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Jun 10, 2013

Medieval Mondays: Archaeologists trace Viking voyage in North America

One of the things that has always fascinated me about my field is how you can discover so much from seemingly innocuous remains.

Take this piece of jasper, for example. It was found at the site of L'Anse Aux Meadows, the Viking settlement in Newfoundland, Canada. This is the only Viking settlement so far discovered in the North America, but an analysis of this piece of jasper hints they went further afield.

It was used as a fire starter. If you struck it against a piece of steel it would make sparks. Bits of jasper are common finds in Viking sites. What's interesting about jasper and many other stones is that their chemical composition differs depending on where they come from. Thus you can analyze them and determine their origin.

Archaeologists analyzed this fire starter and found that it came from Notre Dame Bay, 143 miles (230 kilometers) south of the settlement. At that time (c. 1000 AD) the bay was inhabited by the ancestors of the Beothuk people and was rich in timber and wildlife. This would have been a good place to trade, being much more inhabited and rich in resources than the bleak area around L'Anse Aux Meadows.

Perhaps more investigations will reveal more detail about the lives of these rugged explorers from a thousand years ago.


  1. Interesting. I like hearing about archeological finds. There's so much we don't know. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Archeology has always fascinated me. It would be so cool to makes discoveries like this.


    1. The thrill of discovery is what made me fall in love with archaeology. I've always wanted to excavate a Viking site but so far no luck.

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  4. Wonder what else they brought back from the Notre Dame area?