Vikings and the Westward Expansion

Topic: SocietyHistory
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Last updated: June 19, 2019

The Vikings were a sea-faring people from the North Western areas of Europe, specifically the area known as Scandinavia. Viking is actually a profession and not the actual type of people. The people were Norse and the term “Viking” in Norse equates to the English word “Pirate. ” The Vikings were known throughout the European continent, specifically along the coastal countries. They were known for their quick attacks on coastal cities and monasteries to plunder for goods and riches.

It was the search for goods and riches that often drove the Viking sailors to explore new lands. Greenland was one such land. A Norseman from Iceland, Erik the Red, was banished from Iceland after killing a man and settled along the southwestern coast of Iceland in the 980’s. He named the country Greenland in order to attract potential colonists. The “Icelandic Sagas” (and “Erik the Red’s Saga” and “Saga of the Greenlanders”) describe the western settlement of the Norse towards the Americas. Only a few years after the Greenland settlement, the Norse began to explore the lands to the west of Greenland.

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It was a merchant who was blown off course who brought news of western lands to Greenland. It was Leif Eriksson, son of Erik the Red, who took this news and set off to explore these new lands. The sagas describe three separate areas discovered during this exploration. Helluland meaning “Land of the Flat Stones,” Markland meaning “The Land of Forests,” and Vinland which recent linguistic evidence identifies as “The Land of Meadows. ” Vinland was located South of Markland. It was in Vinland that the settlement in the sagas took place.

It is generally accepted that Vinland was founded by Leif Ericson around the year 1003. There is much debate of the actual location of Vinland, but some believe it is associated with the location known as L’Anse aux Meadows. L’Anse aux Meadows is an archaeological site located on the most northern tip of the Canadian province of the island of Newfoundland. The site was discovered in 1960 and found to be the site of a Norse village, the only one found outside of Greenland. Of all the supposed “Viking finds” in North America, theL’Anse aux Meadows find is the only widely accepted proof of pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact of Europeans to the New World. Like the L’Anse aux Meadows site, the sites in southwestern Greenland eventually collapsed as well.

It is speculated that within 500 years a combination of malnourishment and conflict with the natives or skr? ling as the norse called them, may have led to the abandonment of the Greenland settlements. A similar set of problems may have also led to the end of the Norse settlement in L’Anse aux Meadows.Another theory for the abandonment of the “Vinland” settlement is the lack of any financial benefit to keeping it. Regardless of the reasons for the lack of surviving Norse settlement in North America, it is obvious that it catches the imagination of the public and warrants further thought as to the history of North America. There have been numerous finds throughout the years claiming to be authentic Viking finds.

However much speculation surrounds these finds. One example of a debatable find is the Kensington Rune Stone.It is a large stone with Runic writings on it describing an exploration party of Norse explorers into the American northeast.

Other rune inscribed stones have been found throughout the United States. However interesting or convincing these finds are, they have yet to be proven authentic. Many have been proven to be forgeries. Further archaeological research is going to continue being performed at previously discovered sites as well as new sites as they are discovered, if they are discovered.


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