The author of ‘Vikings in America’ claims that around 1,000 years ago, Vikings crossed the Atlantic and settled in America.
Vikings in America is a new book which aims to challenge the view that America was discovered by Christopher Columbus in the fifteenth century. Author Graeme Davis claims that in a process of travelling from island to island, starting in Scandinavia, the Vikings gradually made their way to America by way of Iceland and Greenland.
The Viking Colony of Greenland
During the early Middle Ages, Vikings were well known as sea traders, and sometimes as attackers who arrived by sea, plundered an area, then returned home by boat, taking the treasure they had stolen.
However, the Vikings were also keen explorers, who, over the centuries, explored further and further from their home countries. Their Greenland colony, created late in the tenth century, enabled them to settle and trade on the island, and the settlement was so successful, it lasted around 500 years.
Despite this success, however, a lack of timber on Greenland led an impulse for explorers to investigate the seas around this area, to find wood for boats and houses. From here, believes Davis, the Vikings found their way to Baffin Island, Canada, on to Labrador and thence to Newfoundland.
The Vikings and L’Anse Aux Meadows
Graeme Davis advises that a Viking ship could manage 125 miles when sailing conditions were ideal, which makes the claim that Vikings did reach America a credible one. One thousand miles south of Greenland, a sail of around ten days, was L’Anse Aux Meadows, a Viking settlement which was excavated in the 1960s.
Most archaeological experts believe that L’Anse Aux Meadows was a temporary site, suitable for over-wintering or replenishing supplies, rather than for permanent living. The absence of any burials here suggests, says Davis, suggests that no one ever saw the base as home.
The Vikings and Vinland
The fourth chapter of the book is concerned with exploring where in America the land of Vinland was. The fabled Vinland, told of in Viking songs and sagas, has intrigued historians for centuries, with many people guessing where the land was. According to the author, L’Anse Aux Meadows doesn’t fit the description of Vinland – it was simply a staging post on the way to this land.
Contemporary reports tell of Vinland being a huge place, which some people believed extended to Africa. It was also a place where wild grapes grew, which does not seem to be any area in North America. Davis believes that Vinland had no precise location, but was a wide term for agricultural land along the east coast of America.
Vikings in America is a well-researched, interesting and thought-provoking books which is sure to create fresh debate amongst those interested in this period of Viking history. Graeme Davis writes in a descriptive and lively style, backing up his arguments by research. A fascinating look at Viking history, covering arguments and subject matter which will be new to many people.
- Davis, Graeme Vikings in America [Birlinn, 2009]
- ISBN 9781841587011, 208 pages