Yesterday, October 12 was the 519th anniversary of the day Christopher Columbus landed in the new world. For many years history recorded this event as the first European discovery of the Western Hemisphere. But as so often happens, history has to be rewritten when new evidence surfaces.
In 1960, an archaeologist named Al Gingstad was researching the Greenlandic Sagas, a collection of written materials that chronicles Leif Ericson’s supposed journey from his home of Greenland to North America. Up to that point in time no hard evidence had ever been discovered that could prove that vikings travelled all the way across the Atlantic to North America.
While Dr. Gingstad was in L’anse Aux Meadows, Newfoundland in Canada he began to ask the locals if there were any ruins nearby. It was Newfoundland that Dr. Gingstad believed was the land in the Sagas called Vinland because of grapes in the area. The local fishermen took him to an indian camp that was obviously very old. While inspecting the site, Dr. Gingstad noticed that the ruins looked nothing like that of Native Americans. In fact they looked much like something he had studied for a very long time. His trained eye concluded the thick walled grass hut ruins were that of vikings.
Here was evidence that would turn historian’s world’s upside down. Could this be proof that Europeans discovered North America well before Columbus?
After carbon-14 dating was conducted, archaeologists were able to determine that these ruins in fact matched the exact time in which the Greenlandic oral sagas placed the vikings in North America, between 995 A.D. and 1000 A.D. Written record finally matched hard evidence.
To top things off, evidence was found on the site that suggested iron smelting had taken place at that location. No known Native Americans to that point in time had the knowledge and technology to perform ironworks.
The evidence was clear. Archaeology had proven that Vikings from Europe discovered North America 500 years before Columbus.
There was even evidence found that suggested the European Natives explored as far south as the modern Northeastern United States. Butternuts were found at the Canadian site. Butternuts do not grow very far north past the Northern portion of the modern United States.
The vikings only lived at L’anse Aux Meadows for about 3 years, but they did live there. Their influence was not felt as far as the Spanish’s after the discovery of the Bahamas by Columbus, but they were definitely in the new world long before the famous explorer.
The final word has not been given in terms of who actually found North America first. We now know that the Vikings discovered it at least 500 years before Columbus. However other claims by the Irish, the Welsh, and the Chinese have never been proven, but still cannot totally be counted out. One thing is for sure. At some point in the last several thousand or tens of thousands of years, men from somewhere in Asia traveled into a new world from the west and discovered North America before any other human being. Their names are not known, but we today call them Native Americans.
Photo one: The Fossil HD cover for October 13, 2011.
Photo two: Norse Long House recreated at L’anse Aux Meadows, Newfoundland.(Photo by D. Gordon E. Robertson)
Photo Three: Butternuts
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