Scientists found that the famous Vinland Map is actually a fake. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

15th Century Map of American Coast is Actually a Fake

It was only thanks to chemical analysis that traces of titanium were found, which should not be found in a medieval text. It had already seemed obvious to most scientists that the Vinland Map was a fake, but scientific proof and explanation were needed.


Scientists from Yale University, using a modern spectroscopic method of research, proved that the Vinland map, passed off as the oldest map of America, is a forgery made in the 20th century. The fake was made on parchment of the 15th century, but all the lines and inscriptions on the map were made with ink that appeared at the beginning of the last century, which became clear in the footsteps of titanium.

The oldest map of America is a forgery: Everything you need to know

What is the Vinland Map?

The Vinland Map, which depicts America as a large island west of Greenland, first appeared in a Geneva bookstore in 1957 and was soon acquired by an American philanthropist for Yale University.


Is the Vinland map genuine or fake?

For the first time, the general public learned about it thanks to a book published in 1965. This happened shortly after the discovery of a Viking settlement in the 11th century in Newfoundland, so scientists assumed that the pre-Columbian map was genuine and belonged to the Scandinavians.


However, controversy over the authenticity of the Vinland map has continued since its purchase. It fell into the hands of scholars as part of the medieval book Hystoria Tartorum (History of the Tatars). The researchers saw with the naked eye that the ink was not like that used in the main manuscript.

Unknown origin

However, it was not possible to establish their origin for a long time. It was only thanks to chemical analysis that traces of titanium were found, which should not be found in a medieval text. It had already seemed obvious to most scientists in recent years that the Vinland Map was a fake, but scientific proof and explanation were needed.

Modern studies

Scientists at Yale University have conducted a new study of the Vinland map and found strong evidence that it is a fake. Analysis showed that the titanium compound used in ink was first made only in the 1920s. Moreover, X-ray fluorescence spectrometry confirmed that such ink is present in all lines and inscriptions of the map, although previous studies have found traces of titanium only at certain points. Medieval scribes usually used glandular ink, which is virtually non-existent on the Vinland Map.


Attempts to make the Vinland Map look older

The researchers also found that the map deception was deliberate. The reverse side contained a medieval binder’s note (assembly instructions), which was later copied with modern ink. Raymond Clemens of Yale University’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library said the altered inscription looks like an attempt to make people believe the map was created at the same time as the Speculum Maius, an encyclopedia of the Middle Ages created in the 13th century. According to the researcher, this is strong evidence of deliberate forgery.

Unrestricted access to the Vinland map

Unlike previous studies, Yale scientists had unrestricted access to the map and its accompanying manuscripts. This allowed them to systematically study the artifact for the first time, along with the two medieval texts with which it was originally associated.

Medieval texts

One of them is the Speculum Historiale, a medieval encyclopedia compiled by Vikenty of Beauvais, and the other, Hystoria Tartorum, dedicated to the journey of two Polish clergymen to the lands of Genghis Khan in the 13th century.

Comparison of the drawings

A comparison of the drawings indicated that the map was originally drawn on one of the last sheets of the Manuscripts of the Speculum Historiale. However, when the map arrived at Yale, it was bound inside a thin copy of the Hystoria Tartorum, which had a modern binding.

Radiocarbon dating

Radiocarbon dating for both texts in 2018 showed their parchment and paper to date back to 1400-1460. The watermark on the Speculum Historiale indicates the production of the text in Basel in the 1440s.


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Cummings, M. (2021, September 2). Analysis unlocks secret of the Vinland map – it’s a fake. YaleNews.
Falde, N. (2021, September 16). Study by Yale University EXPERTS proves Vinland map is a hoax. Ancient Origins. (2021, September 12). “The Vinland map is a FAKE” – new research suggests map is a 20th century forgery.
Ouellette, J. (2021, September 14). It’s all in the INK: Vinland map is definitely a fake, new analysis finds. Ars Technica.

Written by Vladislav Tchakarov

Hello, my name is Vladislav and I am glad to have you here on Curiosmos. As a history student, I have a strong passion for history and science, and the opportunity to research and write in this field on a daily basis is a dream come true.

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