Posts Tagged ‘peri reis’

Vinland Map of America no Forgery, Expert Says

Science, Sophistication of Ancestors, Uncategorized | Posted by Chris Parker
Jul 24 2009

Brief History of the Map

The Vinland Map first came to light in 1957 (three years before the discovery of the Norse site at L’Anse aux Meadows in 1960) and was offered to Yale University by an alumnus, Laurence C. Witten II, an antiquarian book dealer. Unable to afford the asking price, and concerned that the dealer refused to reveal the provenance of the item, Yale contacted another alumnus, Paul Mellon, who agreed to buy it, and donate it to the university if it could be authenticated.

Recognizing its potential importance as the earliest map to show America, Mellon insisted that the authentication, conducted by two British Museum curators and a Yale librarian, be carried out in secret. This was to prove controversial, as the trio were unable to consult specialists.

After years of study, they decided the map was authentic; Mellon donated it to Yale, and it was revealed to the world in 1965, coinciding with the publication of the team’s research findings as an elegant book, The Vinland Map and the Tartar Relation by Dr. Raleigh Ashlin Skelton, Thomas E Marston and George Painter. A year later, a Vinland Map Conference was held at the Smithsonian Institution, during which various significant questions were raised – but the proceedings were not published for another five years.

In 1995, following years of debate and research, Yale released a second edition of its book, including new articles arguing that the map is authentic. In 1996, the map was valued at $25 million for insurance purposes.

Analyses of the map’s history and chemistry since 2003 have tended to argue against its authenticity, but at the International Conference on the History of Cartography in July 2009, Rene Larsen, rector of the School of Conservation at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, stated that “All the tests that we have done over the past five years — on the materials and other aspects — do not show any signs of forgery”. Some of his claims, as reported in the press, appear to ignore earlier studies.

Vinland Map of America no Forgery, Expert Says
Fri Jul 17, 2009 By John Acher, Reuters News Service

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – The 15th century Vinland Map, the first known map to show part of America before explorer Christopher Columbus landed on the continent, is almost certainly genuine, a Danish expert said Friday.

Controversy has swirled around the map since it came to light in the 1950s, many scholars suspecting it was a hoax meant to prove that Vikings were the first Europeans to land in North America — a claim confirmed by a 1960 archaeological find.

Doubts about the map lingered even after the use of carbon dating as a way of establishing the age of an object.

“All the tests that we have done over the past five years — on the materials and other aspects — do not show any signs of forgery,” Rene Larsen, rector of the School of Conservation under the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, told Reuters.

He presented his team’s findings at an international cartographers’ conference in the Danish capital Friday.

The map shows both Greenland and a western Atlantic island “Vinilanda Insula,” the Vinland of the Icelandic sagas, now linked by scholars to Newfoundland where Norsemen under Leif Eriksson settled around AD 1000.

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.

American scholars have carbon dated the map to about 1440, about 50 years before Columbus “discovered” the New World in 1492. Scholars believe it was produced for a 1440 church council at Basel, Switzerland.

The Vinland Map is not a “Viking map” and does not alter the historical understanding of who first sailed to North America. But if it is genuine, it shows that the New World was known not only to Norsemen but also to other Europeans at least half a century before Columbus’s voyage.

It was bought from a Swiss dealer by an American after the British Museum turned it down in 1957.
It was subsequently bought for Yale University by a wealthy Yale alumnus, Paul Mellon, and published with fanfare in 1965.

The lack of a provenance has caused much of the controversy. Where the map came from and how it came into the hands of the Swiss dealer after World War Two remain a mystery.

(Editing by Tim Pearce)
© Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved

16th-Century Mapmaker’s Intriguing Knowledge

Science, Sophistication of Ancestors, The Flood of Noah, Unexplained Artifact | Posted by Chris Parker
Dec 03 2008

By David Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 17, 2008

    Thanks to Aram for Forwarding

How was it that a German priest writing in Latin and living in a French city far from the coast became the first person to tell the world that a vast ocean lay to the west of the American continents? That is one of the bigger mysteries in the history of the Renaissance.

But it is not the only one involving Martin Waldseemueller, a map-making cleric whose own story is sufficiently obscure that his birth and death dates aren’t known for certain.

Waldseemueller appears to have also known something about the contours of South America’s west coast years before Vasco Núñez de Balboa crossed the Isthmus of Panama and Ferdinand Magellan sailed around the bottom of the continent. History books record them as the first Europeans to bring back knowledge of the Pacific Ocean.

The evidence of this knowledge is in Waldseemueller’s world map of 1507, perhaps the most valuable of the 5 million maps owned by the Library of Congress. It was acquired for $10 million in 2003 and went on permanent display last year.

The map — in near-perfect condition and with no other known copies — is the oldest document that applies the label “America” to the land mass between Africa and Asia.

This was, of course, in honor of Amerigo Vespucci, a Florentine navigator who had sailed to the New World for the Portuguese. (His first name was Latinized to “Americus” and then feminized to “America.”) The act of naming was apparently Waldseemueller’s alone; there is no evidence that the term was in use at the time.

New research by John W. Hessler of the Library of Congress has made the mystery of Waldseemueller’s knowledge deeper and richer. But it hasn’t answered the biggest question: How did he know?

“There is some probability that Waldseemueller knew something that is no longer extant — information that we don’t have,” Hessler said.

The researcher, 48, brings a diverse set of skills to the task. He took Latin all through parochial school and college (at Villanova University) and reads the language fluently. He is an engineer by training and is equally fluent in the mathematics of cartography.

In a new book called “The Naming of America,” Hessler provides the first published translation of the map’s text blocks. He has also done a modern translation of Waldseemueller’s book, “Cosmographiae Introductio,” printed in 1507 in St. Die, France, where the cartographer was canon of the cathedral. Although Waldseemueller gets most of the credit for the map and the book, he had a collaborator, an Alsatian named Matthias Ringmann, who died in 1511.

In the largest block of text on the map, Waldseemueller writes that many things remained unknown to the ancients “in no slight degree; for instance, in the west, America, named after its discoverer, which is now known to be a fourth part of the world.” In “Cosmographiae,” he uses similar language: “The earth is now known to be divided into four parts. The first three parts are continents, but the fourth part is an island, because it has been found to be surrounded on all sides by sea.”

Hessler said he thinks the phrases “now known” and “has been found to be” are crucial. They suggest geographical knowledge that is confirmed and believed, at least in some circles.
The idea that this was a total guess is far-fetched,” he said.

The people who knew were most likely Portuguese explorers (or at least sailed under the Portuguese flag). It was valuable, and most likely secret, knowledge. How it got to a priest-cartographer working under the patronage of the duke of Lorraine is a good question.

Equally intriguing is the shape of South America.

Inscribed along the western edge of that land mass in the 1507 map are the words “terra ultra incognita” — land most unknown. But the border is not drawn as one long, ignorantly straight line. Instead, it is a series of straight lines meeting at shallow angles, implying a mixture of knowledge and uncertainty.

Using a technique called “polynomial warping,” Hessler re-projected the image and compared Waldseemueller’s continent with the real one.

There are many differences, of course. But the correlation is about 75 percent, and at two important places — near the equator and near the place in northern Chile where the coast veers sharply to the northwest — the width of Waldseemueller’s South America and the actual one are almost the same.

Things were perhaps not as ultra incognita as he let on.

That is not the end of the strangeness, however.

In the large text block on the map, Waldseemueller requests “that those who are inexperienced and unacquainted with cosmography shall not condemn all this before they have learned what will surely be clearer to them later on, when they have come to understand it.”

It is a plea. He knows his map is asking a lot.

In 1516, Waldseemueller published his second great map, called the Carta Marina. It shows South America no longer as an island. The continent disappears off the left of the page, implying it is attached to Asia, which is on the right edge.

Hessler has provided the first English translations of the second map’s text blocks. In one of them, Waldseemueller says: “We will seem to you reader, to have diligently presented and shown a representation of the world previously, which was filled with error, wonder and confusion. . . . Our previous representation pleased very few people, as we have lately come to understand.”

Was this a retraction? It sounds like it. Was a continental America heresy? Hessler said he has found no reason to think it was. So why would Waldseemueller change his new view of the world to an older one?

That’s just one more mystery of the mysterious map.

Copyright WashingtonPost.com