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Science, Myth & Mystery: The Vinland Map Saga

May 19, 2018 - October 31, 2018

When it was first unveiled by Yale University in 1965, the Vinland Map immediately became one of the most valuable and controversial documents in the world. This parchment map was dated by Yale to about 1440 – an incendiary claim as the map depicts at its far western edge Vinland, the mysterious land discovered by explorer Leif Ericsson in about 1000, what we now know to be Newfoundland. Did Norse knowledge of the New World exist within mainland Europe before Columbus sailed? The Map suggests so. Its publication riveted a public deeply invested in the question of First Contact, and eager for evidence of an American connection to Viking history. The Map’s discovery also ignited a firestorm of debate as scholars, historians, and scientists across the globe argued over its meaning and authenticity. Today most scholars concur the Map is a forgery, which does nothing to diminish the role it has played in our national conversation about who we are and where we come from.

This exhibition will place the Vinland Map on display in the U.S. for the first time in more than 50 years, allowing those who have followed the saga to see its primary evidence for the first time. Mystic Seaport will engage historians, archaeologists, scientists, and other leading experts to share the Map’s story, and discuss its out-sized role in modern American history.

This exhibition is made possible in collaboration with the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.