L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site of Canada

History

Excavation by Parks Canada (1973–1976)

Parks Canada continued excavation of the site from 1973 to 1976. Among the new areas excavated by Parks Canada was the peat bog below the Norse building terrace. Three separate layers with a total of about 2000 pieces of worked wood were discovered. One of these layers was from the Norse occupation. The wood there was largely debris from smoothing and trimming logs and planks with metal tools—a reminder of the Sagas’ description of timber being prepared to take back to Greenland. There were also broken and discarded objects, including what was probably a floorboard from a small Norse boat.

The Norse site included three complexes, each with a dwelling and a workshop. Although the major purpose of the buildings was to serve as winter living quarters for the whole group, each complex housed specialized craftsmen. The smiths probably lived in the complex closest to the brook in houses A, B, and C. They roasted bog iron ore in building B and used one room of house A for smithing.

They also operated a forge on the other side of the brook, where iron was smelted in a furnace.

Map of L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site of Canada
© Parks Canada

The furnace itself was little more than a pit lined with clay and topped by a frame of large stones. The quality of the production was not impressive: four-fifths of all iron stayed in the slag. After firing, the furnace was destroyed and the building used as a smithy where the iron was reheated and the worst impurities hammered out. Only after this was done could the iron be forged and shaped into finished objects—mostly nails or rivets.

The D–E building complex was home to carpenters whose wood debris was found in the bog below this area.

The major specialized activity in the F–G complex was boat or ship repair. Here excavators found many rivets which had been deliberately cut and removed from boats to be replaced with new ones, presumably forged in house A.

To protect these significant archaeological resources, they were buried in situ, under a layer of white sand, and the whole area of the dig covered with fresh turf.

Their burial for long-term protection also met one of the fundamental conditions for inclusion on the world heritage list: protection of the significant resource.