13-012 Norse Discovery of North America II
Vol. 13 No. 012 11/18/2012
Lead: Beginning in the year 1000 Norse sailors established settlements on the eastern coast of Newfoundland. While their habitation of so-called Vinland was brief, they beat Columbus by five centuries.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: The Norse, sometimes referred to as Vikings, were exceptional sailors, farmers, traders, and shipwrights. They were also intuitive navigators. Denied modern tools such as the compass, either by dead reckoning, the use of star patterns born of long experience or fortuitous pursuit of rumors, they made the far north Atlantic a Viking lake. The islands of present-day northern Scotland, Iceland and Greenland fell to Norse discovery and control in the 9th and 10th centuries.

Erik the Red established settlements in Greenland about 985 and his son Leif, acting on rumors of a vast landmass just to west, sailed in three ships and with a few men to the coast of Newfoundland about the year 1000. Erikson called it Vinland for the vines and berries that grew there in abundance. Modern archeological discoveries at L’Anse aux Meadows present strong evidence that Erikson’s main settlement was at this coastal Newfoundland site.

One of the continuing problems during the two centuries that the Norse maintained their North American salient, was the hostility of indigenous peoples, whom the Vikings derisively called “skraelings.” Some clans traded with the settlers, most did not. Yet, this was not the main difficulty preventing settlement at such a distance from Scandinavia. A profound change in the climate with the onset of the Little Ice Age in the early 12th century made permanent habitation unsustainable. Three centuries would pass before Europeans would again re-establish the Viking connection, old world to new.

At the University of Richmond, this is Dan Roberts.


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Copyright 2012 by Dan Roberts Enterprises, Inc.