We visited L'Anse aux Meadows and the area nearby, at the northern end of The Rock's Great Northern Peninsula. The French originally named the place L'Anse aux Méduses, or Jellyfish Cove. It's just one of many names in Newfoundland that got changed when the English took over.
Berries are big business here, and they have local names too. Bakeapples are said to be named by another linguistic misunderstanding. Supposedly, an Englishman asked a Frenchman what the berry was called, and the Frenchman answered with a question: "Baie qu'appelle?" – which means, "what is the berry called?"
by Dawn Endico
In 1957 a book dealer named Enzo Ferrajoli tried to sell an unusual document to the British Museum. He claimed it was a map of the known world from about 1440, eleven years before Christopher Columbus was born. The museum declined to buy the map because its provenance was unknown — it had no verifiable history before Ferrajoli showed up with it, and he was already known as a shady operator. Laurence Witten bought the map anyway, and tried to sell it to Yale University. They also demurred, but Yale alumnus Paul Mellon bought the map. He agreed to give it to his alma mater if it could be authenticated, and if a scholarly book would be published about it. Until that time, he demanded secrecy about his valuable artifact.
What made the map special is that it included North America, which
was supposedly unknown in Europe in the middle of the 15th century. It shows
a large island with the legend Vinlanda Insula a Byarno Rep[ert]a et Leipho
sociis: "Vinland Island, discovered jointly by Bjarni [Herjólfson]
and Leif [Eriksson]." If it were the real thing, this map would be the earliest
physical proof that Norsemen were the first Europeans to reach the New World.
(Color is added for clarity; the original is here.)
Yale finally concluded their research on the map in 1964, and Mellon donated it to their rare books collection. The Vinland Map and the Tartar Relation was released just before Columbus Day 1965, and the map has been embroiled in controversy ever since. While Yale was working on this project, remnants of Leif Eriksson's short-lived settlement were verified at the northern tip of Newfoundland.
L'Anse aux Meadows is the only authenticated site of Norse settlement in North America. The Norse travelled here around 1000 AD. The archeological remains of their sod buildings are the earliest known European structures in North America; their bloomery, or ironworks, the site of the first known iron working in the New World; the site itself the base from where they launched expeditions resulting in the first contact between aboriginal North Americans and Europeans.
In 1978, L'Anse aux Meadows became the first cultural site in the world to be inscribed upon the World Heritage List of the UNESCO Convention. Inscription on this list confirms the exceptional universal value of a cultural or natural site which deserves protection for the benefit of all humanity. L'Anse aux Meadows ranks among the major archeological properties of the world.
Views of L'Anse aux Meadows from the visitor center.
The village is at right; the ruins are at left. The ruins are buried under a semicircular path, just above the white flower in the first photo. People here always knew about the mounds, but thought they had been made by Indians.
Nobody even considered a Viking origin until Anne Stine (archaeologist) and Helge Ingstad (explorer) came here in 1960. From then until 1968, Anne Stine led excavations that uncovered artifacts that could only have come from Europe. The "Indian mounds" were proven to be the ruins of eight dwellings believed to have been built by Leif Eiriksson about 1000 years ago.
Parks Canada resumed excavations from 1973 to 1976, when they began to prepare it for a National Historic Site. They re-buried the ruins, feeling they had got as much information as contemporary technology would yield. Perhaps some new invention a hundred years from now will make it attractive to re-excavate the area.
Nils Aas's statue of the Ingstads is a gift from the King and Queen of Norway, which they presented to the Canadian people in May 2002: There is an identical statue at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo.
There are two kinds of interpreters at the visitor center. Clayton wore government clothes as he guided us through the ruins to the village down the hill. The village is a replica, built to look and feel like the original might have been. The other interpreters are inside, dressed and behaving like Viking settlers might have been.
Above, left to right: Outbuilding, House and Workshop, Dwelling and Small Forge.
Views from among the ruins. The landscape isn't much different from the one the Vikings saw, except that the water was a little higher then, and the coastline would have been about two or three hundred feet farther in.
The trail leads from the ruins down to the reconstructed village. Inside the fence, Parks Canada has reproduced a Viking settlement – same dimensions, same methods of construction (sod layers held together by gravity and wooden pins), same kinds of activity (shipbuilding, ironworks, sewing, cooking, dairy).
Views from inside a Viking house. The second one is at Norstead, another village reconstruction nearby.
Meeting of Two Worlds is an interpretive artwork that captures the historical significance of L'Anse aux Meadows. There are two parts: one by Newfoundland sculptor Luben Boykov (pointed one, right in the first photo), the other by Richard Brixel of Sweden (left in the first photo, resembles a filled sail). Symbolically corresponding to the points of departure and landing of the Vikings, the two pieces come together to form an archway over the walking trail between the visitor center and the archaeological site. Where the two elements meet, the artistic styles fuse, representing the first contact between the European and North American Aboriginal cultures.
There are many themes and images within the sculptures, such as the sea serpent on the European side (first photo, also visible in the second photo above). The second and third photos show a screaming face at the base of the North American side, suggesting the fact that contact between the two cultures was not always pleasant.
This is the ringed pin that conclusively identified L'Anse aux Meadows as a Viking settlement. It is a bronze pin, used to fasten a cloak over the right shoulder, commonly found at Norse sites. This particular type occurred only in the Norse Atlantic area.
#10. Spindle whorl. Used as a flywheel on a spindle of wood in the spinning
of thread or yarn. This artifact was an important part of a Norse woman's
work kit. The whorl was made from a fragment of a soapstone oil lamp as
shown by the soot on its bottom.
#13. Whetstone. This small sharpening stone was used for sharpening needles and scissors and was part of a woman's work kit.
#14. Needle fragment. Made from bone, this needle was used for single needle knitting. It was used to make socks, hats, and mittens.
Rodvisal and Rodalf, they had stones erected in memory of their sons; this one is in memory of Rodfos. He was betrayed by Valakians on a visit abroad. May God help Rodfos' soul. May God betray those who betrayed him.
Norstead was built across the road from the visitor center in 2000. Where
the L'Anse aux Meadows village
Snorri is a replica of a Swedish knarr, built in Maine and sailed from Greenland to L'Anse aux Meadows in 1998. There are locks for eight oars if the wind doesn't favor sailing.
Kalle Dahlberg carved the runestone on the Swedish island Adelsö in early 2000. Then it was shipped to Newfoundland in time for the Millennium Celebration and dedication of Norstead that year. It's an interesting story. The inscription reads:
VTTA and Barbara Genge raised stone to commemorate the exploration of North America by Leif Eriksson in year one thousand. Kalle rista.
Noddy Head. The white object on the horizon is an iceberg.
Tales of L'Anse aux Meadows, a dinner theater at the Norseman restaurant:
Wade, Denise, and Gina
are among the entertainers.
Here's Wade at his day job.
Sunset at Norstead