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Archaeology & History

Solar storm helps to date Viking settlement in North America

By T.K. Randall
October 25, 2021 · Comment icon 9 comments

Christopher Columbus was not the first European to reach America. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 4.0 Wolfmann
New evidence has helped scientists pinpoint exactly when the Vikings were active on the continent.
Christopher Columbus has often been attributed with discovering America - a feat for which he has gone down in history - but in reality the continent had actually been frequented multiple times by Europeans many centuries before the Italian explorer had even been born.

Among the early seafarers to have reached North America were the Vikings who were known to have constructed a waystation at L'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland around 1,000 years ago.

Exactly when these early Scandinavian seafarers arrived and settled on the continent has remained a topic of heated debate among archaeologists, but now new research has been able to pinpoint when their settlement was active with more accuracy than ever before and it is all thanks to a solar storm that hit the Earth in 993 A.D.

To narrow down the date, University of Groningen archaeologist Margot Kuitems and radio carbon dating expert Michael Dee analyzed samples of wood that had been collected in and around L'Anse aux Meadows back in the 1960s.
The samples were surprisingly well preserved, making a renewed analysis using modern dating techniques a feasible option.

When the researchers studied the samples, they were able to use the date of a known event - a solar storm that occurred in 993 A.D. - to pinpoint exactly when the trees had been felled.

Their findings indicated that the Viking settlers had been working there in the year 1021 A.D.

"We always knew we were right around 1000, but 1021 is a huge deal," said archaeologist Davide Zori. "This shows the [Viking] sagas are correct to within a decade. That's pretty impressive."

Source: National Geographic | Comments (9)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by joc 3 years ago
Am I really supposed to believe that scientists can tell who chopped what piece of wood 1000 years ago because of tree rings?  Horse hockey say I.  
Comment icon #2 Posted by Manwon Lender 3 years ago
On this one I can understand what they are talking, there is certainly difference between wood cut with a steal blade and a stone blade. 
Comment icon #3 Posted by Hugh Mungus 3 years ago
It really makes me wonder why european diseases did not spread throughout the America's earlier.
Comment icon #4 Posted by Manwon Lender 3 years ago
I think it was mainly do to the length of time the Vikings were in the Americas. There main base of operations was on Greenland, apparently on one of his trips back to Greenland from Norway, he missed his intended land fall and ended up at L'Anse aux Meadows, on maps from his time he called this location Vinland. It appears that the L'Anse aux Meadows site was used only occasionally over a period of approximately 20 years. So it's very possible that any European diseases may have been confined to local tribes and never spread any further. It was not like later European occupations were they... [More]
Comment icon #5 Posted by Tatetopa 3 years ago
Also the bubonic plague did not show up in Europe until 1347.  Smallpox was around in Europe but more common in Southern European population centers.  To jump to America, it would have had to pass through Norway, Iceland, and Greenland.   There were no armadas of southern Europeans coming directly to America at this time.
Comment icon #6 Posted by Tatetopa 3 years ago
One of the best parts of the article is the  fact that a large solar increase in radiation could be traced to tree rings all over the world.
Comment icon #7 Posted by Manwon Lender 3 years ago
That is some great information and it makes a great of sense, thanks for your comments it certainly makes things much more clear. Peace
Comment icon #8 Posted by Manwon Lender 3 years ago
That's also a very interesting piece of information, thanks for sharing my friend. 
Comment icon #9 Posted by qxcontinuum 2 years ago
I am curious about what happened with them vikings? They've not flourished for sure in the newfoundland.

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