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News: Vikings visited Canadian Arctic, research suggests


Vikings visited Canadian Arctic, research suggests
Artifacts suggest Norse settlement in Nunavut
By Randy Boswell, Canwest News Service
May 27, 2009


One of Canada's top Arctic archeologists says the remnants of a stone-and-sod wall unearthed on southern Baffin Island may be traces of a shelter built more than 700 years ago by Norse seafarers, a stunning find that would be just the second location in the New World with evidence of a Viking-built structure.

The tantalizing signs of a possible medieval Norse presence in Nunavut were found at the previously examined Nanook archeological site, about 200 kilometres southwest of Iqaluit, where people of the now-extinct Dorset culture once occupied a stretch of Hudson Strait shoreline.

A UNESCO World Heritage site at northern Newfoundland's L'Anse aux Meadows -- about 1,500 kilometres southeast of the Nanook dig -- is the only confirmed location of a Viking settlement in North America. There, about 1,000 years ago, it's believed a party of Norse voyagers from Greenland led by Leif Eiriksson built sod-and-wood dwellings before abandoning their colonization attempt under threat from hostile natives they called "Skraelings."

However, over the past 10 years, research teams led by the Canadian Museum of Civilization's chief of Arctic archeology, Pat Sutherland, have compiled evidence from field studies and archived collections that strongly suggests the Norse presence in northern Canada didn't end with Eiriksson's retreat from Newfoundland.

At three sites on Baffin Island, which the Norse called "Helluland" or "land of stone slabs," and another in northern Labrador, the researchers have documented dozens of suspected Norse artifacts such as Scandinavian-style spun yarn, distinctively notched and decorated wood objects and whetstones for sharpening knives and axes.

Among the new artifacts found near the sod-and-stone features at Nanook is a whalebone spade, consistent with tools found at Norse sites in Greenland, and which might have been used to cut sections of turf for the shelter.

There is also evidence at Nanook of what appears to be a rock-lined drainage system comparable to others found at proven Viking sites.

The apparent "architectural elements" found at the site still have to be confirmed, Sutherland says. "They're definitely anomalous for Dorset culture, and, when you see these things in connection with Norse artifacts, it suggests that there may have been some kind of a shore station."

Sutherland's theory is that Norse sailors continued to travel between Greenland and Arctic Canada for generations after the failed colonization bid in Newfoundland. She believes they encountered and possibly traded with the Dorset, ancient aboriginals who were later overrun, probably before 1400 AD, by the eastward-migrating Thule ancestors of modern Inuit.

The theory is controversial.

University of Waterloo archeologist Robert Park recently challenged the dating of artifacts and Sutherland's interpretations of evidence in a paper published by the journal Antiquity.

Park argues that the most plausible explanation for Norse-like traces at Nanook and other sites is that "none of these traits come from Dorset-European contact."

He suggests such items may have been developed without any Norse influence by the ancient indigenous inhabitants of northern Canada.

Sutherland insists that, while proof of Norse-Dorset interaction isn't overwhelming, there are "several lines of evidence" pointing to sustained contact. She also notes that the kind of "boulders and turf" structural feature observed at Nanook is "atypical for Dorset" and consistent with Norse culture.

Sutherland, whose research is also featured in the current edition of Canadian Geographic, says a scientific paper summarizing a decade's worth of work on the national museum's Helluland project is to be published in August.

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen
Source: http://www.canada.com/technology/science/Vikings+visited+Canadian+Arctic+research+suggests/1635865/story.html





Another version of the story...


New Viking Settlements Found In North America

A second location of Norse settlement in North America has been found, showing Viking settlers ventured farther west and into the continent than had been previously believed.

The discovered remains of a 700-year-old Norse shelter were uncovered in a previously-examined Nanook archeological site, 200 kilometers southwest of Iqaluit in the Canadian territory of Nunavut. The location is also where the now-extinct Dorset people once inhabited a stretch of Hudson Strait shoreline.

At three sites on Baffin Island, which the Norse called “Helluland” or “land of stone slabs,” and another in northern Labrador, research teams led by the Canadian Museum of Civilization’s chief of Arctic archeology, Pat Sutherland, have compiled evidence from field studies and archived collections, documenting dozens of suspected Norse artifacts such as Scandinavian-style spun yarn, distinctively notched and decorated wood objects and whetstones for sharpening knives and axes.

Among the new artifacts found near the sod-and-stone features at Nanook is a whalebone spade, consistent with tools found at Norse sites in Greenland, and which might have been used to cut sections of turf for the shelter.

Another piece of evidence shows what appears to be a rock-lined drainage system comparable to others found at proven Viking sites.

Sutherland says the remains are inconsistent with Dorset culture and believes they are evidence of Viking shore stations. She theorizes that Norse sailors continued to travel between Greenland and Arctic Canada for generations after the failed colonization bid in Newfoundland. L’Anse aux Meadows, located about 1,500 kilometers southeast of the excavation site, is the only confirmed location of Viking settlement in North America and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Sutherland believes Vikings encountered and possibly traded with the Dorset, who were later overrun, probably before 1400 AD, by the eastward-migrating Thule ancestors of modern Inuit.

Sutherland’s research is featured in the current edition of Canadian Geographic, and is currently writing a scientific paper summarizing her decade’s worth of work on the national museum’s Helluland project, which is expected to be published in August.


Source: http://www.therightperspective.org/2009/06/13/new-viking-settlements-found-in-north-america/

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