Experts Still Doubt Chinese Map’s Authenticity

From the English edition of the People’s Daily Online: Experts doubt authenticity of China’s pre-Columbus map. In response to yesterday’s press conference confirming the age of the paper:

“The test can only prove that the paper is genuine, but it could be possible that someone forged the map with well preserved paper and Chinese ink,” said Prof. Hou Yangfang with the Historical Geography Research Center of elite Fudan University in Shanghai.
Counterfeit ancient painting and calligraphy were often made by forgers with paper and ink made at that time, Hou said.

While I’m at it, let me add the following. It’s worth mentioning that as a general principle, a document’s age does not prove its veracity. As the venerable French historian Charles Seignobos wrote in the manual on historical method he co-authored in 1898,

Even when the author was able to observe [facts], his text only indicates how he wished to represent them, not how he really saw them, still less how they really happened. What an author expresses is not always what he believed, for he may have lied; what he believed is not necessarily what happened, for he may have been mistaken.

In other words, just because the map says it’s a copy of a 1418 map, it doesn’t make it so. And when a new piece of evidence asserts something not otherwise known or corroborated, it’s important to remember Carl Sagan’s axiom: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.”

Which is to say that I don’t believe this map is real. Not for a second.

See previous entries: A Look Back at the Chinese Map Controversy; Chinese Map Media Briefing; Chinese Map Controversy: Liu Gang’s Press Conference.