CANADA

L’Anse aux Meadows, NL

L’Anse aux Meadows

Where the Vikings built North America’s first European settlement in A.D. 1000

CHRISTOPHER Columbus’s status as the first European to find North America has long been disputed—fishing fleets from various parts of the Old World may have known about it centuries earlier, for example—but the first proof of European New World settlement didn’t come until the 1960s when archaeologists found a small cloak pin and the outlines of sod houses at L’Anse aux Meadows on the northernmost tip of Newfoundland.

Lonely Planet Canada, 14th edition

“Norse folklore had mentioned a site called ‘Vinland’ for centuries,” says the 14th edition of Lonely Planet Canada, and here it was: in A.D. 1000, led by Leif Erickson, Vikings had sailed from Scandinavia and landed at L’Anse aux Meadows, where “they settled, constructed houses, fed themselves and even smelted iron out of the bog to forge nails… Archaeologists now believe the site was a base camp and that Vikings ranged much further along the coast.”

L’Anse aux Meadows is now both a Canadian national historic site (www.pc.gc.ca/lanseauxmeadows) and a UNESCO World Heritage site. “Visitors can see the remains of [the Vikings’] waterside settlement: eight wood-and-sod buildings, now just vague outlines in the spongy ground, plus three replica buildings inhabited by costumed docents.”

The guidebook says to “allow two or three hours to walk around and absorb the ambience.” It admits that “visiting a bog in the middle of nowhere and staring at the spot where a couple of old sod houses once stood” may seem dull, “but somehow this site, lying in a forlorn sweep of land, turns out to be one of Newfoundland’s most stirring attractions.”

The guidebook recommends the site’s interpretive centre and the three kilometres of trails leading from it.

 

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