It’s Finally Official: The Vikings Discovered the Americas 1,000 Years Ago
Updated: Jan 14
Earlier this year, archaeologists analyzed pieces of wood from the Viking settlement site in Newfoundland. What they found substantiates the legends of Leif Erikson.
In 992 AD, the sun blasted particles towards the earth in a solar storm of such vast proportions that it increased the carbon content in the atmosphere, leaving an unusual radiocarbon signature in trees. Using accelerator mass spectrometry, scientists were able to date the fragments of discarded branches and tree stumps they found at the site of an early Viking settlement in Newfoundland, Canada, to the year 1021 AD.
Although the Vinland sagas report that Leif Erikson had traveled to the Americas in 1021, what is exciting to researchers is that the sagas, which were originally orally transmitted and finally written down approximately 200 years later, were so accurate.
Archaeologists reiterate that the date only pinpoints when the trees were cut down, not when the settlement at L’Anse aux Meadows was established. Since Leif Erikson is believed to have left Greenland for Newfoundland in 1000 AD, most researchers believe that the site was occupied as early as that year and may have just served as a base camp where the Norse could overwinter, repair ships, or stockpile provisions and trade goods.
For unknown reasons, the Norse never settled other parts of North America, perhaps due to poor relations with Native Americans.
According to anthropologist John Steinberg, If the Vikings left Greenland around 1000 AD, as the sagas suggest, “L’Anse aux Meadows was occupied at least sporadically for perhaps 20 years, rather than just three years as has been assumed. On the other hand, it may be that it was only occupied for three years but those years were 15 years later than we thought.”
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