Both the “Saga of the Greenlanders” and the “Saga of Erik the Red” mention the Vikings crossing the seas to explore a country warm enough to grow grapes. They called it “Vinland,” meaning “land of wine.” Most academics and intellectuals believed that “Vinland” was a mythical place, though a few believed that these stories, written in the 13th and 14th centuries, referenced North America. It wasn’t until the 1960s that archaeological excavations at L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland, Canada confirmed the Vikings had come to North America about 470 years before Christopher Columbus’ dubious discovery of the continent.
L’Anse aux Meadows
Archeologists discovered the remains of eight timber-framed, turf structures, like those the Vikings used in Greenland and Iceland. About 800 objects of wood, stone, bronze, and bone confirmed the site was used by Norsemen. In 2021, scientists determined the precise year of the site’s Viking occupation: 1021.
L’Anse aux Meadows was home to no more than 100 people. It was probably used as a base for further explorations. However, there is some conjecture that it was supposed to become a permanent settlement. According to the sagas, the Vikings left Vinland due to infighting and the attacks by indigenous people, who they called “skraeling.”
UNESCO and the Historic Site
In 1978, UNESCO listed L’Anse aux Meadows National Park as a World Heritage site. The property encompasses almost 20,000 acres, which is much more than where the Viking artifacts were found. It includes a forge, four workshops and three dwellings. Canada established the national park in 1975.
Visitors to the site will find tour guides dressed as Vikings, who provide information about the life of the people who lived there. The tours cover the original artifacts as well as the re-created buildings. Guests may try weaving and blacksmithing and hear stories of Norse sagas and legends.
Nearby Norstead offers more Viking-related activities, including the Viking ship “Snorri” ready for visitors to inspect, axe throwing and authentic Viking games. L’Anse aux Meadows is open from June to October depending on weather conditions. At the time of this writing, the cost of admission for adults is $12.50 and children (17 and younger) are free.
Grapes in Canada?
L’Anse aux Meadows is too cold to grow grapes. However, exotic woods found there suggest that the Vikings traveled farther south to a place where they could make wine. Attaching the name “Vinland” to the areas of North America they explored would be logical and suggests that there might be another Viking settlement to find on the continent.
Of course, Asgard Alaska would like to become the best place to explore Norse and Viking history in North America, but we understand that competing with a place where Vikings lived and attempted to set up a permanent settlement is a tall task. Still, with your help, we will offer a true Viking experience for those who are unable to travel to L’Anse aux Meadows. If you’re interested in other Viking-related places, check out our article: Place Inspirations: Foteviken Museum, Ohio’s Viking Longhall.