On the Vinland Map

An e-mail about the PBS program NOVA landed in my inbox yesterday. This coming Tuesday they’re showing a documentary on the Vinland Map, a map that may date from the early 15th-century and depicts the eastern coast of North America:

Tuesday, October 10 at 8PM ET/PT on PBS
Check your local listings as dates and times may vary.

There are few more tantalizing or notorious historical documents than the Vinland Map. A faded, yellowing scrap of parchment bearing a faint tracery of lines, the map apparently shows part of the eastern seaboard of North America — yet it was purportedly drawn at least half a century before Columbus reached the New World. It seems to present unshakeable proof that the Vikings were the real discoverers of the Americas. But for 40 years, a bitter debate over its authenticity has raged among cartographers, historians, and scientists. Despite chemical analysis and radiocarbon tests, the case remained unresolved. Now, in an exclusive investigation, NOVA presents fresh evidence confirming that the map was probably one of the cleverest forgeries of all time, and probes who might have wanted to carry out the deception.

I would quibble with one thing from NOVA’s press release here–they write that “it seems to present unshakeable proof that the Vikings were the real discovers of America.” Obviously, the Native Americans who were here would argue with that. πŸ˜‰ And there no real debate that the Vikings reached Canada circe 1000 CE–the Vinland sagas are quite clear, as are the archeological excavations at L’Anse aux Meadows in northern Newfoundland. Despite that quibble, I’m now looking forward to watching this special on NOVA come Tuesday. Pre-Columbian expeditions to North America have always fascinated me. πŸ™‚

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