New study: Columbus was not the first to reach America

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Wood analysis shows that Vikings had already set foot on American soil 500 years earlier to import materials to Greenland.

A new study could rewrite textbooks: Until now, Christopher Columbus was considered the discoverer of America in 1492. Archaeologists at the University of Iceland present new findings that shake this theory. The Vikings are said to have set foot on the continent 500 years earlier. The archaeologists analyzed wood from five Norse sites in West Greenland that the Vikings inhabited between 1000 and 1400. Some were found to have been imported from the Americas and Europe.

Many historical records indicate that the Vikings who lived in Greenland between 985 and 1450 relied on imported materials such as iron and wood. They used them for large building projects, shipbuilding and artifact making – purposes for which native tree species were unsuitable.

For the study published in Antiquity, the archaeologists wanted to determine the percentage of foreign wood the Vikings used and where it came from. They collected samples from wood collections at four medium-sized, elite farms and an Episcopal manor. Based on the radiocarbon dating of the wood and the types of artifacts left there, it was known that these farms were inhabited in the first half of the second millennium. They examined the wood’s cell structure using microscopes to identify the tree species from which it came. Their analysis showed that 0.27 percent of the samples came from imported species from North America or Northern Europe.

Hemlock and pine, in particular, were not cultivated in northern Europe during the second millennium, so the wood from these trees must have been shipped across the Atlantic. The findings confirmed historical Viking tales. Norse explorers such as Leif Erickson – reputedly the first European visitor to the Americas – brought back wood from “Vínland,” the Norse term for the region of the North American coast along the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The researchers write, “These results underscore that the Norse Greenlanders had the means, knowledge, and suitable vessels to cross Davis Strait to the east coast of North America at least until the 14th century. Travel from Greenland to North America thus occurred throughout Norse settlement in Greenland, and the Norwegians acquired resources from North America – for much longer than previously thought.

source: heute.at/picture: Bild von Óscar CR auf Pixabay

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