Monday, November 12, 2012

Vikings on Baffin Island

Leiv Eiriksson discovering America
by Christian Krohg (1893).
One of the most fascinating questions in Viking history is the extent of their exploration of North America and contact with Native Americans. "Vikings and Native Americans," an article in the November 2012 issue of National Geographic, presents archaeological evidence that Vikings had extensive contact with the Dorset peoples of present-day north eastern Canada and may have created at least semi-permanent trading posts on Baffin Island and in northern Labrador. Evidence includes wooden tally sticks like those used by the Vikings (the area is largely devoid of trees), whale bone worked with a drill, and rope made from spun yarn. At a place called Tanfield Valley on the southern end of Baffin Island, archaeologists are excavating what appears to be the foundation for a stone and sod long house, something very different and much larger than the dwellings build by the native peoples. The valley boasts a protected cove which would have served as a natural harbor for Viking traders. What were the Viking's trading for? Most likely they were looking for furs, walrus tusk ivory, and most interesting of all, narwhal tusks that enterprising merchants marketed as unicorn horns. Check out the article if you need a Viking fix.


  1. This one of things about exploration that people 'know' but can't fully prove. That said, they have discovered at least one Viking Longboat in N.America.

  2. Yes, it's unfortunate the Vikings didn't create a series of sagas about the North American explorations. Perhaps if they had stayed in Greenland permanently, we would have more stories.