L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site
L’Anse Aux Meadows National Historic Site
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Cultural Canada Europe And North America Province Of Newfoundland And Labrador

At the tip of the Great Northern Peninsula of the island of Newfoundland, the remains of an 11th-century Viking settlement are evidence of the first European presence in North America. The excavated remains of wood-framed peat-turf buildings are similar to those found in Norse Greenland and Iceland.

Recognized in 1960, excavated from 1961 to 1968 and then from 1973 to 1976, and protected by Parks Canada since1977, the Epaves Bay archaeological site, which is located near Anse aux Meadows, at the northern extremity of Newfoundland is of great importance in the history of the settlement of Rwarica. The earliest sign of human activity go back roughly 5,000 years and among the prehistoric and protohistoric populations which succeeded one another is a well-defined branch of Eskirms (Dorset Eskimos) which has been shown to have existed from about AD 400-700. A temporary settlement for fishermen, this coastal site, which is located on a coastline covered by peat bogs, would appear to have been abandoned for roughly a century. During the 9th century it was re-established by an archaic native population similar to that from which, during the historic era, the Beothuk 'Indians' descended.

Until about 1500, this population maintained a quasi-permanent settlement, many traces of which have been found in the bay and surrounding area. This occupation, whether seasonal or continuous, was not the only presence in the area. The exceptional significance of l'Anse aux Meadows arises precisely from a temporary Viking settlement comprising eight houses, one forge and four workshops. The excavations provided detailed information on the settlement, implements and lifestyle of the occupants. The large houses (the most spacious of which measured respectively 24 m by 4.5 m and 19 m by 14 m) are characterized by the building techniques used, which are similar to those in use in Norway during the same period: a structure covered with turf taken from the peat bog;a type of especially pointed roof;thick peat partitions on the sod floors;layout of the rooms, fireplaces and openings. The objects found include a number which fall clearly within the categories of Viking artefacts such as a stone oil lamp, a balance, a birch bark case for a ballast stone, etc.

Near the forge, the low-shaft furnace (which is partially conserved) a deposit of slag was found. The fifty-odd forged iron objects (nails, rivets, buckles, etc.) that were found both in the dwellings and workshops comply with the normal typology of late Viking settlements along the Norwegian coastline.

The excavation of L'Anse aux Meadows was conducted on a vulnerable site and followed by extensive laboratory study. It was possible, thanks to a palaeo-ecological study making use of seed and pollen fossils, to reconstruct the long-term landscape and surroundings of this human settlement. In spite of the astonishing appearances of its archaeological vestiges, L'Anse aux Meadows is an outstanding property of human heritage. It is a precious and, until now, unique milestone in the history of human migration and the discovery of the universe: it is the oldest settlement of European origin in America.

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