Archaeologists in Iceland have recently dug up a farm that is believed to belong to the mythical Viking woman Gudrid Thorbjarnardóttir, hailed as the first European woman to ever cross the Atlantic.
“It came as a surprise to find unknown, buried Viking buildings,” archaeologist Douglas Bolender told Swedish national broadcaster SVT.
For over ten years, a small group of Icelandic and North American researchers have tried to map the entirety of Skagafjörður, an area in northern Iceland where many Vikings are believed to have lived. Gudrid's farm was discovered next to two cemeteries from the 1000s.
“The most is fully visible, a farmhouse that lies in ruins. But here so many layers of soil have been deposited in the lowlands that you see nothing but fields,” archaeologist Douglas Bolender explained.
Gudrid Thorbjarnardóttir was, according to the Icelandic sagas, one of the great seafarers of the Middle Ages alongside more famous male Vikings such as Erik the Red (the founder of settlements on Greenland) and Leif Eriksson (his son, seen as the first European to have set foot in North America). She appears in the Saga of Erik the Red and the Saga of the Greenlanders, known collectively as the Vinland sagas. She and her husband Thorfinnur Karlsefni led an expedition to Vinland where their son Snorri Thorfinnsson was born, believed to be the first European born in the Americas outside of Greenland. In Iceland, Gudrid is known as “wide-fared”.
“She came from very humble beginnings, her grandfather was a freed slave. But still she managed to make several spectacular trips to the New World and become a great trader, which earned her a lot of respect,” historian Bo Eriksson explained.
Gudrid later converted to Christianity went on a pilgrimage to Rome. Upon her arrival, she became a nun and lived in a local church as a hermit.
Despite managing to cross the Atlantic approximately 500 years before Christopher Columbus, and later making a pilgrimage to the Vatican, Gudrid later fell into obscurity.
Today, however, there are several statues to her in Iceland and in Canada.