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Map showing China found America first may be genuine |
SATURDAY , 25 MARCH 2006
By KENT ATKINSON
A map claimed to be more than than 250 years old showing Chinese explorers discovered America before Christopher Columbus could be genuine.
Tests show the paper used for the Chinese map could date back to 1763, say Waikato University scientists.
The map, which is said to a copy of a 1418 Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) original which has not been found, has the potential to trigger a re-evaluation of Chinese and Western maritime exploration.
It was originally unveiled in Beijing on January 16, and drew global attention when the owner, Liu Gang, a Chinese lawyer and map collector, said the 1763 copy could be proof of a theory that Chinese sailors traversed the globe long before their European counterparts.
The mass spectrography analysis of the 1763 map's paper, undertaken by Waikato University's radiocarbon dating laboratory, showed that the most likely date between 1730 and 1810 had a probability of 42.4 per cent, Dr Fiona Petchey said.
The second most likely result, between 1640 and 1690, had a probability of 39.7 per cent,
She said the scientists were told the paper was made from bamboo, and they did not test the ink.
"There's slightly over 80 per cent probability that it is between 1640 and 1810," she said.
There was also a small probability, of about 13.3 per cent, that the paper was made between 1920 and 1960, but she said any radiocarbon "date" had several potential age ranges, and it was normal to use them with other supporting evidence.
Mr Liu told a press conference yesterday: "The period matches the date written by the cartographer, 1763. I believe that the carbon dating is very useful to confirm the paper of the map is the right year.,"
If the map is a genuine copy of a 1418 map, it can revolutionise thinking about 15th-century world history.
It would mean China's Admiral Zheng He discovered America more than 70 years before Christopher Columbus.
The map shows a clear depiction of the Americas, New Zealand, Australia, Africa and Europe.
Traditional Western histories record that Columbus found the New World in 1492; Dias discovered the Cape of Good Hope in 1488; and Magellan set off to circumnavigate the world in 1519.
One critic of the map, Geoff Wade, senior research fellow at the National University of Singapore, told China Daily that the map "was a litany of errors, many simplistic".
"The representation of China is poor. Why should Chinese cartographers have represented the lands with which they were so familiar so poorly?
"I am convinced that this map is a 21st-century fake. It was certainly produced by someone educated in simplified characters, meaning since the founding of the People's Republic of China."
He believed it was produced within the last four years.