Vikings in North America: A Saga’s New Chapter

Satellite images have led archaeologists to a new excavation site in Canada, yielding more clues to Norse settlements in North America.

Icelandic sagas tell how the 10th-century Viking sailor Leif Eriksson stumbled on a new land far to the west, which he called Vinland the Good. The 1960 discovery of a Viking settlement at L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland, Canada, caused a sensation, proving the sagas were not just fiction. Vikings had indeed reached the coast of America five centuries before Columbus.

Now those medieval sagas look ready for another endorsement, this time from space: National Geographic fellow Sarah Parcak, an expert in detecting buried structures from satellite images, has identified another likely Viking site on the southernmost tip of Newfoundland, and that could rewrite the story of the colonization of North America.

In summer 2015 Parcak and her team broke ground at Point Rosee near Channel-Port aux Basques, a windswept stretch of grassy coast overlooking the Cabot Strait. The dig unearthed remains of turf walls and an ironworking fireplace, yielding valuable information on the Vikings’ seafaring and metalworking techniques when on the move.

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