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L'Anse aux Meadows ( ; from the French L'Anse-aux-Méduses or "Jellyfish Cove") is an archaeological site on the northernmost tip of the island of Newfoundlandmarker in the Canadianmarker province of Newfoundland and Labradormarker. Discovered in 1960, it is the only known site of a Norse village in North America outside of Greenlandmarker. The site remains the only widely-accepted instance of pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact, and is notable for possible connections with the attempted colony of Vinland established by Leif Ericson around 1003, or more broadly with Norse exploration of the Americas.

Etymology

The root of the name "L'Anse aux Meadows" is believed to have originated with French fishermen in the area during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, who named the site L'Anse aux Méduses, meaning "Jellyfish Bay." The modern name is an English corruption of that French name, from Méduses to Meadows, which may have occurred because the landscape in the area tends to be open, with meadows.

Discovery and significance

In 1960, the remains of a Norse village were discovered here by the Norwegianmarker explorer Helge Ingstad and his wife Anne Stine Ingstad, an archaeologist. Archaeologists determined the site is of Norse origin due to definitive similarities between the characteristics of structures and artifacts found at the site compared to sites in Greenlandmarker and Icelandmarker sites from around AD 1000.

L'Anse aux Meadows is the only known Norse site in North America outside of Greenland, and represents the farthest known extent of European exploration and settlement of the New World before the voyages of Christopher Columbus almost 500 years later. It was named a World Heritage site by UNESCOmarker in 1978.

Settlement

Archaeological excavation at the site was conducted in the 1960s by an international team led by Anne Stine Ingstad and later, in the 1970s, under the direction of Parks Canada. Following each period of excavation, the site was reburied in an effort to protect and conserve the cultural resources.

The settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows has been dated to approximately 1,000 years ago, an assessment that agrees with the relative dating of artifact and structure types. The remains of eight buildings were located. They are believed to have been constructed of sod (turf) placed over a wooden frame. Based on associated artifacts, the buildings were variously identified as dwellings or workshops. The largest dwelling measured 28.8 by 15.6 m (94.5 by 51 ft) and consisted of several rooms. Workshops were identified as an iron smithy containing a forge and iron slag, a carpentry workshop which generated wood debris, and a specialized boat repair area containing worn rivets. Besides those related to iron working, carpentry, and boat repair, other artifacts found at the site consisted of common everyday Norse items, including a stone oil lamp, whetstone, a bronze fastening pin, a bone knitting needle, and part of a spindle. The presence of the spindle part and needle suggest that women were present as well as men. Food remains included butternut, which are significant because these do not grow naturally north of New Brunswickmarker, and their presence probably indicates that the Norse inhabitants travelled farther south to obtain the nuts. Archaeologists concluded that the site was inhabited by the Norse for a relatively short period of time.

In addition to the European settlement, evidence of at least five or six separate native occupations has been identified at L'Anse aux Meadows, the oldest dated at roughly 6,000 years ago, although none was contemporaneous to the Norse occupation. The most prominent of these earlier occupations were by the Dorset people, who predated the Norse by about 200 years.

Possible connection with Vinland sagas

Norse sagas are written versions of older oral traditions. Two Icelandic sagas, commonly called the Saga of the Greenlanders and the Saga of Eric the Red, describe the experiences of Norse Greenlanders who discovered and then attempted to settle a land to the west of Greenland, identified as Vinland. The Sagas seem to suggest that the Vinland settlement failed because of conflicts within the Norse community as well as between the Norse and the native people they encountered, the Skrælings.

While it is not possible to verify that L'Anse aux Meadows is indeed the Vinland of the Sagas, this remains a possibility, and it often is referred to as such in discussions of the site. Some archaeologists believe that the L'Anse aux Meadows site is not Vinland itself, but an exploration base and winter camp for expeditions heading farther south to the real Vinland, which may have extended to the St. Lawrence River and New Brunswick.

Map of Viking Expansion


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Pictures

Image:Carlb-ansemeadows-vinland-03.jpg|L'Anse-aux-Meadows, NfldImage:Viking landing.jpg|Landing at L'Anse aux Meadows reenactment 2000Image:VikingBarracklookingoutside.JPG|Looking outside from Viking house, 2006


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