Today we took a 2 1/2 hour road trip to the very top of Newfoundland and visited L'Anse aux Meadows. This historical site is the only proven Viking Settlement that exists in North America. The site was found in 1960 and became a National Historical Site in the 1990's.
First, the word "viking" is actually very misused. There were never any Vikings as a nation or a group of people. The group of people are actually the Norse. Most Norse were farmers and traders, but raiding became a common way to gain wealth and fame. The term "viking" is Old Norse for raider or pirate, and is properly used only to describe men who were engaged in raiding. Be that as it may, the period from 800 to 1050 is often called the "Viking Age". Similarly we live in the Space Age, but few of us are astronauts.
The people of the era around 700 to 1400 were leaving Scandinavia in search of good farm ground. They simply could not make it anymore on the poor ground that their people had. In around 700 they found Iceland and then Greenland which they colonized. Eric the Red, was banished from Europe for a few murders, so he moved to Greenland to start a new life. He set up in Greenland and then set sail farther west to find more land. He then found a few coastal islands and convinced 25 families to move further west with him. All of them died in the journey except 14 who set up a new colony. The land was fertile but there were no trees to build ships and houses with. He then sent his son, "Leaf Erickson" even farther west where he found Newfoundland and Labrador. There were plenty of trees so they set up a settlement on the site which is now L'Anse aux Meadows. This site was inhabited for only a few years. In the meantime, Walrus was found in Greenland so all the settlers moved back there. This was a valuable trading commodity in Europe. After this, Leaf Erickson continued to move south down the Americas.
The vikings traveled in open ships about 70' long. They were manned with 25 to 30 men and carried about 20,000 pounds of ballast and cargo. Imagine crossing the North Atlantic in an open boat.
The pictures I have attached show the old sites that were found as well as replica buildings.
The shoreline of Newfoundland is primarily granite, the interior is basically peat bog, and the mountain regions have small timber. There is only a small section of land that is farmable so life was hard here.
There is a beautiful statue (see picture) on the site called Where Two Worlds Met. It is believed by archaeologists that all people descended from Africa. When we began to move, some went east and some went west. It is though that this location may well be the meeting point of those two groups and they made their trek around the globe.
Tomorrow we head back south in NF and then catch the Ferry back to Nova Scotia on Monday. This side trip has been quite an adventure.