Thursday, July 1, 2010

L'Anse aux Meadow

One of the reasons we wanted to travel to the top of the Northern Peninsula is to see L'Anse aux Meadows National Historical Site the place where they have found evidence of the first European settlement in North America. This is another UNESCO world heritage site. In the 1960's, Dr. Helge Ingstad and his wife Anne Stine Ingstad, a Norwegian couple, began an archaeological dig in mounds here to look for proof this was the place spoken about in Norse sagas. They had been lead to the site by a local fisherman, George Decker. The dig found material proving this was a Viking settlement which existed over 1000 years ago or 500 years before Columbus. According to the sagas, Lief Eriksson established Vinland, a settlement of 70-90 people that lasted for a couple decades. The Ingstad's find proves the sagas are true.
Parks Canada has reconstructed this sod house and other buildings which fit the outline of the foundations found during the dig.
Viking reenactor Wade Hillier talks about how the Vikings lived in these sod houses that had six foot thick walls. Wade is also a local musician whom we heard play at the Norseman restaurant where we enjoyed an excellent meal. Wade spends part of the Newfoundland winter in Port Richey, Florida and plays in a bar we remember from our winter there in '08.
We are standing in the middle of the mound that was one of the big sod houses with the reconstruction in the background. Only 25% of the site has been examined, while the rest has been left as it was found for future digs as new technology develops.
This is a pit where the Vikings burned bog peat to extract small amounts of iron for nails to repair their ships. Burning a ton of peat would produce enough iron to make seven nails.
Across the road from the national historic site is Norstead, a commercial exhibit of a Viking port of trade. The park ranger said it was worth the price of admission just to see the reproduction of the Viking ship, Snorri, named after the first Viking child born in the new world. The 54 foot replica is 25 feet shorter than Viking ships which have been discovered from that era. It was worth the visit and the realization they sailed across the North Atlantic in these open ships gives you a real appreciation of this feat.
The blacksmith at Norstead gave a good explanation and demonstration of the job of smelting iron and making nails.
This is the grounds at Norstead. Left is the blacksmiths shop, the church, the house and in the background is the boat house.
This young Viking girl was demonstrating an old weaving technique.

And, of course, we became Viking king and queen. The large horn has the king's mead and the queen's smaller horn had wine. Both these sites are worth a visit and a good reason to travel to the Northern Peninsula.

No comments: