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Vikings Vinland Newfoundland Canada

The Vikings Discover Newfoundland


The Norse, or the Vikings are known for their iconic long ships, and armed raiding parties that would pillage and plunder through out Northern Europe. In fact, when the Norse went on these raiding expeditions they would say that they were going "a-Viking" and it was by that name that they were known to the rest of Europe. What is not generally known, is that they were also intrepid explorers, clever merchants, and skilled artisans capable of making sea worthy vessels called "Knarrs." From 800 A.D. to 1000 A.D. the Norse expanded and settled through out the North Atlantic in these "Knarrs."

One of the first settlements was in Iceland, which was established in 874 A.D. In 986 A.D. a Norseman named Eirik the Red sailed an expedition from Iceland to Greenland and started a settlement. This settlement grew and later Norse merchants were coming to the settlement in search of profitable trades. One such merchant named Bjarni Hejolfson was sailing to Greenland and was caught in a storm. Bjarni went way off course to make land fall at a strange new place that he knew was not Greenland. He had no interest in exploring as he was in search of profitable trades with established settlements. Bjarni sailed northeast to make his way back to the Greenland settlement. At the settlement, he told the people about his adventure and his encounter with this new found land.

In 1001 A.D. the son of Eirik the Red, Leif took his own expedition and retraced Bjarni's voyage back to this new found land. He came across a land he called Heluland or "land of flat stones" believed to be Baffin Island and then went south to another land he called Vinland. He called it Vinland because some believe he found berries that he thought were grapes, others say it is an old Norse word that means meadow. Leif had brothers who had their own expeditions that came to Vinland, one brother Thorvald was killed by the natives whom they called the "Skraelings." Another brother Thorfinn who brought the most ambitious expedition with women and livestock stayed a few years and abandoned the settlement because of conflicts with the "Skraelings."

In 1960 the ruins of a Norse settlement was discovered in the L'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland and have been confirmed by scholars that it is indeed a Norse settlement from the early 11th century. Today, L’Anse aux Meadows is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as a Canadian National Historic Site with a museum and reconstructed Norse settlements. L'Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland Canada.

Links of Interest

Viking Turf House Reconstructions

The Viking Ship Museum, Oslo, Norway

The Viking Trail Newfoundland Canada

Totem Poles, Longhouses

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