Monday, November 05, 2007


This Day in the History of the Advance of History

On this day in 1963, archaeologist found Viking house foundations in Newfoundland which predated Columbus' arrival in the Bahamas by 500 years. Leif Ericson (whom the Europeans know as Leif (Lafe) the Lucky), Icelandic explorer, second son of Eric the Red, is believed by most historians to have been the first European to reach the North American mainland. About the year 1000 he created a settlement at what he called Vinland, which was identified, beginning this day in 1963, as Newfoundland when archaeologists uncovered the remains of a Viking-type settlement at L'Anse-aux-Meadows at the extreme northern tip of the island. His countryman, Bjarni Herjólfsson, had earlier sighted North America and reported that the land was rich in timber. Thus, Ericson had a clear economic motive for his journey. Icelanders needed wood for houses and ships, but their country is entirely treeless and the only source of useful wooden building material was driftwood. I don't know if it was global cooling or what, but the area around L'Anse-aux-Meadows, Newfoundland is not today rich in timber. Perhaps Vinland was to the south after all.

(h/t Today in Science History)


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