New analysis confirms Vinland map drawn with modern ink, is fake as heck

“I know, I know. This whole thing forces you to imagine a man in the eighteen twenties and thirties, traveling all over–Norway, Iceland, Canada, New England, Rome, Stockholm, Denmark, Greenland. . . . Crisscrossing the North Atlantic, to bury all these signs.” He shook his head. “It’s incredible.”

(The use of headings such as “Abstract”, “Discussion”, Acknowledgments" puzzles me.)


I had an inkling that’s what it was.


How many hoaxers in the 1920s would have thought about spectral analysis revealing their hoax? Unlike today, very few people of the era would have had the chemistry education required to even be aware that such sophisticated lab equipment even existed, or what its capabilities would have been.

Today’s antiquities forgers have a different problem. They’re aware of the techniques used to detect forgeries, so they have to work hard to source period-accurate materials that haven’t been tainted by the fallout of the atomic age.


Must be galling for anyone who still thought that it was genuine.


It’s such a wild blunder, given the others efforts to stay away from modern materials, that I think the creator had someone else prepare the ink for them, and that person fudged/bullshitted it when they realized how hard it would be to fake the appearance of faded 15th century ink with traditional materials.


I think the upshot is that it’s a ~1957 hoax that was debunked by 1972, and if anything it’s only been kept alive because the very serious people who staked their reputations on it hadn’t died yet and no-one really wanted to ruin them over a trifle such as this.

Hoaxes tend to end up in a state of epistemic equilibrium because it’s fair to say no to invasive or destructive tests. But eventually there’s a new technology that cannot be denied (e.g. hyperspectral imaging, previously) which cheaply and conclusively moves something from “beyond reasonable doubt” to “beyond all doubt”.


I audibly reacted to this one - good show, Rob!


Are we sure that isn’t what the Antikythera mechanism is from?


I have to wonder if Rob is working on creating the proper period inks needed for a convincing hoax… :thinking:


He’s forging a period-accurate BoingBoing site using coal-burnt electrons because wind-generated electrons didn’t exist back then…


I fancy that I would not have made the “let’s put in all of greenland” worldbuilding blunder, but I read a paper on the faded iron-gall ink problem and it’s elemental. We knew about iron isotopes and that the only way to make them is time–so to a forger, faking the fade all but demanded a different chemistry. Perhaps they had to make a hard choice between “looks right” and “tests right” knowing that the the former would give them more time even if they knew it would doom them when serious tests were done.

Consider Cory’s definition of “bezzle”: “the magic interval when a confidence trickster knows he has the money he has appropriated but the victim does not yet understand that he has lost it”


Plus the task isn’t to accurately mimic the properties and look of fresh, historic ink. It’s to mimic ink after it’s been on the page for centuries.

Just using accurate iron gall isn’t going to look like an old document. It sounds like they used carbon as the black pigment, probably soot. Which was a common enough base for inks, paints and what have historically in the form of lampblack. Then it’s mostly the titanium white and gelatin to bind.

Seems like a decent mix for a faded look.

The entire surface was also treated/coated with something, leaving a residue of glycerol monostearate. Apparently a soap derivative used as an emulsifier, thickener, and in cosmetics.

That seems a pretty common approach in forgeries, even where original paper is used. Odd ink mixtures and after treatments or altered surfaces to mimic age.

Today’s forgers have a bit the same problem. In that period accurate materials won’t look old if simply applied as is or as they were at the time. Even to actual period materials. A host of alterations, treatments, coatings and what have have to be worked in to artificially age things.

Old iron gall ink for example isn’t black, even if it was when it was laid down. It tends to, basically, rust to a sort of dusty brown. It’s also quite acidic, so it damages the paper/parchment in a rather tell tale way.


I’ve made carbon black ink, and it’s great stuff and it hasn’t faded much on a drawing hanging on a wall for over a decade. I think you’re right that a forger would need a way to make it look a lot worse very quickly.

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I’m not seeing a “no” :smiley:

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What’s funny it’s all well-trodden ground because there’s an entire branch of conservation science dedicated to iron-gall ink. It’s immediately apparent that the problem for the forger is not just decay (e.g. ratio of Fe2+ to Fe3+ ions), but the degradation complexes of collagen and keratin that the ink hydrolizes. So you have an age from the radioactive decay and physical corrosion to checksum it with. I wouldn’t want to figure how to fake that because there are scientists all over the world who stare at it every day because they’re trying to stop those old documents going blank. But you know, it is very interesting.


So, you are saying the 1432 Boing Boing Codex might be a Forgery?

(The chemistry of forgery is fascinating, though. Forgeries are going to last longer than all the thermal dye printed photos and thermal printed paper we have. Many of my thermal receipts barely make it long enough to file taxes.)


Nah, that’s a mechanical calculating machine used in accounting.
The Ithaka Business Machines logo on the back is a dead giveaway.


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Based on this?


“Gokstad ship replica ‘Viking’ at the World’s Columbian Exposition Chicago in 1893”

Uderzo probably based his pirate ship on these sorts of popular reconstructions.

A different longship reconstructed according to more recent scholarship. (open access)