Vikings in America
Edited by D. L.
985 Bjarni Herjolfsson, a Norse settler in Greeland, was blown
off course and sighted a continent west of Greenland, but he did not go
ashore. About 15 years later Leif Eriksson (son of Erik the Red) explored
the new continent. For the next ten years a number of voyages were made
from Greenland to the new land, which the Norselmen called "Vinland"
because of the profusion of grapes that grew there.
The Way Station at L'Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland
The following photographs are all courtesy of the Canadian National Parks
Artifacts Discovered at L'Anse aux Meadows
- A copper alloy ring headed pin of Norse
design. Greatly magnified. Pins such as these were used to close the
outer garments of
both men and women.
- A soapstone spindle whorl of Norse
design. These common household items, typically carved from soapstone,
served as small flywheels on the spindles used for spinning yarn and
- A simple stone lamp. The carved
would hold animal fat and a wick.
- Carved wooden pieces of unknown use.
These pieces were likely some sort of ship fittings. There is evidence
that a substantial amount of woodworking and carpentry was conducted at
L'Anse aux Meadows during the Viking era.
- A ship repair piece made from
wood. Identical repair patches have been found in excavations of Norse
Excavations and Reconstructed Buildings
Aerial view of three reconstructed buildings,
surrounded by a fence. In the tradition of Iceland, buildings were
constructed of sod over a wooden frame.
- Another view of the above scene, showing
the settlement as it would have appeared during the Viking era.
- A close-up view of the fence, showing its
woven construction (a technique still used in Scandinavia), with sod
buildings in the background.
- Another view of the above scene.
- Excavation of the smithy. The existence
of a smithy or furnace pit at L'Anse aux Meadows suggests that the
location's most important function was that of a way station where Viking
travelers could repair their ships and restock their supplies.
- Reconstructed smithy, showing the
facility as it would have appeared during the Viking era.
- Interior of a reconstructed longhouse of
- Another view, showing a central fireplace,
above longhouse interior. Norse longhouses were heated by central,
open fires. The smoke escaped through one or more vents in the roof.
Poetry about Vikings in America
Skeleton in Armor" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. In this well known
ballad, Longfellow creates a tale of ancient love and adventure around two
artifacts of his day: a skeleton clad in corroded armor and the ruin of
the Round Tower at Newport, then thought to have been built by the
Vikings, a view not shared by twentieth-century scholars.
Norsemen" by John Greenleaf Whittier. A ballad prompted by the
discovery, in the early nineteenth century, of the fragment of a statue
held to be a relic from the Norsemen in New England.
Modern Vikings in America
from Iceland to America in the nineteenth century, a site from a
server in, appropriately enough, Iceland. This site features an
impressive illustration entitled "Landing at Willow Point - 1875" plus
information about Iceland, with special emphasis on genealogy.
North American Runestones
Examine the following sites, then decide for yourself: Are the North
American runestones authentic artifacts from Viking explorers, or are
they elaborate frauds by Scandinavian-Americans?
Revised November 30, 1998