Sunday, April 10, 2016

243.9 - And Another Thing: Possible Viking site found in Newfoundland

And Another Thing: Possible Viking site found in Newfoundland

Last for this week, let's end on something lighter, with an episode of our occasional feature called And Another Thing, where we turn away from political things to talk about some cool science stuff. This time, it's some cool archaeology stuff.

The Norse sagas and Viking legends are often ripping good yarns of exploration and discovery with a good number of epic battles thrown in - kind of like Peter Jackson for history geeks.

But they have also provided historical material, including enabling the discovery in 1960 of a Viking settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows at the northern tip of Newfoundland. It was the only known Viking site in North America.

Until, quite possibly, now.

Archaeologists using satellite images have discovered what they believe to be a Viking site at Point Rosse at the southeast tip of Newfoundland, some 600km - about 370 miles - south of L'Anse aux Meadows.

Excavations at the site have uncovered evidence of a Norse-like hearth and eight kilograms of early bog iron. The Norse were the only ones extracting iron from bogs 1,000 years ago.

They haven't found a lot of artifacts, which actually strengthens the idea that Vikings were present at the area at some point, because they tended to have fleeting settlements, so there would not have been a lot of time for things to be discarded or broken and so be left at the site for later discovery. That is, the lack of artifacts doesn't prove the idea that the site was a Viking settlement as opposed to some other sort, but it does even less to contradict it.

It needs to be emphasized that this is a possible Viking site; much more study needs to be done if that is to be confirmed. It took several years to get widespread agreement that L'Anse aux Meadows was a Norse site.

But lead researcher Sarah Parcak says that her team has not found any contradictory evidence, suggesting, she said, that means that either this is a Norse site - or a new culture that presents as Norse.

If it is confirmed, it would widen our understanding and knowledge of the Viking experience in North America. Which personally I find rather exciting - because, after all, Vikings! Looting and pillaging their way across hundreds of years of European history: That's my heritage!

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