Cautionary Tales – The Wild Turkeys of Schleswig

25th November, 2022

There are eight American turkeys painted on the walls of Schleswig’s Cathedral of St Peter – which is odd… since the frescoes were created two centuries before Columbus even crossed the Atlantic.   

How did the creatures come to be added to the medieval Biblical scene? Was this proof that the Germans reached the Americas long before Columbus? Or do the painted birds tell a different story all together? 

Cautionary Tales is written by me, Tim Harford, with Andrew Wright. It is produced by Ryan Dilley, with support from Courtney Guarino and Emily Vaughn.

The sound design and original music is the work of Pascal Wyse. Julia Barton edited the scripts.

Thanks to the team at Pushkin Industries, including Mia Lobel, Jacob Weisberg, Heather Fain, Jon Schnaars, Carly Migliori, Eric Sandler, Emily Rostek, Royston Beserve, Maggie Taylor, Nicole Morano, Daniella Lakhan and Maya Koenig.

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Further reading and listening

The definitive account of the Malskat affair is Jonathan Keat’s Forged: Why Fakes Are the Great Art of Our Age (2012), supplemented by Sepp Schuller’s Forgers, Dealers, Experts (1960).

I learned about the tale in Alice Sherwood’s Authenticity (2022).

Bomber Command data on the Lubeck raid

The New York Times on the trial of Lothar Malskat

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