A New View of the Vinland Map
New York, New York
Abstract: Interest in the Vinland Map persists in spite of ongoing attempts to lay it to rest with “proofs” of forgery. Such attempts all seem to spring from a common motivation: it is simply not credible that such cartographic information could have originated in the time of Leif Ericson, could have survived four centuries until ca. 1440, and left no trace whatsoever in the interim. This paper shows a way that the map could be an authentic document without needing to overcome that hurdle. Instead, it is viewed as a 1440 document based on contemporary 1440 cartographic information of a contemporary land that was misinterpreted historically by the cartographer.
The Scandinavian migration westward that led to Vinland met in Greenland with an eastward migration from Alaska - the Thule Eskimos. The Thules had crossed the entirety of Arctic Canada including the Arctic Archipelago and Baffin Island by the time they and the Norsemen encountered one another in Greenland. This contact reached a peak in the late fourteenth and fifteenth century and included cultural exchanges. This speaker has presented evidence at prior SHD meetings of Eskimo cartographic information springing from their migration. I showed that such information came through the Norsemen and into medieval European cartographers, where it was assumed to reflect a migration eastward across arctic Asia (a brief review of such evidence will be given).
The Vinland map may be viewed as a specific example of such a misunderstanding. Samuel Eliot Morison once suggested that “Vinilanda Insula” is actually a reasonable likeness of Baffin Island. Further evidence of such identification will be given here. Eskimo cartography of Baffin Island could very reasonably have reached Europe ca. 1440. It would have come through Scandinavia, and its interpretation in light of ancient Scandinavian legends would have been completely natural in Europe. The inscription and identification as Vinilanda were a medieval fallacy, and the only modern falsity is the expectation of an origin in 1000 AD.