29 January 2010

Historical Perspective of the Greenland Vikings (2)

The second installment follows:

2 - Leif Eiriksson wrote nothing down; we do not know what he called the settlement he constructed on Newfoundland. The sagas refer to the site as Leifsbudir, or Leif’s Booths.

The Norwegian Helge Ingstad, and his wife, Dr. Anne Stine Ingstad, an archeologist, discovered and excavated Leifsbudir between 1961 and 1968.

This momentous but oft–ignored discovery proves that Northmen were the first Europeans on the North American continent. They regularly sailed from Greenland to North America, Iceland, and Norway for more than four hundred years before Columbus was born.

Between 997 and 1002, Leif and his men completed construction of the houses and support buildings of Leifsbudir, at the head of the small bay where he landed. The buildings were not temporary huts, but permanent all-weather structures.

According to the Norse sagas, Leifsbudir was one of at least three permanent settlements built and utilized by Greenlanders and Icelanders. The other settlements referred to in the sagas, Hop (meaning tide pools), and Straumfjord (meaning stream fjord), have never been located.

Greenlanders used three place names, attributable to Leif Eiriksson, to describe areas where they landed: Helluland (Flat Stone Land) believed to be Baffin Island; Markland (Wood Land) most likely heavily wooded Labrador; and Vinland meaning and exact location unknown—a general area, not a specific place.

Given the Northmen’s propensity for exploration, as well as the need to constantly find new hunting grounds, it is safe to assume they also explored much of the northeastern coast of North America and made forays into the interior. Like the natives they encountered, they hunted and traded. Their simple lifestyle left no sign of their passage.

Norse artifacts have been found on the south shore of Ungava Bay in Hudson Strait, the western and eastern shores of Hudson Bay itself, Baffin Island, Labrador, Newfoundland Island, and many other sites in the Canadian North. A Norse penny recently turned up in Maine, and a rune stone was unearthed in Minnesota during the latter portion of the nineteenth century.

Norse artifacts have been found as far inland as the state of Oklahoma. With the exception of the Norse penny found in Maine, archeologists continue to disagree about the authenticity of all other Norse artifacts discovered in the United States.

The Norse Greenlanders, primarily livestock farmers and hunters, were also warriors by nature and necessity and fully capable of defending themselves against all comers. The indigenous people they encountered as they explored were numerically superior. Weaponry was similar enough that the outcome of protracted armed conflict tended not to favor the Northmen.

Not surprisingly, the natives were friendly and anxious to trade in the beginning. After all, they had no reason to dislike their Norse visitors; they had never seen one before.

To be continued...

1 comment:

Kim Smith said...

Love your blog! Very interesting subject. I think my heritage may well be Norse.