The Vikings embarked on a voyage to Notre Dame Bay, Newfoundland more than 1,000 years ago, according to new evidence unveiled this week.
The evidence was discovered through archaeological excavation and chemical analysis of two jasper artifacts that the Norse commonly used to start fires.
Kevin Smith, deputy director and chief curator of the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology at Brown University, stated:
“This area of Notre Dame Bay was as good a candidate as any for the first contact between the Old World and the New World, and that ‘s kind of an exciting thing.”
The jasper artifacts were discovered at L’Anse aux Meadows, where the Norse explorers likely set out from. The analysis suggests that the jasper used in the artifacts came from the area around Notre Dame Bay.
It is likely the Vikings voyaged south about 143 miles until they reached the bay. The area they likely landed at was well inhabited at the time with the ancestral Beothuk. Because of this, researchers concluded that the Vikings likely met the Beothuk, and also took in the beautiful landscape around the bay. Smith explained:
“For anyone coming from the nearly treeless islands of the North Atlantic, this would have potentially been a very interesting zone. There are a lot of trees; there’s a lot of opportunities for cutting things down; it’s a bit warmer; it’s an interesting mix of resources.”
Researchers do not yet know the specifics about contact between the Norse and the Boethuk, though they presume that it did happen. The possible meeting would be one of the earliest Old World-New World encounters.
The two jasper artifacts are keys that prove the Viking voyage happened. The larger one was the most recent and was discovered in 2008 just 33 feet from an ancient Norse hall. The chemical composition of jasper, which the ancient people used as a rudimentary match, varies based on where it is obtained. Because of this, researchers were able to match it with geological samples using a device that detects the chemical signature of jasper.
The results suggest that the jasper discovered in L’Anse aux Meadows originated from Notre Dame Bay. More specifically, the closest chemical match came from a geological sample in modern-day Fortune Harbor. The second piece of jasper was discovered in the 1960s in excavations by Helfe and Anne Stine Ingstad, who discovered the Meadows.
The excavations at L’Anse aux Meadows will continue, with the hopes of discovering more Viking voyages in the New World.
[Image via ShutterStock]