Norsemen landing in Iceland - The Other Side TV, Season 6, Episode 10

Extra Research for Season 6 – Episode 10 – One True Norseman

Who were the Vikings?

The Germanic people living in Scandinavia were referred to as “Viking” and “Norse” interchangeably in ancient Europe.  But the difference between the two is their occupations.  The Norse were full-time traders where Vikings were warriors lead by Jarl, a Norse or Danish chief, or people of noble birth.  Vikings were mainly farmers not full-time warriors, however, they fought like warriors when the situation presented itself.

L’Anse aux Meadows & the Vikings

L’Anse aux Meadows is located at the very tip of Newfoundland and is the only known Norse settlement in North America.  Before the Vikings arrived at L’Anse aux Meadows over 1,000 years ago, evidence has shown that the area was inhabited by at least five different Indigenous groups more than 6,000 years ago.  The most apparent of these earlier occupations was by the Dorset people, who predated the Norsemen by about 200 years.  The Dorset people were a pre-Inuit culture, that lasted from 500 BC to between 1000-1500 AD.  It seems that none of the aboriginals resided there at the time of the Norsemen.

The Viking village there today was discovered in 1960 by Helge Ingstad who was shown some overgrown bumps and ridges by a local resident.  The locals called it the “old Indian camp”.  Excavation of the site revealed the remains of an old Norwegian colony and their buildings and is like those found to the east in Greenland and Iceland.

Eight buildings were found and are believed to have been constructed of sod placed over a wooden frame or peat and turf buildings.  The buildings were identified as dwellings or workshops. The largest dwelling consisted of several rooms.  Three small buildings may have been workshops or living quarters. Three other buildings were identified as possibly an iron smithy, a carpentry workshop, and a specialized boat repair area.

The remains of seven Norse buildings are on display at the national historic site.  North of the Norse ruins are reconstructed buildings, built in the late 20th century, as a part of an interpretive display for the site. The remains of an aboriginal hunting camp are also located at the site, southwest of the Norse remains.

— Joanne Schiavoni

Photo Credit: Oscar Wergeland, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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