The Norse Settled in North America 1,000 Years Ago, Research Shows Skip to content

The Norse Settled in North America 1,000 Years Ago, Research Shows

In an article in Nature published yesterday, researchers claim to have determined the precise date of Nordic settlements in Newfoundland. By employing a novel dating technique, researchers provide evidence that the wood used in the construction of timber-framed buildings in L’Anse aux Meadows was cut in AD 1021.

A “notable and unexpected” discovery

It’s widely accepted that the Norse people arrived in North America long before Christopher Columbus. Despite the general acceptance of this theory, there has been only one confirmed Norse settlement site in the Americas: L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland (a UNESCO World Heritage Site).

Since the latter half of the 20th century, extensive field campaigns have been conducted at the site, with much knowledge having been gleaned about the settlement and its contemporary environment. The precise age of the site has never been scientifically established; most previous estimates have been based on analysis of architectural remains, artefacts, and interpretations of the Icelandic sagas.

According to a new article published in the journal Nature, however, researchers claim to have discovered the precise age of the settlement in L’Anse aux Meadows. By employing a novel dating technique – which uses a solar storm in 992 as a reference point – researchers were able to analyze the tree rings of wood from timber-framed buildings on the site (widely thought to have belonged to Vikings) to determine that the wood was cut in AD 1021. This means that the Norse arrived in North America 471 years before Columbus.

As noted in the article: “Our result of AD 1021 for the cutting year constitutes the only secure calendar date for the presence of Europeans across the Atlantic before the voyages of Columbus. Moreover, the fact that our results, on three different trees, converge on the same year is notable and unexpected. This coincidence strongly suggests Norse activity at L’Anse aux Meadows in AD 1021. Further evidence reinforces this conclusion.”

This article was updated at 21:33.

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