seemed too good to be true. Acquired by Yale University and publicized
to great fanfare in 1965, the Vinland Map—supposedly dated to mid-15th
century Europe—showed part of the coast of North America, seemingly
presenting medieval Scandinavians, not Christopher Columbus, as the true
“discoverers” of the New World.
The idea wasn’t exactly new. Two short Icelandic sagas relate the story of Viking expeditions to North America, including the construction of short-lived settlements, attempts at trade and ill-fated battles with Indigenous peoples on the continent’s northeastern coast. Archaeological finds made on Newfoundland in the 1960s support these accounts. But this map suggested something more: namely, that knowledge of Western lands was reasonably common in Scandinavia and central Europe, with Vikings, rather than Columbus and his Iberian backers, acting as the harbingers of the colonial age.