Parchment points to authenticity of Vinland Map
For the first time, scientists have ascribed a date – 1434 A.D., plus or minus 11 years – to the parchment of the controversial Vinland Map, possibly the first map of the North American continent. Collaborators from the Smithsonian Center for Materials Research and Education (SCMRE), Suitland, Md., the University of Arizona, Tucson, and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, Upton, N.Y., used carbon-dating techniques to analyze the parchment on which the map is drawn. Their findings, published in the August edition of the journal Radiocarbon, place the parchment of the map 60 years ahead of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the West Indies, and provide compelling evidence that the map is authentic.
"Many scholars have agreed that if the Vinland Map is authentic, it is the first cartographic representation of North America, and its date would be key in establishing the history of European knowledge of the lands bordering the western Atlantic Ocean," said Jacqueline S. Olin, assistant director for archaeometric research at SCMRE when the study began in 1995. Olin and co-authors Douglas Donahue, a physicist at the University of Arizona and Garman Harbottle, a chemist at Brookhaven National Laboratory, along with SCMRE paper conservator Dianne Van Der Reyden, sampled the bottom right edge of the parchment for analysis. The dating was carried out at the National Science Foundation-University of Arizona Accelerator Mass Spectrometer in Tucson. The unusually high precision of the date was possible because the Vinland Map’s date fell in a very favorable region of the carbon-14 dating calibration curve.
Elizabeth Tait | EurekAlert!
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