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Viking Doors – L’Anse Aux Meadows – Newfoundland (part 1)
After we finished the hiking portion of our time in Gros Morne National Park we hit the road and drove up to the tip of Newfoundland’s northern peninsula to the L’Anse-aux-Meadows National Historic site.
A Unesco World Heritage site since 1978, this internationally renowned archaeological site was discovered in 1960 and contains the only confirmed Norse settlement in North America to date.
Sitting at the edge of a meadow on what feels like the ends of the earth, the haunting beauty of this place sets the imagination free.
One can’t help but think back to a time when the Norse ruled the waters of the north Atlantic, forever in search of supplies and trading partners, or places to plunder in order to supply their permanent settlements on Greenland and Iceland.
In 1960 after years spent studying the Icelandic Sagas of Norse explorers and their frequent mentions of a place called Vinland, roughly an 80-90 day sail to the west, the Norwegian husband and wife team of Helge and Anne Stine Ingstad came to northwestern Newfoundland, convinced they’d find signs that the Vikings had visited these shores.
They were right.
Interviewing older townsfolk in small villages up and down the western coast for clues, they came upon long-time L’Anse aux Meadows resident George Decker who led the couple to a group of seemingly insignificant grass-covered mounds near the village that the locals had always referred to as the “old Indian camp.”
Having seen similar mounds at permanent Norse settlements in Greenland and Iceland, the Ingstads immediately recognized what they represented: Proof that 500 years before Christopher Columbus’ first trans-Atlantic journey, Europeans not only sailed to, but set foot on and for a brief period at least, established livable settlements in the New World.
Over the next decade several archaeological excavations were carried out. They found eight complete house sites and the remains of a ninth.
The Norse origins of the site were confirmed beyond a doubt because of similarities between structures themselves compared to designs throughout the Viking world, as well as the many artifacts found at the site that were identical to those found at similar sites in Greenland and Iceland from the same time period.
Though the original mounds have been left untouched since the 1980’s, Parks Canada has done a great job of recreating the settlement as it would have looked back then, using original materials and techniques.
Walking around the site left us with an eerie sense of isolation that is impossible to put into words.
One can just feel the hardships that were endured on the journeys to get here, gather supplies, hunker down for the winter, and then travel home the next sailing season.
Parks Canada has costumed interpretive guides on-site to share the tales of the Viking sagas and answer questions about what life was like back then.
Open from late May until early October, despite its remote location L’Anse aux Meadows is well worth a visit for both the historical significance and the natural beauty.
Next week I’ll take you across the road to the Norstead Viking Village, a privately run tourist attraction that reproduces a typical permanent Norse trading settlement similar to ones found in Greenland.
Until then here’s one of my favourite Newfoundland and Labrador tourism bureau video’s, and yes the kids they found for this are absolutely adorable!
As always, thanks so much for visiting 🙂
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