Archaeology & History
Solar storm helps to date Viking settlement in North America
By T.K. Randall
October 25, 2021 · 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
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