L’Anse aux Meadows is really pretty fascinating. (Thanks, Mr Erdoğan, for the spur to check it out again.)
The evidence at the site also suggests that more southerly voyages might have taken place, and that other settlements might be found. Archeologists believe L’Anse aux Meadows was a base camp which afforded a way-station to further explorations of North America.
Rather like the ISS and even the Mars Rover. Those Vikings from Greenland or Iceland were the demon engineers of the 11th century.
Excavations revealed a number of artifacts that are diagnostic of a Viking site. From 1961 until 1968, the Ingstad excavations uncovered Viking artifacts including a ringed pin, a soapstone spindle whorl, a bone pin, a whetstone, iron boat rivets, worked wood and other objects. There was evidence of iron-smelting and forging, and hearth charcoal is dated to A.D. 1000. The style and construction of the three longhouses and outbuildings are identical to 11th century Iceland and Greenland. The artifacts indicated weaving and iron-working, activities which were not practiced by Native Americans until after A.D. 1500. These finds confirm L’Anse aux Meadows as the earliest European settlement yet known in North America.
It may have functioned as a kind of garage or shipyard with a dry-dock.
Later excavations by Bengt Schoenbak and Birgitta Wallace for Parks Canada revealed more about the purpose of this settlement and the type of activities that took place here. Their work produced further evidence of wood-working and iron-smelting, suggesting that the main activity at the site was repairing damaged vessels or constructing new ones from wood obtained in the nearby forests. Butternuts and worked pieces of butternut wood-a tree that was not native to Newfoundland but was present one thousand years ago in northern Nova Scotia and New Brunswick-were also found. This discovery indicates that the people who lived at L’Anse aux Meadows had traveled further south into the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and had brought back nuts and wood native to those southern areas and were sampling the region’s resources as described in the sagas. These finds suggest that the L’Anse aux Meadows site was a base-camp or gateway to the rich lands around the Gulf of St. Lawrence, which is likely the Vinland of the sagas.
Now, this is very cool:
The excavations at L’Anse aux Meadows provide a small bit of evidence for these contacts in the form of two artifacts obtained by the Norse from skraelings. One is a beautiful oval soapstone lamp found in the smelting hut. Unlike thick, roughly-made soapstone lamps made by the Norse, this lamp is thin and delicately carved and is an unmistakable product of a Dorset Eskimo carver. How this piece arrived at L’Anse aux Meadows is mysterious, because there were no Dorset people living in Newfoundland at this time. It seems likely that the Norse obtained this lamp by trade or by taking it from an abandoned Dorset site they visited in Labrador.
So the Norse were adventurous explorers but clumsy artists while the Dorset Eskimos made delicately-carved artifacts. And it’s something of a puzzle how the Vikings got a Dorset lamp. That’s reminiscent of Otzi the Iceman, who had with him some tools that present a puzzle as to where they came from and how he got them. I’m enthralled by that kind of thing – trade routes and exchanges far in the past that are unknown to us now.