Archaeologists have confirmed only one site in North America with evidence of Viking inhabitants, but new discoveries in a remote area of Canada could reveal a second settlement. The new site is located in the forested peninsula of Point Rosee, stemming from southern Newfoundland, and is hundreds of miles away from the other known settlement. Hints founds in satellite imagery drew archaeologists to the area last summer, and what they found there strongly suggests that Vikings did, in fact, live at this newly discovered site.
Archaeologist Sarah Parcak, a National Geographic Fellow, is credited with discovering the possible Viking site at Point Rosee. She specializes in ‘space archaeology,’ the emerging practice of using satellite images to reveal lost civilizations, primarily in Egypt. Last summer, half a world away from her usual stomping grounds, Parcak led a team of scientists on a test dig on the Newfoundland peninsula, and they uncovered a stone hearth used for iron works. There is not enough evidence at this point to confirm that the hearth was in fact built by Vikings, as other peoples were known to inhabit the area, but Parcak and her team are optimistic.
The team is still assessing evidence collected during the dig, looking for further clues to support the theory that Vikings settled, at least temporarily, at Point Rosee. Archaeologists are also working to date the hearth, to determine whether this could be evidence of a settlement that paralleled the other previously confirmed Viking site. L’Anse aux Meadows sits hundreds of miles away on the northern tip of Newfoundland. That settlement, discovered in 1960, dates to around the year 1000 and is believed to have been a temporary dwelling for the ancient Vikings.
If the Point Rosee artifacts are determined to be from a different point in time, the find may redraw the history of the Vikings’ attempt to settle in North America. At this point, archaeologists are eager to learn more, and figure out whether Point Rosee is one of the lost Viking settlements described in centuries-old Norse sagas.
The discovery is featured in a BBC documentary entitled The Vikings Uncovered, which is scheduled to air next week.
Photos by Greg Mumford and the Environmental Council of Newfoundland and Labrador