Yale University’s controversial Vinland card is a fake, a new study confirms


Yale University‘s Vinland map, which sparked its share of controversy over claims it was the earliest representation of the New World, is a fake, the school said.

A team of restorers and conservationists found “compelling new evidence” that the parchment map was made in 20th century ink, according to a statement from the New Haven, Connecticut school.

The team used a technique called x-ray fluorescence spectroscopy that helped them identify inconsistencies in the map. The statement noted that medieval scribes usually wrote with iron gall ink, but analysis of the card revealed the presence of a titanium compound, which was first made in the 1920s.

The Vinland card.VCG Wilson / Corbis via Getty Images

“The Vinland card is a fake,” said Raymond Clemens, curator at Yale University’s Beincke Rare Book & Manuscript Library. “There is no legitimate doubt here. This new analysis should calm things down. “

The card was acquired by Yale in the mid-1960s and is believed to be a 15th century card.

Previous studies have been conducted on the authenticity of the card, but the new analysis was the most thorough to date and examined the entire document using tools and techniques previously unavailable. Clemens said he believed the card’s deception was intentional.

“The changed inscription certainly seems to be an attempt to make people believe that the map was created at the same time as the Speculum Historiale,” said Clemens. “It’s strong evidence that this is a fake, not an innocent third-party creation that was co-opted by someone else, although it doesn’t tell us who committed the deception.”

According to Yale, the team plans to translate their work and findings into scientific articles. Clemens added that he hopes to get an article published in a cartographic journal.

The map was stored and will remain in the Beincke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale. Although it is a forgery, according to Clemens it has become a historical document.

“Objects like the Vinland map consume a lot of intellectual airspace,” he said. “We don’t want this to remain a controversy. There are so many fun and fascinating things that we should investigate that can actually tell us something about exploring and traveling in the medieval world. “

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