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LAnse aux Meadows

The Saga of the Greenlanders and The Saga of
Eric the Red are two of the most valuable
sources concerning the Vikings in North
America. These sagas tell the story of Norse
expeditions to North America. It is in these
documents that Vinland is first mentioned. The
events in these sagas took place during the 11th
century and were passed down orally until they
were written down in the 13th century by
anonymous authors.

Dating to the early 11th century, the site of LAnse aux

Meadows is the most famous site of Norse settlement in
North America and contains many clues as to where Vinland
may have been. Located on the northernmost tip of
Newfoundland, Canada, LAnse aux Meadows consists of the
remains of eight buildings, including dwellings, storage rooms
and even a charcoal kiln and furnace.
Reconstruction of a
Viking longhouse at
LAnse aux Meadows

Some scholars believe LAnse aux Meadows to be Vinland itself. However, it

is more likely that this site was a way-station for the Viking explorers and
served as a gateway to the region of Vinland. Its location on the Strait of
Belle Isle and the western shore of Newfoundlands Northern Peninsula
shows that the main traffic south was through the Strait. The Strait acts as a
natural funnel that leads into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The Gulf forms a sort
of inland sea that can be circumnavigated by beginning and ending the
voyage at LAnse aux Meadows. It is likely that this is exactly what the
Vikings did. The southern area of the Gulf, with its leafy forests, green grass,
grapes and diverse flora and fauna, matches the description of Vinland given
in the sagas. From their base at LAnse aux Meadows the Vikings were able
to explore all of Vinland.

Photograph courtesy of

Photograph courtesy of A Gentle Madness

LAnse aux
Map courtesy of


Saga of Erik the Red

Photograph by Randall Hobbet

Flora and Fauna

Five hundred years before
Christopher Columbus historic
voyage to the Americas, the
Vikings had stepped onto the
shores of northern Canada in a
land that Leif Eriksson dubbed
Vinland. This made the Vikings
the first ever Europeans to
reach North America. Vinlands
location has been a source of
debate among scholars for
decades. However, the
evidence of the Vikings in
North America strongly points
to it being not a specific site,
but a region: the coast of the
Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Photograph courtesy of Anagoria

Photo graph courtesy of

Map courtesy of

The two major figures from the sagas, Bjarni Herjolfsson and Leif Erikson
both played a part in the discovery of Vinland. Bajrni set out from
Iceland with intentions of reaching Greenland. During their voyage,
Bjarni and his crew sighted land three times before finally reaching
Greenland. After hearing of Bjarnis voyage, Leif Erikson set sail for the
unknown land that
Bjarni had
Bjarni =
Leif =
encountered. Leif
sailed for many days
and saw much of the
same land that Bjarni
had seen. Eventually
Leif sailed up a river
that flowed into the
sea from a lake and
dropped anchor. On
the shore of this lake,
New Brunswick
Nova Scotia
Leif and his crew built Statue of Leif Erikson near the
Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul
a base known as
Voyages of Bjarni and Leif
Leifsbir and called
the region Vinland.

Likely exploration route along the coast of

the Gulf of St. Lawrence

The plants and animals that lived

where the Vikings landed provide
many clues as to where Vinland
might be located. One plant that
Leif and his crew saw that helps
us locate Vinland is grapes. The
farthest north that grapes grow
today is Nova Scotia and New
Brunswick, areas located on the
coast of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
The fact that the Vikings found
grapes helps to establish a
southern border for Vinland. Leif
and his crew also encountered
salmon where they landed.
Today, salmon, a cold water fish,
are not found south of New York.
However, the Viking expeditions
to North America took

place during a time known as

the medieval warm period.
During this period the climate
was slightly warmer than it is
today. This means that salmon
would have been found in
regions farther north such as
Newfoundland. This helps to
establish a northern border for
Vinland. These borders mark
the coast of the Gulf of St.
Lawrence, making it a likely
location for Vinland.
Photograph courtesy of National Geographic

Bjarni Herjolfsson and Leif Erikson