Longitude on the 1179 Oak Island Map; Plus: A Fringe History Site Accuses a Rival of Cyber-Harassment
Boy, did I hear it from everyone and his brother yesterday about my review of the season premiere of Curse of Oak Island. The majority of complaints revolved around the appearance of Zena Halpern on the program and her claims about having copies of medieval documents that connect the Knights Templar to Oak Island. Because I should not discuss was said to me privately, I would like to focus on the public issues that emerge from the claims she made on Curse of Oak Islan
Analyzing and understanding the maps that Halpern claims are medieval is a matter of public concern. According to the Nielsen ratings for this week, The Curse of Oak Island drew 2.6 million viewers (down about two million from last season, against stiffer network and cable competition), and those 2.6 million viewers were led to believe that Halpern’s maps are worthy of investigation. Halpern agrees, happily appearing on the show and planning to release a book about the map in the near future. Clearly, Scott Wolter agrees as well: He took to his blog to post about Halpern’s map in light of Curse of Oak Island.
I want to briefly mention the obvious: While I believe the map to be a fake, I have no idea who would have fabricated it, or when, or why. Additionally, because there is no original medieval map, only alleged copies (possibly of still earlier copies), there is no way to scientifically analyze the documents to determine the age of the underlying map. The copy looks, at first glance, to be quite recent. The handwriting is inconsistent with the typical styles used prior to the late twentieth century. Note the semi-cursive style alternating with block print, inconsistent with the medieval style, and even most eighteenth or nineteenth century writing.
The problems with the map are still more numerous: It contains longitude, for example, half a millennium before Europeans learned to measure it accurately. The longitude lines are measured westward from Paris, as they were in the eighteenth century, while in the medieval period, as in ancient times, the prime meridian was typically assigned to the Canary Islands, the farthest western land then known. Longitude was measured in degrees east of the Canaries, the westernmost point. After exposure to Islamic geography, this meridian was recalculated as falling on the Cape Verde Islands, as we see in the works of Islamic geographers like Yaqut al-Hamani and Europeans like Roger Bacon. (The issue, at heart, was whether the Canaries or Cape Verde should the Fortunate Isles ancient geographers used to establish longitude.) All of this is inconsistent with the supposed 1179 Oak Island map.
What, then, is the reason to believe the map medieval? No one has provided any reason to suspect it is old, except for a touching faith that there is a mysterious original that no one has ever seen.
Such, though, is life. Without an original map, we have only a modern drawing that claims to represent a medieval map, but which is inconsistent with medieval maps. This is no way to “prove” a medieval voyage to America.
I also want to point out an extraordinary statement that the Message to Eagle website posted yesterday accusing another fringe history website of nefarious activities, from harassment to devil worship. Because these allegations came with no supporting evidence, I am not comfortable with repeating them here, but the gist of it was that Message to Eagle feels that the other site was engaging in cyberbullying, plagiarism, and other efforts to cause their site harm. Message to Eagle described the website whose owners have been harassing them as owned by a Greek and an Australian who currently live in South America, and whose site has a vast advertising network and a premium membership package. Only one major fringe history website matches that description, and it is Ancient Origins, run by Ioannis (John) Syrigos, of Greek origin, and the pseudonymous April Holloway, an Australian, both of whom currently live in Ecuador. I am aware of no evidence that the operators of the site in question worship Beelzebub or that they are engaged in any acts of psychological terror. Message to Eagle provided no evidence to support its claims. It does seem, however, that there is a feud brewing between two of the largest and most read fringe history sites.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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