Thu. Jun 1st, 2023

Archaeological evidence found in the 1960s at the northern tip of Newfoundland proved that Europeans made it to North America in the 11th-century, hundreds of years earlier than previously thought.

The remains of wood-framed, peat turf buildings discovered during the excavation work are similar to those found from the same time period in Greenland and Iceland. The area also corresponds to journeys outlined in the Norse sagas.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site

The 1960s discovery of the former Norse settlement at L’Anse aux Meadows forever changed our understanding of the Viking Age.

Extensive archaeological research revealed timber-framed structures built with gabled roofs and covered with turf from the nearby peat bog. Both the building materials, construction style and layout of the buildings all followed characteristic Norse design.

Around 800 items of wood, bronze, bone and stone were discovered that shed light on the lifestyle of the settlers, while further confirming the Norse origin.

So important was the find to cultural heritage that L’Anse aux Meadows became one of world’s first 12 World Heritage sites when UNESCO began its program in 1978.

The program stated that L’Anse aux Meadows is “the first and only known site established by Vikings in North America and the earliest evidence of European settlement in the New World” and as such, “it is a unique milestone in the history of human migration and discovery.”

The protected area covers a much wider area than where the Norse remains were found. Archaeological sites have been reburied to protect the remains from degradation.

Visiting L’Anse aux Meadows today

Today, some of the original artifacts are on display at the site. But most of what visitors will see is a recreation of what the original camp would have looked like, based on archaeological evidence, similar settlements in Greenland and Iceland, and information contained within the Norse sagas.

Visitors are guided around the site by costumed Viking Age reenactors telling the story of L’Anse aux Meadows but also Viking Age life in general. Some of this is done around a fire inside a reconstructed sod building, where you’ll hear both heroic and tragic tales of battles and Norse sagas.

The Viking Age camp allows visitors to see how blacksmiths and cooks worked, with reproductions of many tools and everyday items.

Inside the more traditional visitor center, original artefacts including a cloak fastening pin and bone needle are on display, together with 3D models, audio recordings of the sagas, and a 2/3-scale replica Viking boat.

Fans of escape rooms will be delighted to hear of Test of Tykir, the site’s very own twist on the popular activity inspired by the Vinland Sagas. Booking this in advance is essential.

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