Vinland map, chart of Norse exploration of Americas, "proved" fake

Discovered in 1957 and hailed as the earliest map of the New World, the Vinland Map charted Norse exploration of the Americas long before Christopher Columbus. After decades of controversy, however, an amateur historian may finally have demonstrated that it is a clever hoax: the map occupies a sheet of parchment that was relatively unremarkable 120 years ago. [Sunday Times, paywalled]

Though the parchment is a genuine 15th-century relic, Glaswegian researcher John Paul Floyd says it was displayed at an 1892 event, celebrating Columbus's discoveries, without any contemporaneous reference made to the map now drawn upon it.

After it was brought to public attention in the 1960s—complete with an outline of the Canadian coastline—experts dated the map to the mid-15th century, placing it a good 50 years before the Santa Mariá's 1492 journey. But it was always controversial, thanks to its sudden appearance in the historical record.

Floyd also found that the parchment was included in a 1926 event, again without any mention of the remarkable map of the Americas that it now contains. He believes that it was stolen at some point between then and the late 1950s, the map forged, and ultimately bound to the other medieval documents where it would be discovered. He believes that the Vinland map also includes characteristics found in an 18th-century reproduction of a 1463 world map: more evidence that it's a fake.

The British Library's head of cartographical and topographical materials says that the scientific community is taking Floyd's report seriously: "Sometimes it takes an outsider to see the obvious," he told The Sunday Times.

Gallery: Digitizing the past and present at the Library of Congress
A Native American woman in Iceland


  1. This does not seem like a new controversy. This map has been questioned for years. I’d enjoy reading the new evidence if this weren’t paywalled.

    1.  You can read the Daily Mail take on it keeping in mind that that source is the Daily Fail.

      At least the squabbles over the map only involve academic reputations not religion (modulo issues of Columbus or Viking worship). I wish things were this rational with the obviously fake Shroud of Turin and various Middle East “discoveries”.

  2. Actually, there have been several takedowns of the Vinland Map in the last couple of decades, including the late Walter McCrone’s microanalysis that found synthetic anatase, a 19th Century (or later) pigment. As with his work on the Turin Shroud, a lot of special pleading sprang up to “explain” the unwanted facts away. Denials of science can happen in academia as readily as on rural school boards.

  3. experts dated the map to the mid-15th century, placing it a good 50 years before the Santa Mariá’s 1492 journey. But it was always controversial, thanks to its sudden appearance in the historical record.

    I have always thought that historians considered this map suspect, so not really a surprise. Should be pointed out that the Norse were here hundreds of years earlier than Columbus map, or no map:

  4. If there was no map on the parchment originally, how can Floyd tell it’s the same piece of parchment mentioned in in 1892 and 1926?
    And why would the parchment be put on display at an event commemorating Columbus’ discovery of the Americas if there was no map of Canada on it?

    1. The proof of forgery is principally based upon the fact that the forger made use of a 1782 engraving. My argument with regard to the parchment is that it formed part of the codex when one of the descriptions was written – which makes it rather strange that the description should make no reference to the presence of a map. My reasons for holding that the parchment was present are difficult to summarise. Basically, I argue that the inscription on the back of the map has been altered by the forger, and that the writer of the description saw this line of text in its original, unaltered state.

  5.  The new evidence resolves the mystery of the pre-1957 provenance of the medieval documents associated with the map: we now know for certain that they came from Zaragoza Cathedral Library. The evidence also reveals that the forger of the map, in attempting to imitate a genuine medieval map of 1436, blundered by using a redrawn copy from 1782 which contains inadvertent errors. He copied these errors. A whole lot of time and money would have been saved if this had been noticed before.

  6. Here’s a documentary made aired on PBS a few years ago about the Vinland Map.

  7. Over the last few years alone I’ve read about people whose ashtrays and plant pots which’d been in their families for countless generations turning out to be Ming dynasty pottery worth millions.

    I’ve read about paintings which’ve sat on public library walls or provincial churches for centuries turning out to be lost masterpieces.

    And just recently I read about a stone which’d sat in someone’s garden for countless decades if not centuries turning out to be a priceless ancient temple stone.

    On the basis of the logic of this piece the people who bought these objects for huge sums must be deluded because here where these objects out on open display for all the world to see for hundreds of years but because no one noticed they were Ming that means they can’t be Ming.

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