Painting by Bernard Pelletier
© Parks Canada, Bernard Pelletier
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 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 artifacts, 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.