fischer, in order to tease the Nazis by "playing on their claims of early Norse dominion of the Americas and on their loathing of Roman Catholic Church authority."

Now a scholar, Rene Larsen of the School of Conservation under the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, says that the map is genuine:

Larsen said his team carried out studies of the ink, writing, wormholes and parchment of the map, which is housed at Yale University in the United States.
He said wormholes, caused by wood beetles, were consistent with wormholes in the books with which the map was bound.
He said claims the ink was too recent because it contained a substance called anatase titanium dioxide could be rejected because medieval maps have been found with the same substance, which probably came from sand used to dry wet ink.

I don't expect Larsen's arguments will end the debate, since the opposing sides in the controversy seem to be pretty well entrenched.


Posted on Mon Jul 20, 2009


Well, as I see it the controlling facts are the anachronisms on the map itself (drawing Greenland nearly accurately does not fit any known historical fact). It seems that people wanted to create an argument for or against based on the materials but the hoax (if it is) used paper from the original old book. This latest work seems to be motivated by indirect proof (materials) rather than the more important points about the content of the map.
Posted by floormaster squeeze  on  Tue Jul 21, 2009  at  08:33 AM
Heh, I was just about to make the same comment about how fakers can (and do) use authentic grounds - as well as historically plausible ink formulae.

In terms of the map itself, it's the inaccuracy of Britain I find most obviously anachronistic.
Posted by outeast  on  Wed Jul 22, 2009  at  03:49 AM
Previous comments:
"This latest work seems to be motivated by indirect proof (materials) rather than the more important points about the content of the map."

The composition of the ink trumps any and all other points. Those who believe that the Vinland Map is authentic must explain this anomalous composition with a consistent scenario. To date, no such scenario has been offered that makes sense.

" well as historically plausible ink formulae"

The standard ink of the period was iron-gallotannate. The ink on the Vinland Map is not such an ink. It contains little or no iron and has none of the characteristics one would expect from an iron-gall ink. It is, therefore, historically implausible.
Posted by Ken Towe  on  Wed Jul 22, 2009  at  07:54 PM
Well, the ink is implausible only if it's something that they couldn't have had then. If it's just not the standard ink, then all that means is that it's not the standard ink. As long as it's an ink that could reasonably be used in that time and place, then it could just be nonstandard ink of the time.

So we'll see what other experts have to say about the anatase titanium dioxide and sand and other documents from the Medieval period having it in their ink.
Posted by Accipiter  on  Thu Jul 23, 2009  at  09:11 PM
Other Experts: The ink on the Vinland Map was examined in 1967 by experts at the British Museum who had the "world's richest sources of comparable material available". They considered all other possible inks of the period. They wrote: "Iron gallo-tannate was the staple, virtually the only, medieval European ink." They concluded: The ink was unlike any other ink that we had encountered in authentic medieval documents and no explanation could be found..." Source: A.D. Baynes-Cope, Geographical Journal, vol 140, p. 208-211 (1974). Now, add this to the fact that anatase having the unique particle size, shape and size distribution of industrial modified anatase, impossible to match or obtain in any natural "sand" and you have a forged document...a hoax. No other medieval map or document has ever been found with anatase. Dr. Robin Clark at University College, London has looked at a great many. If Dr. Larsen had even one he would have made that immediately clear. He did not.
Posted by Ken Towe  on  Fri Jul 24, 2009  at  05:26 AM
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