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No Offence, Christopher: Vikings Reached New World Long Before Columbus, New Study Claims

CC0 / / Vikings Heading for Land
Vikings Heading for Land - Sputnik International, 1920, 20.10.2021
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The Italian explorer has been dubbed the discoverer of the New World. His transatlantic voyages carried out at the end of the 15th and the beginning of the 16th centuries opened the way for European exploration and colonisation of the Americas.
Vikings reached the New World long before Christopher Columbus, claims an international group of scientists from Canada, Germany, and the Netherlands. According to the findings of their study, published in the journal Nature, they reached North America around 1021, 471 years ago before Christopher Columbus embarked on his first journey.

Researchers examined a Norse settlement site discovered in the Canadian province of Newfoundland in the second half of the 20th century, in particular various wooden artefacts. Using a new type of dating technique, they were able to find out when the Vikings built their settlement.

The dating method takes into account solar storms, which produce a distinctive radiocarbon signal in a tree’s annual growth rings. Researchers used a solar storm that occurred in 992 as a reference point. All pieces of wood from three different trees showed the same number of rings, that formed after the one impacted by the 992 solar storm.

"Finding the signal from the solar storm 29 growth rings in from the bark allowed us to conclude that the cutting activity took place in the year 1021 AD", said Margot Kuitems, from the Centre for Isotope Research, University of Groningen, the Netherlands and co-author of the study.

Scientists say their discovery corroborates events described in the Icelandic Sagas. They tell of a Viking presence in the Americas at the end of 10th and the beginning of 11th centuries. A leader named Leif Erikson encountered the indigenous people of North America, the Sagas say, adding that the interactions were sometimes peaceful, and sometimes violent.

It is not known how long the Vikings stayed in North America, with the researchers suggesting it may have been a decade or less. Why did the Vikings embark on a voyage to the New World in the first place? Scientists assume that having impeccable boat-building skills, the Vikings sought to discover resources.

"I think it is fair to describe the trip as both a voyage of discovery and a search for new sources of raw materials. Many archaeologists believe the principal motivation for them seeking out these new territories was to uncover new sources of timber, in particular. It is generally believed they left from Greenland, where wood suitable for construction is extremely rare", said Michael Dee of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, lead author of the study.

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