The new archaeological find, announced Thursday, offers tantalizing evidence of a Viking presence 300 miles from the only place in Canada they’d ever been seen before.
Using satellite images taken by cameras 400 miles above the Earth, researchers scan for telltale variations in the landscape — discolored soil, changes in the vegetation — that suggest something might be lying beneath them.
Last year, archaeologist Sarah Parcak, her husband and partner Greg Mumford and Canadian archaeologist Frederick Schwarz turned their eyes in the sky on North America.
After analyzing countless images of the Canadian coastline, Parcak couldn’t deny that one site looked promising: A bit of exposed headland on the southwestern side of Newfoundland where intriguing, almost-imperceptible patterns in the ground suggested that manmade structures once stood there. One of them seemed to have internal divisions and is almost the exact size and shape of longhouses uncovered at L’Anse aux Meadows.
When the scientists got to the site and began actual digging, they uncovered turf structures and a shallow hearth littered with bits of cooked bog iron, they knew they’d found something important. There is only one other pre-Columbian iron processing site in all of North America — at L’Anse Aux Meadows. What’s more, they found no trace of either indigenous Canadians or later European colonists at the site — no scraps of flint, pottery or iron nails.
The bog iron is a huge clue. The Viks had to constantly repair their ships, especially after a long haul from Greenland or Iceland, so everywhere they stopped for any length of time, they set up a forge to make iron spikes for their longboats. That unassuming lump is something seen in just about every other Norse settlement.
And what a great place for a way station to Vinland! Beautiful.
A recently discovered picture of Eric the Red