L'Anse aux Meadows

A REAL-LIFE SAGA


Discovered in 1960, this is the first authenticate Norse site found in North American and could be Leif Ericsson’s short-lined Vinland Camp. Some time about AD 1000 Norse seafarers established a base here from which they explored southwards. The traces of bog iron found - the first known example of iron smelting in the new world - in conjunction with evidence of carpentry suggest that boat repair was an important activity. The distance from their homelands and conflict with Native people may have led the Norse to abandon the site.


A Real Life Saga
Cast your gaze over the water and imagine a summer day, around 1000 years ago, when a norse expedition from Greenland landed on Newfoundland's Great Northern Peninsula.  Following the coast around the North Atlantic, they had arrived at a strategic location, within sight of Labrador, near the entrance to the Strait of Belle Isle.  Under Leif Eiriksson's leadership, the group of 60-90 people set up a sturdy encampment of turf-walled buildings that served as an over-wintering base for exploring to the south via Gulf of St. Lawrence.  For the next decade or two, successive expeditions travelled to this region they called Vinland, mainly in search of hardwood lumber.  They reached a least as far south as the east coast of New Brunswick - a land where wild grapes grow.



The voyages across the North Atlantic also brought them into contact with North American Aboriginal peoples, ancestors of the Innu, Beothuk, and Mikmaq.  From these encounters, the Vikings would learn not only that the new lands were inhabited but also that they, the Vikings, were vastly outnumbered throughout the region by the inhabitants.


At the time, the Greenland colony had a population of 500 People or fewer.  Even with some Icelandic crew, the cost of operating the Vinland enterprise was just not sustainable for the returns.  In a short time, the base at L'Anse aux Meadows was abandoned and the buildings burnt.  The Vikings may have continued their journeys to North America for centuries, perhaps involving trade with peoples of the Arctic, until the Greenland colony was itself abandoned in the 15th century.




The tales of voyages west of Greenland lived on in oral tradition, passing from generation to generation, until the Vinland sagas were written down in the late 1200's.  The legend inspired as quest to discover this Viking base in North America with speculations about the location ranging from Labrador to North Caroline.  Finally, in 1960, it was Norwegian explorer and writer Helge Instad who came upon the site at L'Anse aux Meadows.  Local fisherman George Decker led him to what locals called the "old Indian camp"; the overgrown ruins of 11th-century Norse buildings which, combined with a few small items left behind by the Vikings, have proven the historic nature of the only recognized authentic Viking site to date in North America.



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