Lethbridge Herald (Newspaper) - January 27, 1971, Lethbridge, Alberta
WadMKtoy, January 27, 1971 - TNI UTHBRIDGE HERAtD - 8 Joyce Egginton New light on the Vinland map TVEW HAVEN' Connecticut - Yale scholars who have been studying the Vinland Map and related documents' over the past five years are now convinced beyond any doubt that the map - copied in the 1430s from at least one earlier map-is authentic, and that the North American continent was definitely settled by Vikings almost 500 years before Columbus discovered it in 1492. Further evidence of the Viking settlement is expected to be published by the Norwegian archaeologist, Helge Ingstad. Early in 1969, Dr. Ingstad described how he unearthed relics of some typically Viking houses, around 1,000 years old, in the remote fishing village of L'Anse aux Meadows on the north-eastern tip of Newfoundland. At first some scholars were skeptical of the origin of these findings. However, it is now revealed tha't in a further "dig" last summer at the same site, the 71-year-old Dr. Ingstad discovered a great many more artifacts which are unquestionably Viking. Dr. Ingstad is preparing a scientific report of these finds, expected to be published this year. ? ? * "The objects he found have to be Viking; they can't be from anywhere else," commented Mr. Thomas E. Mar-ston. Curator of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Yale's Bienecke Rare Book Library here. Mr. Marston has been in charge of research on the Vinland map, which is delicately drawn in brown ink on vellum and measures 11 by 16 inches. The map shows what was then known of the world, Vinland, as the Vikings called the North American mainland, appears as a large island, a little smaller than Greenland (which is drawn with surprising accuracy), embracing the territory of Newfoundland and what appears to be the mouth of the St. Lawrence. It to impossible to tell from the map how far south the Vikings explored - whether they crossed what is now the Canadian border and came south into New England - because of the inaccuracy of the scale. "They just drew what they knew and rounded it off as an island, probably because it did not occur to them that this land could be much different in size from the countries they knew," says Mr. Marston. A notation on the map shows that Vinland was first sighted by Viking seamen in the year 999 AD but that a landing, led by Leif Ericsson, did not take place until the following year. From then on, Vinland was developed by the Vikings as "a very minor colony" for the next 350 years, Mr. Marston believes. Throughout this time, the Vikings from northern Norway were making annual expeditions to their larger Greenland colony for the furs and. wood which they lacked in their own land. From there, they probably travelled back and forth to Vinland for the same purpose with somewhat less frequency. It is still not known how they managed to navigate ' their wooden sailing ships. "They used the Hebrides, Iceland and Greenland as stepping stones across the Atlantic," says Mr. Marston. "If they did it right, they could get all the way to Greenland and never lose sight of land for more than 48 hours. Vinland was Just one more step west. "Vinland is mentioned in a chronicle of the Scandinavian church as early.as the year 1100, but until the map was found scholars were only guessing at where it was. It is known that the Pope sent a bishop to the churches in Greenland and Vinland, but then the bishop disappears from history. An inscription on the map states that this lush country of Vinland was discovered after a long voyage, and that Leif Ericsson's crew remained there a long time, in both summer and winter. They were probably all northern Norwegians and the Vinland climate must have seemed pretty good to them." * it w Inexplicably, all records of the Viking expeditions' to Greenland and Vinland disappear around the middle of the fourteenth century. Mr. Mar* ston's theory is that the Black Death was to blame. "It had a terrible effect upon the Scandinavian population, and seems to have put an end to their colonial expeditions. The Vikings' last recorded Journey from Norway to Greenland was in 1347, which coincides with the plague." Mr. Marston also believes that this is why the Ottoman Turks were able to make their large, easy conquests of eastern Europe at the same time. "They had adopted from the Arab conquerors the rigid rule of never camping in any one place for more than three days. The fact that they were always on the move made them far less susceptible to the Black Death which was raging across Europe." Other scholars have suggested that the Viking settlement in Vinland may have died out because it was overrun by Indians, or because the Vikings intermarried with local Indians. There are some common elements in the ancient language of some North American Indian tribes and the medieval speech of Norsemen. The Vinland map came to Yale by devious means from the large private collection of a Spaniard who owned it, probably without realizing i t s importance, for many years. It was purchased from the Spaniard by an Italian dealer who sold it to an American dealer, Laurence Witten. Mr. Witten sold the map "for a very great sum" to an anonymous donor who gave it to Yale's Bienecke collection in 1965. Bound with the map was a manuscript, known as the Tartar Relation, which describes the travels of Benedict the Pole through Mongolia - Benedict having been sent by the Pope to find out about the Mongols. The text of B e n e d i c t's report was written in 1248, and was copied into manuscript form in the 1430s, contemporary with the Vinland map. "To me it is every bit as important, if not more important, than the map," says Mr. Marston. "It describes the Mongol attack upon Germany, Hungary and right down the Adriatic, with many details that were unknown to historians before." It was obvious from the beginning that the Vinland Map and the Tartar Relation were part of a larger volume, of which three more sections were missing. These had apparently become separated when the original binding fell apart and a reblnding job was done, probably in the last century. ? ? . * By "an absolutely astonishing piece of luck," Mr. Marston recalls, one missing section of the book was tracked down by Mr. Witten to a London dealer in rare books about a year .after Mr. Witten acquired the map. This section had originally come from the same Spanish collection and was purchased for Yale for a comparatively trifling sum, about $160. Entitled Speculum Historiale, it is a 13th-century world history by Vincent of Beauvais and, according to Mr. Marston, "a remarkably fine Job for the period." There was no doubt that the Vinland map, The Tartar Relation and Speculum Historiale belonged together because even the worm holes matched. Working in his spare time, Mr. Marston has made some interesting discoveries about the manuscript. He believes that the Vinland map is a copy of Get together with the easy-going flavour of Motson Golden. It's the great get-together beer for good company and good times. Maison Golden ...the great get-together beer! two earlier maps, one covering the r e s t of the known world. How much was known remains indefinite: there is a land mass at the east of Asia which might conceivably be Japan, or is just as likely the cartographer's imagination. In the Atlantic there is a suggestion of the Azores, or possibly the West Indies, but Just as likely the "islands" were make-believe and put there for decoration. Evidence of the two earlier maps was apparent after microscopic examination of the Vinland map (and it needs a magnifying glass to read the incredibly fine script). This showed a difference in the spelling of various places. In one section the Latin diptbong is shown as "e" which was medieval practice; in the other it appears as the classical "ae". Mr. Marston comments: "Apparently the scribe was using two sources and just copied what he saw." , Mr. Marston believes he has Sacked down the identity of e scribe, although he is cautiously withholding it "until I have thoroughly convinced my-. self by seeing some other work from his hand." He will state, however, that the writer was a priest who served as a notary at the Council of Basle, the last of the three reforming councils of the fourteenth century which were aimed at healing .the schisms over the Papacy. Although the Vinland map and its accompanying text had been rebound, Mr. Marston found, on the glue of what was left of an original binding, the off-print of some vellum leaves which had comprised a rejected document from the Council of Basle, dated 1437. ? ? * He also believes that the priest copied the manuscripts for his personal pleasure, and that the entire volume was his penmanship. "From the writing, he was obviously a professional scribe," said Mr. Marston, "but I think he did it for himself because there are certain elements in his work which would not have been tolerated in a professional scriptorium. He used at least five lot* of ink. Later, as he began to run abort of vellum, which was terribly expensive, he started squashing together more lines on a page. It was the mark of a professional scribe, doing a commissioned work, to use the same ink throughout, and never to vary the number or size of lines' on a page." Two sections of the original book are still missing, and these are the vital ones-most probably dealing with the explorations of Leif Ericsson, who is described by Mr. Marston as "a son of Eric the Red who settled in the Greenland colony after he was kicked out of Iceland for murdering somebodv." Mr. Marston adds: "We still hope that somewhere in some library, by some wonderful chance, the missing manuscript will show up." (Written for The Herald and The Observer, London) Sesame Street By don Oakley NEA Service fHE COUNCIL for Basic Education, a private, nonprofit organization in Washington devoted to combating the insidious influence of Dick and Jane and the look-say method of learning to read, has given its cautionary stamp of approval to Sesame Street. As almost everyone knows by this time, Sesame Street is the immensely popular educational television program initiated last year to teach disadvantaged children of preschool age. On the basis of a study of nearly a thousand Sesame Street regulars by the educational Testing Service, "it seems unmistakably clear," says the CBE, "that television can sell letters, numbers and other rudimentary knowledge and skills to disadvantaged preschoolers in the same way it sells patent medicines and cosmetics." However, there are some nagging doubts, says the council. "Are there unmeasured disadvantages in hawking the letter H and the number 3 in the same manner and on the same medium as are hawked indiges-tin pills and overpriced toys? In encouraging children to watch a worth-while show like Sesame Street, are we encouraging indiscriminate television watching as well?" This seems a little like fretting that when we give a copy of an exciting classic like "Treasure Island" to a child we may be running the risk of encouraging his interest in trashy literature. Most people will consider the risk, in both cases, well worth taking. Silly diplomacy The Christian Science Monitor rpHE joint American-British withdrawal from the United Nations' Colonialism Committee is an example of weak-kneed and self-defeating diplomacy. Granted that this 21-nation committee has been largely a sounding board for Communist-bloc and Asian-African charges against the West, many of them half-baked, many others deliberately false. Granted that several other lands, among them Australia, Italy, and Norway, had withdrawn earlier. But running away from such a situation, even with one's nose proudly in the air, is not the right method of counterattack. This withdrawal will almost certainly have two immediate effects; The first is to abandon this committee (in which many Asian and African nations set great store) to the Communists in even greater degree. The second is to convince Asians and Africans that the Anglo-Saxons are withdrawing because they have a bad conscience about colonialism. In the ever-ongoing tug-of-war between .communism and democracy for the sympathy of Asia and Africa, Moscow could not have devised a more favorable gift for itself than the one which Washington and Lorn/don have just handed it. Truly, we wonder sometimes just who it is who works out steps of this nature. We believe that the right course would have been for America and Britian to have remained on the committee and to have determined to use it as an admirable springboard for continual counterattacks against Soviet hypocrisy in this matter of colonialism. There is today on the world's moral agenda no single deed of more flagrant colonialism than the 1968 Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia and the consequent reduction of that country to the status of a helpless Soviet colony. True, the nations of Asia and Africa could hardly care less what happens to a white European land, their interest being - perhaps quite understandably - focused on their past and present grievances against the white world. But this is no excuse for not seeking - boldly, aggressively, continually - to make them aware of Soviet colonialism. To believe that this cannot be done is to insultingly write off Asians and Africans as unreachable and unteacbable. Several years ago this committee was headed by a Tunisian friendly to the West. Yet neither America nor Britian made any real effort to seize this opportunity to lead the committee into an evenhanded position on colonialism wherever and under whatsoever conditions it exists. The present withdrawal can only weaken American and British diplomacy and, even worse, further undermine the United Nations. Reactionary policy By Clyde Ryan, la Montreal Le Devoir 'pHE Trudeau government has in mat-ters of public finance followed one of the most reactionary policies we have witnessed since the last world war. Obsessed by the objective of a balanced budget, it has forced provincial and municipal governments to increase their foreign debt while holding its own deficits at bay by fiscal stinginess, boasting at the same time of having achieved budgetary surpluses. It has taken from the private sector such a portion of the gross national product that the dynamism of this sector has been weakened. And finally it has reduced numerous groups of citizens dependent directly on state support to a n income level that makes them beggars. This government is today harvesting what it has sowed. Its stinginess is turning back on it. It has throttled inflation, but has done so by cutting off the breath of sectors of society which in no way deserved such treatment. The time has come to return to a more dynamic concept of public finances. The government should offer new stimulants to economic agents whose decisions and creative action are essential to economic expansion. These stimulants . . . should take the form of immediate fiscal alleviation. For the kinds of citizens particularly affected by the economic slowdown, in particular old age pensioners and the unemployed, the government should . . . show it is re-resolved to interest itself in their plight in mora than Just words. ... 6Junk called astrology9 By Rap Nedumpara. In a letter to The Hamilton Spectator VOUR editorial "Help From Heavenly x Bodies" (January 2) is a very uncharitable and misleading satire on Indian thought. The editorial seems to have been aimed at creating a caricature of the Indian Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, as an old witch, practising black magic with the help of an army of astrologers, over 540 million superstitious people. In fact the boot is on the other leg. There is more of that junk called astrology sold at North American bookstores and newspaper stands than in India. Is there any newspaper in Canada which does not have a column on what astrology has for you for the day? For whose sake does The Spectator pay for and publish that daily column "What the Stars Foretell" by Sydney Omarr? Is it for internal consumption or for export into the oriental markets? There are many Indian newspapers that do not have a column of fortune telling; and those that have it publish only once a week. With reference to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's own attitude to astrology, there was a brief news report on page 31 of The Spectator, December 30, wherein she had stated that "she had fought superstition since she was a small child, and that she was certainly not going back to it at this age." If the lead writer bad read this report before writing his satire, the readers could have got a quite different editorial. Harvests and politics The London Times JN (recent) weeks the Chinese have been reporting abundant harvests from different parts of their vast country. India's hundreds of millions of peasants have also been enjoying a good harvest after a succession of years of agricultural advance, though the thoughts of Mrs. Gandhi are not claimed as the reason for this progress. Politically China and India may be poles apart but when it comes to the hard equation of politics and agricultural production neither Chairman Mao nor Mrs. Gandhi can ignore the bitter facts. Indeed, one of the reasons why Mrs. Gandhi is calling an early election is that the experts have said that the rising graph of India's agricultural advance may now have reached its peak. The equation of politics and food in Asia may be illustrated in both countries. The rule would seem to be that a country can take a political upheavel against the background of good harvests, or it can stand bad harvests when government is strong and reasonably confident; but if bad harvests accompany political upheaval then there is likely to be trouble. Chairman Mao's great leap forward to 1958 - which was certainly a political upheaval for the Chinese masses for the party leadership - ran into immediate trouble with a succession of bad harvests. Three years were needed for the recovery and it might be said that the Chinese Communist Party has never been the same since. The cultural revolution on the other hand, though it often approached the brink of political disaster, always recovered: the good harvests were a help. And by now, two years after, China is humming with vigour and renewed progress. Yet one wonders whether Chairman Mao would be as readily venerated as he is now had China not had a run of five good harvests in these politically momentous years. And could India have faced the total split of the Congress Party a year ago, or the near chaos that has settled on one after another of the state governments if all this political instability had been accompanied by bad harvests rather than good? Bad governments are at risk with empty granaries. The truth no longer hurts By Dong Walker rpHE British had had plans for invading Norway in 1940 but were forestalled by the Germans. So claimed Cambridge historian Herbert Butterfield in his 1953 book, "Christianity, Diplomacy and War." Germany's invasion of Nbrway was such a shock to the moral susceptibilities that one of Butterfield's pupils, who had been a conscientious objector, joined the navy. He died in service without knowing of his own country's plans. Even in 1953 it was news to me so I phoned the reference department of the Calgary Public Library for further detail!. The librarian was outraged by the idea that anyone would think the British capable of such a thing and flatly refused to do any research. I wonder what she thinks now that the secret British government documents for 1940 have been opened to the public under the 30-year rule, confirming that Britain did in fact have plans to occupy part of Norway? Perhaps she will take it with a shrug, for as Butterfield wrote, "it makes a considerable difference if the real truth is allowed to leak out only at a later time, when all passion is spent."