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Nov 6, 2012

New evidence for Vikings in North America

Recent excavations have found new evidence for Norsemen in Canada.

National Geographic reports that an archaeologist has reexamined the artifacts found at four sites in northern Canada and thinks they're Norse. Back in the 1960s, some strange cloth was found from sites belonging to the Dorset culture, the predecessors of the modern Inuit. The cloth didn't look Dorset and when it was looked at again this year, the researcher discovered it looked just like cloth woven in Viking Greenland in the 14th century.

Other evidence was found too. Whetstones that had lain in a museum for decades were analyzed with modern methods and found to have been used to sharpen bronze. The Dorset culture had virtually no metal tools. Only when they were lucky enough to come across meteoric iron would they have metal to work with.

Early researchers also found a sizable building that was much bigger than Dorset structures but the right size for a Viking hall. This was before the 1960s discovery of L'anse aux Meadows, the Viking settlement on Newfoundland. Since back then the idea that Norsemen came to the New World was only supposition, the evidence wasn't looked at as closely as it should have been.

As yet there's no smoking gun, but it does raise some interesting possibilities. The four sites from which the new evidence comes range over a thousand miles from northern Baffin to northern Labrador. The Norsemen, or their trade goods, seem to have gotten around.

Besides L'anse au Meadows and the Baffin Island finds, there is some fuzzy evidence for more widespread Norse explorations of North America. This 13th or 14th century carved figurine, called the "Bishop of Baffin", shows a person in clothing quite unlike that worn by the Dorset or Inuit cultures, yet strangely reminiscent of a European cloak. Also check out my post on the Maine Penny.


  1. Interesting post about the Vikings. The weather in those areas must have made the whole world seem cold to those early voyagers.

    There's so much history we don't hear about, unless we happen to be in that country.

  2. They're still looking for proof? I have no problem believing Vikings visited America long before Columbus.