Norse or Viking exploration is fairly well-known thanks in large part to a considerable amount of surviving primary sources. The Vikings explored and established colonies as far west as North America and to the east in Russia. Modern scholars know this due to a plethora of written texts, which includes those written by the Norse as well as the many people they came into contact within Europe and the Middle East. Modern archaeological work has also helped uncover many of the mysteries of the Norse sagas, which were semi-historical stories about their kings, nobles, and various other heroes who were worthy in Viking eyes of being remembered for their great deeds.
One particular mystery that was debated for decades was the claim in two of the sagas – Erik’s Saga and The Greenland Saga – that the Norse discovered and colonized North America, which they referred to as “Vinland” or “Vineland,” approximately 500 years before Columbus made his first voyage to the Caribbean. Many scholars believed the sagas were just boasts or good yarns until a Viking Age settlement was discovered in 1960 in L’Anse aux Meadows at the tip of the island of Newfoundland in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Excavations at L’Anse aux Meadows throughout the 1960s confirmed that it was indeed a Viking settlement, giving credence to the two sagas, which are often referred to collectively as the “Vinland Sagas.” Although there is a consensus among scholars that the Vikings established a small colony briefly in North America in the early eleventh century, there is no consensus regarding the specific location of Vinland. Since it is not possible to grow wine producing vines in northern Newfoundland, many scholars believe that L’Anse aux Meadows was a staging point and that Vinland was farther to the south. Based on some factors, primarily flora and fauna, the modern Canadian province of Nova Scotia is probably the best candidate for the location of the Viking Vinland.
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Categories: Scandinavian History
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