Space Archaeologist Discovers Potential Viking Site in Southern Newfoundland

A team of archaeologists has unearthed a potential new Viking site in Newfoundland, Canada with the help of satellites. Dr. Sarah H. Parcak, an archaeologist, space archaeologist, and Egyptologist, lead the effort to take infrared images from space to find new archaeological sites.

Newfoundland with Viking Activity
Newfoundland with Viking activity. Map by Eppu Jensen on the basis of Canada Newfoundland and Labrador relief location map by Flappiefh on Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

According to The New York Times, while searching the coastlines from Baffin Island (in the Canadian territory of Nunavut, west of Greenland) to Massachusetts, she found

“hundreds of potential ‘hot spots’ that high-resolution aerial photography narrowed to a handful and then one particularly promising candidate — ‘a dark stain’ with buried rectilinear features.

“Magnetometer readings later taken at the remote site […] showed elevated iron readings. And trenches that were then dug exposed Viking-style turf walls along with ash residue, roasted ore called bog iron and a fire-cracked boulder — signs of metallurgy not associated with native people of the region.

“In addition, radiocarbon tests dating the materials to the Norse era, and the absence of historical objects pointing to any other cultures, helped persuade scientists involved in the project and outside experts of the site’s promise.”

Point Rosee is approximately 700 km (approximately 400 miles) away from L’Anse aux Meadows, the only currently confirmed Viking site in North America. The Norsemen staying at L’Anse must have traveled further south, though, because butternuts and worked pieces of butternut wood – which are not native to Newfoundland – were found among the Norse objects at the settlement.

CBC News reports that evidence of a Norse-like hearth and 8 kilograms (approx. 16 pounds) of bog iron was found at Point Rosee during a dig in 2015. It isn’t yet known for sure whether the site was a temporary base camp or a settlement, or whether it even was associated with Vikings. If confirmed, Point Rosee would be the second known Viking site in North America.

The evidence is still clearly on the scant side. Digging at Point Rosee is to resume this summer, so maybe they’ll find more.

As a sidenote, isn’t it so cool that we now have space archaeologists?!

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