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Fountain

Ch. 19. Discovery.

Author: johnmedler Total hits: 3639 User hits: 11 Date: 03-03-2014

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Chapter 19. Discovery

Present day. Archivo General de Indias. Seville, Spain.

The Chief Archivist of Seville, a portly man named named Pedro Alonso de Bartón, and the Chief Curator of the Alcazar, a thin, gray-haired man named José Suarez, had both been against the idea of doing anything to harm the walls of the Alcazar. The building was ancient, dating back over 1,200 years. Notwithstanding the new document found by Charlie Winston, it was utter speculation that anything was indeed hidden behind the painting of the Virgin of the Navigators. The men compromised, however, when Charlie Winston proposed that they scan the walls with his portable scanner. Winston brought out of his bag a DeWalt DCT 418 scanner, a yellow and black hand-held scanning device similar to a wall-stud finder. This device had the capability of showing on a 3.5 inch liquid crystal display a visual image of anything behind a wall, including metal pipes, PVC pipes, holes, wooden objects, and metals. The device used radar waves to detect the items behind the walls, and then sophisticated algorithms inside the machine allowed the machine to detect not only the shape of the item behind the wall but also the material of which it was composed. The device could penetrate up to three inches through drywall, plywood, concrete, plaster, ceramic tile and even marble. The Curator brought several workmen over to help gently remove the painting and set it aside. The wall behind the painting appeared to be plaster. Winston brought out his scanning device, got on a ladder, and, beginning in the area in the approximate middle of where the painting had been, he passed the device from left to right across the wall. Then he began to pass it back from right to left again. As he did so, the scanner read that the material was indeed plaster. As he passed over wooden wall studs, the readout showed a small tree icon, meaning wood, and the readout showed a wooden stud behind the wall. He continued all the way back to the left but did not find anything unusual other than wooden studs. He decided to try two feet higher. Again, he passed the device left to right and then back again right to left. Again, the readout showed nothing but wooden studs. Finally, Winston went two feet below the middle of the place where the painting hung. He scanned from left to right, but as he began to pass back from right to left, the readout showed something very interesting. There was a rectangular hole behind the wall, about four feet off the floor, toward the left side. The hole was about four feet long and about three feet high. And nestled in the middle of the hole was something roughly square. The scanner showed the tree icon as well as the icon for ferrous metal. The box was made out of wood and metal. Winston showed the readout triumphantly to the Chief Archivist and the Chief Curator. The treasure chest was real! Winston spoke with the two men about the procedure for opening up the wall, and was assured that it would be a long process, due to the fact that the palace was so ancient and historic. Winston left his information with the Curator, and got on a plane headed back to Atlanta.

The next three months were filled with bureaucratic red tape, as Winston filed numerous requests with the Spanish Committee for Historic Preservation and other Spanish government officials to get permission to cut open the wall behind the painting. Finally, after Emory University agreed to make generous contributions to the Spanish Committee for Historic Prservation, the Spanish Archives, and the Alcazar Preservation Fund, a contractor who was paid by Emory and hired by the Alcazar, together with a team of architects, cut a small section from behind the wall of the painting and removed a wooden chest with metal hinges. Charlie Winston was present in Seville a second time when the chest was finally opened. At the direction of the Chief Archivist, the documents and maps found inside the chest were laid out on a series of long tables in the Seville Archives Map Room. Winston was the first historian who was allowed access to the documents.

The treasure trove contained a large collection of fifteenth and sixteenth century navigational maps and ship logs. The trove contained ship logs of Amerigo Vespucci, John Cabot, Sebastian Cabot, Juan Diaz de Solis, and other navigators. The first great discovery was the long-lost original of the Padrón Real, the “master map” used by Spanish explorers. That map, in and of itself, was an incredibly valuable historic find. The Padrón Real was undated, but showed Hispaniola, Cuba, the eastern coast of present-day America, Central America, and South America. Winston was excited, and thought of comparing that map to the copy of the Padrón Real in the Vatican Archives. Although Winston did not realize its significance at the time, the trove also contained a small handwritten map given by the Veraguan natives to John Cabot, showing the directions to the Island of Boyuca, and the more detailed map of the Island of Boyuca, with legends written in the Mayan K’iche’ dialect. Because those maps were in a language foreign to Charlie Winston, he passed over those quickly.

What Winston was most interested in, however, was a map of the New World which was dated August 1499. It appeared to be written in John Cabot’s handwriting. Scribbled sideways from about Florida to North Carolina was one word: “America.” At the bottom of the 1499 map was a handwritten dedication, in which Cabot appeared to be thanking his patron for the voyage. The name on the dedication was one which would change every American elementary history book, and which would forever tar the name of Amerigo Vespucci.


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