Vinland - Modern Geographers and The Location of Vinland - Clues At L'Anse Aux Meadows

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Clues At L'Anse Aux Meadows

Newfoundland marine insurance agent and historian William A. Munn (1864–1939), after studying literary sources in Europe, suggested in his 1914 book "Wineland Voyages: Location of Helluland, Markland & Vinland" that the Vinland explorers "went ashore at Lancey Meadows, as it is called today". In 1960 a Viking settlement was discovered by Helge and Anne Stine Ingstad at that exact spot, L'Anse aux Meadows in northern Newfoundland, and excavated during the 1960s and 1970s. It is most likely this was the main settlement of the sagas, a "gateway" for the Norse Greenlanders to the rich lands farther south. Many wooden objects were found at L'Anse Aux Meadows, and radiocarbon dating confirms the site's occupation as being confined to a short period around 1000 CE. In addition, a number of small pieces of jasper, known to have been used in the Norse world as fire-strikers, were found in and around the different buildings. When these were analyzed and compared with samples from jasper sources around the north Atlantic area, it was found that two buildings contained only Icelandic jasper pieces, while another contained some from Greenland; also a single piece from the east coast of Newfoundland was found. These finds appear to confirm the saga claim that some of the Vinland exploration ships came from Iceland and that they ventured down the east coast of the new land.

Based on such interpretations and archaeological evidence, it is now generally accepted that L'Anse Aux Meadows was the main base of the Norse explorers, but the southernmost limit of the Norse exploration remains a subject of intense speculation. Samuel Eliot Morison (1971) suggested the southern part of Newfoundland; Erik Wahlgren (1986) Miramichi Bay in New Brunswick; and Icelandic climate specialist Pall Bergthorsson (1997) proposed New York City. The insistence in all the main historical sources that grapes were found in Vinland suggests that the explorers ventured at least to the south side of the St. Lawrence River, as Jacques Cartier did 500 years later, finding both wild vines and nut trees. Three butternuts were a further important find at L'Anse Aux Meadows: another species which grows only as far north as the St. Lawrence. These travels explain as well how the vinviðir (wine wood) the Norse were cutting down in the sagas is actually referring to the vines of Vitis riparia a species of wild grape that grows on trees. As the Norse were searching for lumber, a material that was needed in Greenland, they found trees covered with vitis riparia south of L'Anse aux Meadows and called them vinviðir.

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