L’Anse aux Meadows - History and Facts | History Hit

L’Anse aux Meadows

Spillars Cove, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

L’Anse aux Meadows is the only-known site of Viking settlement and the earliest European settlement in North America.

Peta Stamper

11 May 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About L’Anse aux Meadows

L’Anse aux Meadows in Canada‘s Newfoundland is the only-known site of Viking settlement in North America, these also being the earliest European visitors to the region. Before the Norse settlement the area of L’Anse aux Meadows had been occupied since prehistoric times, but it is the arrival of the Vikings in circa 1,000 AD which makes this site so remarkable.

Today, L’Anse aux Meadows is a UNESCO-listed archaeological site. Visitors to L’Anse aux Meadows can tour reconstructions of a trio of reconstructed 11th century wood-framed Viking structures as well as view finds from archaeological digs at the interpretative centre.

L’Anse aux Meadows history

The oldest dated occupiers of L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland were aboriginal peoples dating back 6,000 years. The Norse settlers arrived from Greenland between 990 and 1050 AD (an estimate from carbon dating) at which time the area would have been dense forest, perfect for house and ship building.

The area was likely part of what the Norse called Vinland in their historic sagas, due to the growing of great wine grapes there. L’Anse aux Meadows was likely a temporary ship-building spot.

Archaeological remains were found in the 1960s by a Norwegian couple, Helge and Anne Ingstad. Anne led the archaeological investigation of the area, known to grow wild grapes, between 1960 and 1968. The Ingstads believed the Norse would not have been comfortable settling along the very edge of the American Atlantic coast and instead would have preferred the slightly inland meadows.

On the site, 8 buildings were found made from wooden frames covered in turf. The largest dwelling had several rooms while 3 smaller buildings could have been homes for servants or slaves. Workshops were identified as they contained a forge and iron slag as well as a carpentry workshop which contained wood debris. A weaving loom and spindle were found, also suggesting women settled with the Norse men.

L’Anse aux Meadows today

Step back 1,000 years to this historic spit of land that looks out across the Great Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland. North of the norse remains reconstructed buildings are available to visit, some of which are inhabited by costumed Viking interpreters to provide a fuller historical experience, telling you Norse myths and demonstrating how they lived and worked.

Beside the Norse remains there is also an aboriginal hunting camp. After travelling back to the Viking age, enjoy a picnic amid the dramatic coastline scenery, keeping watch for icebergs and whales passing by.

Getting to L’Anse aux Meadows

If you are coming from mainland cities Montreal, Ottowa or Quebec City, expect a long drive. From Sydney in Nova Scotia, get the Trans-Canada Highway Ferry to Newfoundland. Once on the island, follow the 430 road northward then the 436 to L’Anse aux Meadows. For a full historic journey, take the 5 hour drive north along the Viking Trail towards L’Anse aux Meadows.

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