Archaeological Evidence Points To New Brunswick As Most Likely Site Of Lost Viking Settlement

The Vikings were the first Europeans to reach North America, landing in the New World centuries before Columbus and co. Little is known of their adventures here and, as of yet, the only confirmed Norse settlement in Vinland (eastern Canada) is at L'Anse aux Meadows on the very northern tip of Newfoundland – but archaeologists could be one step closer to locating the second.

"Hóp", meaning “tidal lagoon”, is a legendary Viking settlement in eastern Canada. Most of what we know about it comes from the Norse sagas. According to these texts, it is a place that supported the growth of wild grapes, provided copious supplies of salmon, and was home to a group of people who made canoes from animal hides.

Over the years, several locations have been touted as possible sites for this particular settlement, including Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Maine, New England, and New York.

Now, Birgitta Wallace, senior archaeologist emerita with Parks Canada, has compared descriptions of "Hóp" from the Norse texts to archaeological research at L'Anse aux Meadows and various Native American sites on North America’s East Coast to pinpoint the most likely site of this lost settlement: the Miramichi-Chaleur bay area in New Brunswick, Canada. This is the only spot that matches the full description, Wallace told Live Science.

"New Brunswick is the northern limit of grapes, which are not native either to Prince Edward Island or Nova Scotia," she said.

Archaeological evidence also suggests there would have been a strong stock of wild salmon in the region at the time, but not in pre-Columbian Native American sites in Maine or New England.

As for the hide canoe-carrying locals, animal skins were used in shipbuilding by the Mi'kmaq people, who lived in the Miramichi-Chaleur bay area. The Mi'kmaq people even used a salmon totem as a spiritual emblem, again showing the significance of salmon in the region.

Furthermore, remnants of butternut trees, which are native to New Brunswick, have been found in excavations at L'Anse aux Meadows, alongside pieces of white elm, beech, white ash, and eastern hemlock, which, again, can be found in New Brunswick, said Wallace. This suggests the Vikings had set up camp, at least for a short time, in the New Brunswick area.

A 1919 depiction of the Vikings first landing in the Americas. The travelers would have arrived from Greenland, a Norse settlement founded by Erik the Red in the 10th century after he was exiled from Iceland for murder. Marshall, H. E. (Henrietta Elizabeth)/Wikimedia Commons

So, what’s next? Unfortunately, it might not be all that easy to find the actual site at New Brunswick to confirm Wallace's theory. This is because the camp would have been temporary – probably only used for a few months over summer. Tools and bodies for burial likely would have been returned to Greenland, while materials like wood and food are quick to biodegrade and probably lost to archaeology forever.

[H/T: Live Science]

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