L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site of Canada
Excavations of building F. Its the largest one on site and was likely the hall built for and used by Leifur Eiriksson. Trenches delineating the surface of building "D" can be seen in the background. © National Library of Norway/Ingstad Collection
In 1978, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) inscribed L'Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site of Canada on the World Heritage List. The remains of this 1000-year-old Viking colony on Newfoundland's most northern peninsula mark the first known European settlement in the Americas south of Greenland. Despite having a harsh climate today, L’Anse aux Meadows was more temperate and was very attractive to settlers from Greenland and Iceland beginning around 1000 A.D.
Viking (or Norse) sagas tell the story of the exploration of North America around 1000 A.D., including Norse explorer Leif Eiriksson’s establishment of a base camp on the island named "Leifsbúðir" (Leif's Camp). When wild grapes were discovered nearby, Leif named the new land "Vinland" (Land of Wine). After Eriksson’s initial voyage, other members of his family led further expeditions to the area. According to the sagas, one woman even gave birth in Leifsbúðir! There is strong evidence that these explorers ventured as far southwest as New Brunswick and the St. Lawrence River, but that Leif's Camp remained their base. Within a decade, however, the great distance to Greenland and skirmishes with Aboriginal peoples led the Vikings to abandon Vinland.
Archaeological techniques allowed for the discovery and identification of a Norse establishment reported in the Norse Sagas, revealing many important insights about the inhabitant’s lives.
Examples of objects found at L’Anse aux Meadows © Parks Canada
In 1960, Norwegian archaeologists Helge Ingstad and his wife Anne Stine unearthed the remains of a Norse site near the fishing village of L'Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland. They discovered archaeological remains spreading more than 200 metres from the shore of Epaves Bay, including eight wooden buildings covered with earth. Four of them served as dwellings, one was a smithy, while the others probably served as wood working or weaving shops.
Parks Canada completed the excavations from 1973 to 1976, collecting a number of artefacts associated with the Norse occupation. Among these were metal objects (nails and rivets), bronze and stone objects, bones and 15 kilos of slag (a by-product of ironworking). In addition, more than 2,000 wood fragments were recovered from trash pits near the buildings. Their presence proves the importance of wood working and possibly ship repairs on site.
L'Anse aux Meadows is one of the world's outstanding cultural and archaeological sites. Both the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada and the UNESCO World Heritage Committee have recognized the unique value of this place to Canadian and world history.
History and Excavations
L’Anse aux Meadows Buildings
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Vers l'an 1000 - Les Vikings
Teacher Resource Centre
L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site
Where is Vinland?
L'Anse aux Meadows video – Nfld-Labrador, Canada