L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site of Canada
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
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
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