Discovery of 1,000-year-old Viking site in Canada could rewrite history

An iron-working hearth-stone was found on Newfoundland, hundreds of miles from the only known Viking site to date 

Chloe Farand
Sunday 03 April 2016 19:02 BST
A second thousand-year-old Viking settlement may have been discovered  on the island of Newfoundland, Canada
A second thousand-year-old Viking settlement may have been discovered on the island of Newfoundland, Canada

The possible discovery of a 1,000-year-old Viking site on a Canadian island could rewrite the story of the exploration of North America by Europeans before Christopher Columbus.

The unearthing of a stone used in iron working on Newfoundland, hundreds of miles south from the only known Viking site in North America, suggests the Vikings may have traveled much further into the continent than previously thought.

A group of archeologists has been excavating the newly discovered site at the Point Rosee, a narrow, windswept peninsula on the most western point of the island.

To date, the only confirmed Viking site on the American continent is L’Anse aux Meadows, a 1,000-year-old way station discovered in 1960 on the northern tip of Newfoundland.

That settlement was abandoned after just a few years of being inhabited and archaeologists have spent the last 50 years searching for any other signs of Viking expeditions to the other side of the Atlantic.

American archaeologist Sarah Parcak, who has used satellite imagery to locate lost Egyptian cities, temples and tombs, applied the same technology to explore the island, seeking for traces of lost Viking settlements.

The only known Viking site to date in North America is located on the northern tip of the Canadian island of Newfoundland

Last June, she was drawn to this remote part of Canada after satellite imagery revealed ground features that appeared to indicate human activity.

Ms Parcak looked at modern-day plant cover to find places where a possible Viking settlement had altered the soil by changing the amount of moisture in the ground. This was a technique she had previously used in Egypt.

After identifying a potential site, archaeologists found a hearth-stone, which was used for iron-working, near what appeared to have been a turf wall.

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“The sagas suggest a short period of activity and a very brief and failed colonisation attempt,” Douglas Bolender, an archaeologist specialising in Norse settlements, told National Geographic magazine.

“L’Anse aux Meadows fits well with that story but is only one site. Point Rosee could reinforce that story or completely change it, if the dating is different from L’Anse aux Meadows. We could end up with a much longer period of Norse activity in the New World.

“A site like Point Rosee has the potential to reveal what that initial wave of Norse colonization looked like, not only for Newfoundland but for the rest of the North Atlantic."

However there is not enough evidence for archaeologists to prove the Vikings settled on the site, as other populations also lived on Newfoundland after them.

If the site is confirmed as a legitimate Viking settlement, this could lead to further search for other settlements, built five centuries before the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the New World.

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