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Vikings

The Vikings: First Europeans On North America

The Carbon C-14 testing of excavated relics found at L’Anse Aux Meadows, Newfoundland, proved beyond a doubt that the Norwegian Vikings were the first Europeans to reach North America in 1000 A.D. This surpassed the arrival of Christopher Columbus by 492 years. The primary source of information for this concise book came from the Groenlendinga Saga, written two hundred years after the event, and later translated from the Old Norse language.

We only have a glimpse of what the people were like who lived in the turf-covered houses in the settlement Leiv Eiriksson named Leifsbùdfir. It was located at the place now known as L’Anse Aux Meadows, on the Newfoundland peninsula; a land Leiv named Vinland. The saga tells us they were a robust, hardworking, and resourceful people. At times they were quick to act and were ruthless, especially when their honor or that of their family was involved. Their world was one of home, children, friendship and tradition.

All members of the Viking expeditions to Vinland kept their weapons close at hand and remained constantly alert, especially when outside Leisfbùdir. They never knew what the Skraelings (the name given to the Eskimos and Indians by the Thorvald expedition) might do or when they would do it. All but the Leiv Eiriksson expedition encountered the Skraelings, although it is believed that Leiv found evidence of them and perhaps even saw them at a distance.

Why didn’t the Vikings colonize those parts of North America they had discovered as Columbus did in South America? The answer is firearms. Columbus had guns and that made him and his men superior. The Vikings had swords, but basically their weapons were similar to the Skraelings: bows, arrows and spears. The most important factor was the Skraelings greatly outnumbered the Vikings. Did the Skraelings eventually annihilate the Vikings, or did the Vikings leave of their own accord?

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© The Vikings 2012