Previously Unknown 16th Century Globe has been in Private Collection

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A remarkable find has been made by researchers who have dated the world's oldest known globe to depict the New World. The newly discovered globe is dated back to the early 1500s and is described to be the size of a grapefruit.

Researchers say the globe was constructed using the lower halves of two ostrich eggs, the Washington Map Society, who shared the findings, said. In addition to its age, also extraordinary is the knowledge provided from that era about the New World.  

"The globe reflects the knowledge gleaned by Christopher Columbus and other very early European explorers including Amerigo Vespucci after whom America was named. The author points to Florence Italy as where the globe was made, and offers evidence that the engraver was influenced by or worked in the workshop of Leonardo da Vinci," The Washington Map Society writes in a recent news release.

Details on the globe include details such as ships, monsters, intertwining waves and 71 place names; only seven of these are located in the Western Hemisphere. Inscriptions are made in Latin, reported National Geographic.

North America is depicted as small islands. An interesting notation is “HIC SVNT DRACONES” that is etched near the portrayal of Southeast Asia on the globe. This phrase translates to “Here are the dragons.”

The author, who reportedly admits some initial skepticism, indicated intrigue and took a much closer examination.

The research was peer-reviewed and over 100 experts agree this previously unknown globe is a major find. Several scientific and technological tests and examinations were performed and the egg was compared to newer ostrich eggs, showing the changes in calcium bone density over time.

To date, the globe has been privately owned, and a dealer had purchased it last year. The dealer made the newly acquired purchase available to researchers to study.

Reportedly, prior to the purchase the globe had been a part of a private "important" European collection for years.

Prior to this discovery, the oldest globe that depicted the Americas was the Hunt-Lenox Globe, which is housed at the New York Public Library. It is not known who created this copper engraved globe, which dates back to approximately 1510.

Researchers now believe the recently found globe was used to cast the Lenox Globe.

"There are differences between the two globes; however, when carefully considered these differences do not weigh against the suggestion that the Lenox Globe is a cast of the ostrich-egg globe," said S. Missinne, PhD., an independent Belgian research scholar, who authored the study (courtesy National Geographic).

However, the ostrich-egg globe's origin is not known. This has led some to have more questions regarding the artifact.

"It very well may be an early globe, which is interesting in itself, but provenance issues come to mind," said John Hessler, curator of the Geography and Map Division at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., reported National Geographic. "The first thing I would have wanted to know is where it came from—where it was purchased, who had it before, what collections it was in."

The full research was published in the Washington Map Society's Fall 2013 edition (#87).

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