At 500, 1st 'America' Map Baffles

German monk closely mapped South America, unknown Pacific
By John Lister,  Newser User
Posted Dec 4, 2007 5:25 PM CST
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, formally hands over the the Martin Waldseemuller 1507 World Map at the Library of Congress, Monday, April 30, 2007 in Washington. The map, the first to formally...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – The Library of Congress this week unveils the first map to use the name "America"—and the 500-year-old mysteries that go with it. The 1507 map by a German monk includes a surprisingly precise rendering of South America, Reuters reports, and seemingly predicts the contours of the continent's Pacific coast 6 years before European explorers ever saw it.

The monk, who named the territory after explorer Amerigo Vespucci, mysteriously abandoned his original, accurate claims. Six years later, his maps simply showed an incomplete continent named "Terra Incognita" (unknown land), and later maps even joined the Americas by land to Asia. Researchers speculate that the reversal reflected political disputes between then-superpowers Portugal and Spain.