Satellite images have lead archaeologists to excavate a site showing signs of Viking activity on the other side of the Atlantic
Until the 1960s, stories told in the Vinland sagas about the Vikings landing in North America remained just that: stories. But then archaeologists uncovered the foundations of 1,000 year-old Viking buildings, Norse artefacts and evidence of iron working at L’Anse Aux Meadows on the very tip of Newfoundland. The Vikings had made it, and here was the first piece of solid evidence.
Now, more than 50 years later, it looks like space archaeologist Dr. Sarah Parcak and her team may have found another.
Parcak has risen to fame as the archaeologist using satellite imagery to find new, previously undiscovered, ancient sites, recently winning a TEDX prize for her work. Most of her studies have been focused on Egypt, but she and her team have now turned their satellites to North America.
By examining images taken from satellites positioned approximately 770km above the earths surface, they spotted unusual patterns in an area of Southern Newfoundland called Point Rosee.
The image seemed to indicate manmade features, including the possible outline of a longhouse similar in size to those previously discovered at L’Anse aux Meadows.
Over the summer, Parcak and her team carried out a test excavation, and uncovered what looks like the remains of Viking activity: some rectilinear subsurface features, some turf-type remains, evidence of bog iron ore processing, and radiocarbon dates that range between 800 and 1300 AD.
So is this a Viking site? There is still plenty of work to be done before anyone can be sure of the site’s Vikings origins, but the evidence is stacking up. There’s no evidence that Newfoundland’s inhabitants used turf in their buildings, or processed iron. But the Vikings did both.
We can’t wait to find out more when Dr Sarah and her team broadcast their findings on BBC One at 8pm Monday April 4th!
We’ll be watching, and in the meantime, have a listen to DigVentures on Radio 4 with… Sarah Parcak!
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