Historical Evidence: Review


The role of historical evidence

Historical documents can be validated by historical evidence alone where it can establish a provenance. The Declaration of Independence is a case in point.

An example: the Declaration of Independence

The original Declaration of Independence -- handwritten on parchment with original signatures appended -- was created in 1776, in the presence of many witnesses. It has been under lock and key ever since. Knowledge of its authorship and subsequent history establish a watertight provenance. Its authenticity has never been questioned.

The Declaration of Independence 1776

Strangely, part of the history remains unknown today - for example, nobody knows who actually wrote down the Declaration on the parchment - but that in no way challenges the provenance.

Validating the Vinland Map

Historical evidence could establish unambiguously a provenance fot the Map if it could answer one of the following questions:

(i). Who drew the Map and when?
(ii). What was the source for the geographical content of the Map?
(iii). How has the Map come down to us, from the time of its creation to the present day?

Vinland Map
The Vinland Map

This, therefore, is the question that has to be asked and answered:

  • Is there or is there not historical evidence to answer definitively one of these three questions? Put another way, is there or is there not sufficient evidence to establish a provenance?
  • If there is, the status of the Map is determined and no other evidence is needed.
  • If there isn't, historical evidence, alone, cannot determine the status of the Map at this time. It is appropriate to consider the likelihood of further evidence appearing at a future date.

Review the historical evidence, draw the conclusions it will allow and summarize your findings to evaluate the Map's authenticity