Vikings were in the Americas exactly a thousand years ago

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The study examined wooden artifacts from a previously undetected Viking settlement in Newfoundland, providing the earliest known record of humans crossing the Atlantic to reach the Americas.

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The site, known as L’Anse aux Meadows, is located on the northern peninsula of Newfoundland.

The researchers landed on a certain date, thanks to two unlikely sources: shredded wood and a solar storm that occurred more than a thousand years ago.


When the Vikings arrived at L’Anse aux Meadows, they cut down trees using metal blades that were not produced by the indigenous population living in the area at the time. The pieces of wood left in the settlement came from three different trees.

Within those fragments were tree rings—including a clear marker for the year 993. A year ago, scientists know there was a giant solar storm, releasing a stream of cosmic rays, or highly energetic particles, from the Sun at nearly speed. Light.

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This left behind a noticeable and distinctive signature in the rings of the tree for the year 993.

“Special uplifts in radiocarbon production that occurred between AD 992 and 993 have been found in tree-ring archives around the world,” said Michael De, lead study author and associate professor of isotope chronology at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. .

The 29 growth rings just before all three wooden objects meet the edge of the bark show the same signal from a solar storm.

“Finding a solar storm signal from 29 growth rings from the bark allowed us to conclude that the bite activity occurred in the year 1021 AD,” said study co-author and postdoctoral researcher Margot Kuitmes at the University of Groningen.

A study including these findings published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

global exploration

Dee said securing this date suggests that it is the earliest known presence of Europeans in the Americas before Christopher Columbus, as well as all the earliest evidence of human migration and exploration that crossed the Atlantic.

The Vikings also established a presence in Iceland and Greenland in the west before arriving at the L’Anse aux Meadows site.

“It is believed that the Vikings moved west to find new raw materials, especially wood,” Dee said. “By traveling between continents for such materials, it is described as a first step in globalization.”

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While the exact number of visits to the Americas, or how long they stayed there, is unclear, current evidence suggests that this was probably a short-lived stay for the Vikings. But there is evidence at the L’Anse aux Meadows site to show that Vikings explored areas south of Newfoundland while they were in the Americas.

Previous attempts to understand when the Vikings arrived in the Americas are rooted in the Icelandic sagas, but these were once oral histories written centuries after they actually occurred. The sagas are full of fictional notes, but they also point to possible encounters between the Vikings and the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Some of these incidents were described as friendly and others as violent.

This microscope image shows the inner rings of a piece of wood from L'Anse aux Meadows.
When cross-checked with medieval texts, in which a . also includes Recently discovered, it appears that other Europeans knew that the Vikings had reached a new land across the Atlantic. The combination of modern research techniques and the discovery of other texts could help establish a timeline for the Vikings in the Americas, as well as who else knew about it, Dee said.

traversing viking track

But it is very hard to find archaeological evidence to support the stories in the sagas.

“This date serves as an anchor point for the Icelandic sagas,” De said. “This is somewhat in keeping with the date estimates based on these sagas, and therefore adds some credibility to stories that involve the discovery of the Americas and interactions with indigenous inhabitants. In other ways, most sagas experts expect later than that.”

Previously, researchers believed that the Vikings were in America in the late 990s or early 1000s.

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“That means the Vikings were a little later, or they came and went longer, or they stayed on the site longer than expected,” Dee said.

Using cosmic ray events can help researchers study other historical sites of Viking or medieval origin, as at least two events have occurred during this period, in 775 and 993. Researchers are also trying to detect other solar storms, and so far, they have confirmed another event that occurred in 660 BC.

This aerial view shows renovated buildings near L'Anse aux Meadows.
Previously, D’s team has used Dating method at another historical site With an unknown age before the exact year radiocarbon dating.

Looking ahead, Dee and his colleagues want to delve deeper into the story of Norse exploration of the North Atlantic, he said. They are already applying their dating method to other “chronological questions” around the world.

“Over time, it is hoped that such research will provide new and explanatory insights into the story of the human past,” Dee said.


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