The town was founded as Upernavik in 1772. From the former name of its island, it was sometimes known as Women's Island; its name was also sometimes Anglicized to "Uppernavik". In 1824, the Kingittorsuaq Runestone was found outside the town. It bears runic characters left by Vikings, probably from the late 13th century. The runic characters list the names of three Vikings and mention the construction of a rock cairn nearby.
This is the furthest north that any Viking artifacts have been found, other than those small artifacts that could have been carried north by Inuit traders and marks the northern known limit of Viking exploration.
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