L'Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site, Newfoundland and Labrador

Grassy mounds in foreground with reconstructed sod houses, two visitors, and ocean in background. Even after 1000 years the foundations of the Norse sod huts are still visible.
Female visitor planes wood while man dressed in period costume watches. Two interpreters in period costume talk in background. Re-enactors share with visitors Norse skills of 1000 years ago and stories of the Viking arrival in North America.

Date of Inscription: 1978

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site was designated as a World Heritage site by UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee under the following criterion:

Criterion (vi): L’Anse aux Meadows is the first and only known site established by Vikings in North America and the earliest evidence of European settlement in the New World. As such, it is a unique milestone in the history of human migration and discovery.

Description

The remains of the 1,000-year-old Viking colony at L'Anse aux Meadows mark the site of the First known European settlement in North America. It was here that the Vikings built three timber-and-sod longhouses and five smaller buildings - and here that the first iron working in the New World began.

Sailors aboard an Icelandic trading ship blown off course en route to Greenland around 985 were the first to report new lands to the west. Fifteen years later, Leif Eiriksson wintered at a settlement called Straumfiord - also known as Leif’s Camp - on a grassy terrace near present L’Anse aux Meadows. In the years following, members of his family and a group of colonists visited the camp and ventured possibly as far southwest as New Brunswick. But conflict with Aboriginal people apparently obliged them to withdraw from the area and they returned to Greenland within a decade.

In 1960, the Norwegian team of Helge Ingstad and Anne Stine Ingstad, following Viking sagas recorded in medieval Icelandic manuscripts, located the ruins of Straumfiord. Excavation by the Ingstads and, later, by Parks Canada, unearthed the remains of eight buildings and hundreds of Viking artefacts, mostly of wood but also of iron, stone, bronze and bone. Norse contacts with the New World continued sporadically until at least the mid-14th century, and knowledge of the new lands likely remained among European sailors, facilitating the reopening of the Atlantic sea lanes in the 1490s.

More Information

Parks Canada:

L'Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site of Canada

Historic Sites and Monument Board of Canada

World Heritage Centre:

World Heritage - L'Anse aux Meadows