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Pre-Columbus map may be authentic: NZ study
www.chinaview.cn 2006-03-25 10:55:48

Related: Experts doubt authenticity of China's pre-Columbus map

    WELLINGTON, March 25 (Xinhua) -- A New Zealand university's research has suggested a 243-year-old map indicating a famous Chinese explorer discovered New Zealand, Australia and America before Europeans is probably not a fake.

    Waikato Times reported Saturday that Waikato University carbon-dating shows that "there might be something in a theory that the Chinese discovered New Zealand before Europeans."

    Before Christmas, the university's carbon-dating unit was asked to analyze a Chinese map allegedly dating back to 1763 and stating that it was a copy of a 1418 map.

    If authentic, the 1418 map by Chinese explorer Zheng He, which includes portrayals of America and Australia, was drawn 70 years before Christopher Columbus became the first European to land in America.

    In the early days of the Ming Dynasty, that is, early in the 15th century, Zheng He was ordered by the then emperor to lead a vast fleet to sail for a distant voyage, aimed to establish relations with foreign countries and expand trade contacts.

    Between 1405 and 1433, Zheng acted as an envoy to countries lying to the west of China for seven times. But where actually had he been has been debated for years, especially recently by some historians.

    Western histories record that Columbus found the New World in 1492, Portugal's Bartholomeu Diaz discovered the Cape of Good Hopein 1488, and Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan set off to circumnavigate the world in 1519.

    While some people said Zheng He seemed to have discovered America 70 years before Columbus in 1492 if the controversial map drawn in 1763 by a Chinese cartographer is real.

    The map could have an important influence on a re-evaluation of Chinese and Western maritime exploration.

    The map was originally unveiled in Beijing on Jan. 16, attracting interest from across the globe. The owner, Liu Gang, a Chinese lawyer and map collector, said at the time that it was an authentic 1763 copy of a 1418 Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) original.

    The original map has not been found, but if real, the 1763 copy could be proof that it existed. If so, it would give credence to the theory that Chinese sailors traversed the globe long before their European counterparts.

    Deputy Director Fiona Petchey of Waikato University carbon-dating unit, who was entrusted to make tests of the map, said tests showed there was an 80 percent probability that the map's paper dated to either 1640-1690 or 1730-1810.

    There was only a 13 percent chance it could date between 1920-1960.

    Liu Gang unveiled the results this week at a press conference in Beijing, according to news report.

    He held that appearance of the map, the color of its ink, the age of its paper, the way in which it was painted and the style of calligraphy used by the cartographer verify that the year in which the map was created was the year of 1763 as noted by the cartographer on the map.

    "The carbon dating result of Waikato University confirms that the map's paper was most probably produced during the period from 1730-1810 or 1640-1690, which is the right range for the year in which the map was created," said Liu. Enditem 

Editor: Mu Xuequan
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