The 2018 Vinland Map Symposium

On September 21, 2018, I took part, by the wonders of the internet, in the Vinland Map Symposium held in conjunction with the exhibition about the Map at the Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut. Video of the full event is available on the Museum's YouTube channel. There were one or two technical difficulties with my trans-Atlantic link, so I have also made available on my own YouTube channel a version of the talk which I had recorded earlier that morning and uploaded as a private YouTube video, to which only the Museum had access, in case the link failed altogether.

The main concern of the first part of the Symposium, featuring talks by historian Karen Kupperman and archaeologist Birgitta Wallace, was to emphasise that the falsity of the Vinland Map has no bearing on the reality of Vinland, about which fresh evidence continues to emerge. My own talk linked my ideas about 'vicispiracy' as featured in my Hoaxes Within Hoaxes videos, to some advice for researchers given by the great scientist Michael Faraday back in 1854:

"The force of the temptation which urges us to seek for such evidence and appearances as are in favour of our desires, and to disregard those which oppose them, is wonderfully great."
The next talk after mine, by Yale manuscript librarian Raymond Clemens, emphasised the value of studying fakes like the Vinland Map, to be better armed against future hoaxes, then (after a short comedy interlude when I discovered that the 'live' YouTube feed I had been using to watch Ray's talk was not really live, but significantly delayed), questions were invited from the audience at Mystic. The first of these came from Michael Henchman, whose observation back in 2004 that "science is discredited" by the failure, up till then, to settle the question of the Map's authenticity, had spurred me to publish my own research as a "Short Summary" booklet.
Michael felt that I was accusing scientists of conspiracy, but I must emphasise that my concept of 'vicispiracy' does not require guilt in the way that a conspiracy does; as I noted in the talk, we become vicispirators when we go shopping: we cannot realistically investigate the whole chain of events which have made each item available for us to purchase. In the case of the Vinland Map, of course, some individuals definitely were guilty, notably Enzo Ferrajoli, the thief and fence who very probably commissioned the Map from a professional forger, and Laurence Witten, who used his reputation to get away with lies and tricks which boosted the Map's value.

The afternoon session began with an introduction to parchment by tanner Jesse Meyer, who was followed by Yale library conservator Paula Zyats. Although the title of Paula's talk, "Materials and Techniques of Medieval Manuscripts," had implied that it would be fairly general, she chose to take a close look at the materials and techniques of the Map and its associated documents, pointing out how dubious the Map seemed when closely compared with its companions. Her information included results from the detailed imaging of the documents conducted at Yale earlier this year, which has provided some new mysteries. Here, for example, is my adaptation of one of Paula's images showing the first page of the Speculum Historiale manuscript under raking light, revealing numerous small indentations around the position of the nails holding the clasps for the book's cover (I have mirror-flipped the page to imitate where the indents would be when the book is closed). The green stars on the cover image indicate where the nails in the other cover of the book (currently at the back and upside down) would be if it was at the front and right-way up.

The 'Speculum Historiale' nail-indentations problem

As Paula observed, the indentations do not match the nails, suggesting that the cover of the book may not be the original. However, I strongly suspect that the indentations are another mischievous trick by the Vinland Map forger, because:

That last point, I think, provides the key. The forger was responsible for the removal of at least some of the missing sheets of parchment, but wanted to create the impression that the current first page had been in close contact with cover nails for a long time.

The day's final speaker, with more revelations from the new Yale studies, was conservation scientist Richard Hark. For me personally, one of the more intriguing aspects of the presentation was a matter which Richard dealt with only incidentally. Here is a contrast-enhanced enlargement of a small portion of one of his slides presenting some of the results from the first ever global analyses of the Vinland Map's chemistry.

Calcium on the Vinland Map, MA-XRF analysis

Smithsonian scientist Dr. Kenneth Towe had drawn my attention in 2008 to the curious fact that the 1985 PIXE analyses of the Map had shown, on average, less calcium in the ink lines than in neighbouring areas of blank parchment, and on closer examination of the figures, including information about the amount of black pigment visible at each analysis location, I had come to the conclusion that the ink lines had been deliberately abraded. What the 2018 global analysis shows, however, is another level to the process. To disguise the abrasion along the ink lines, most of the Map has been abraded with a much less precise tool. It looks as if, having started at the bottom, the forger realised that large blank areas could be left alone, showing as brighter yellow on this image (the very bright streak at left is apparently a splodge of glue left during the application of patches on the back of the map).
As it turns out, it would probably have been possible to recognise this from the PIXE data, given appropriate presentation. Here is my visualisation of calcium in the PIXE analyses as enlarged colour blocks, from "cold dark blue" (little calcium) to "white hot" (lots of calcium in the glue splodge). Note that Problems 1 to 5, outlined in my fifth 'Hoaxes Within Hoaxes' video, are not relevant here because these are just comparative measurements of the same element at different points on the map.

Calcium on the Vinland Map, 1985 PIXE analysis

Prof. Hark told us much more about an aspect of the Map which almost all researchers, including me, had misunderstood or ignored. Analyses of the short inscription on the back of the Map showed that it consisted of two parts, using two different inks. The existence of precisely these two halves had been hypothesised by John Paul Floyd, who in 2013 revealed key details about the true origins of the Map. A few weeks before the Symposium, Mr Floyd had finally published the results of his research as a book, "A Sorry Saga: Theft, Forgery, Scholarship... and the Vinland Map". I bought the e-book version before the Symposium, and although I disagree with some of his ideas, Mr Floyd has added a great deal to the story behind the creation of the Map.

Mr Floyd more than once echoes Michael Henchman's 2004 anger:

"... attention to detail is not an optional extra in scientific writing. ...

... It may be that an inquest of some kind is called for in relation to the collective failure of the experts to identify the Formaleoni engraving as the source of the Vinland Map. ..."
In my own contribution to the Symposium I attempted to show how ignoring the wise advice of Michael Faraday could lead to such failures. The proposed inquest should lead to the Vinland Map saga being included in education as an example of how not to advance human knowledge.

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