Category Archives: CANADA

Mammoths Survived in Canada Until 5,000 Years Ago

Mammoths Survived in Canada Until 5,000 Years Ago

Ancient 30,000-year-old DNA of past environments found in permafrost from Yukon, Canada reveals woolly mammoths roamed the region as recently as 5,000 years ago.

The discovery was made by scientists at McMaster University, who built on its previous research that speculated the massive animals died out 9,700 years earlier during the mid-Holocene epoch – a time of climate instability.

The soil samples were taken from the Klondike region of Canada’s Yukon in the early 2010s, but have were placed in a freezer and forgotten.

Mammoths Survived in Canada Until 5,000 Years Ago
Researchers used DNA capture-enrichment technology developed at McMaster University to isolate and rebuild the fluctuating animal and plant communities during the Pleistocene-Holocene transition.

Tyler Murchie, an archaeologist specializing in ancient DNA at the university, told Gizmodo that when he saw the samples, he thought there may be ‘cool stuff’ inside them ‘waiting for someone to study.’

Murchie and his team isolated and rebuilt the DNA, showing the fluctuating animal and plant communities at different time points during the Pleistocene-Holocene transition, which was an unstable climatic period 11,000 to14,000 years ago when several large species such as mammoths, mastodons and sabre-toothed cats disappeared.

The analysis also showed that mammoths and Yukon horses, which lived alongside mammoths, were already disappearing from the Earth before the climate instability.

However, the researchers note that they did not go extinct due to humans overhunting them as previously thought.

The evidence shows that both the woolly mammoth and ancient horse persisted until as recently as 5,000 years ago, bringing them into the mid-Holocene, the interval beginning roughly 11,000 years ago that we live in today.

The soil samples were taken from the Klondike region of Canada’s Yukon in the early 2010s, but have were placed in a freezer and forgotten

During the early Holocene, the environment in Yukon was dramatically changed due to a shifting climate.  It was previously flowing with lush grasslands, known as the ‘Mammoth Steppe’, but became overrun with shrubs and mosses that were not seen as food for large grazing herds of mammoths, horses and bison. 

Grasslands cannot survive in that part of North America and experts say that is because there are no longer the large grazing animals to manage them.

‘The rich data provides a unique window into the population dynamics of megafuana and nuances the discussion around their extinction through more subtle reconstructions of past ecosystems’ evolutionary geneticist Hendrik Poinar, a lead author on the paper and director of the McMaster Ancient DNA Centre, said in a statement. 

McMaster scientists were able to better date the extinction of the ancient animals with the help of new technology that was not available when they proposed the creatures were living in the Yukon 9,700 years ago. 

‘Now that we have these technologies, we realize how much life-history information is stored in permafrost,’ said Murchie.

Murchie and his team isolated and rebuilt the DNA, showing the fluctuating animal and plant communities at different time points during the Pleistocene-Holocene transition, which was an unstable climatic period 11,000 to14,000 years ago when a several large species such as mammoths, mastodons and sabre-toothed cats disappeared

‘The amount of genetic data in permafrost is quite enormous and really allows for a scale of the ecosystem and evolutionary reconstruction that is unparalleled with other methods to date’ he says.

‘Although mammoths are gone forever, horses are not’ says Ross MacPhee of the American Museum of Natural History, another co-author. 

‘The horse that lived in the Yukon 5,000 years ago is directly related to the horse species we have today, Equus caballus. 

‘Biologically, this makes the horse a native North American mammal, and it should be treated as such.’

Goodbye, Columbus: Vikings crossed the Atlantic 1,000 years ago

Goodbye, Columbus: Vikings crossed the Atlantic 1,000 years ago

Long before Columbus crossed the Atlantic, eight timber-framed buildings covered in sod stood on a terrace above a peat bog and stream at the northern tip of Canada’s island of Newfoundland, evidence that the Vikings had reached the New World first.

Goodbye, Columbus: Vikings crossed the Atlantic 1,000 years ago
A tourist (R) photographs the Viking replica ship the Islendingur as it arrives in the fishing village of L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland.

But precisely when the Vikings journeyed to establish the L’Anse aux Meadows settlement had remained unclear – until now.

Scientists on Wednesday said a new type of dating technique using a long-ago solar storm as a reference point revealed that the settlement was occupied in 1021 AD, exactly a millennium ago and 471 years before the first voyage of Columbus. The technique was used on three pieces of wood cut for the settlement, all pointing to the same year.

A wood fragment from the Norse layers at the L’Anse aux Meadows Viking settlement established 1,000 years ago near Hay Cove, Newfoundland, Canada is seen in an undated microscopic image.

The Viking voyage represents multiple milestones for humankind. The settlement offers the earliest-known evidence of a transatlantic crossing. It also marks the place where the globe was finally encircled by humans, who thousands of years earlier had trekked into North America over a land bridge that once connected Siberia to Alaska.

“Much kudos should go to these northern Europeans for being the first human society to traverse the Atlantic,” said geoscientist Michael Dee of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, who led the study published in the journal Nature.

The Vikings, or Norse people, were seafarers with Scandinavian homelands: Norway, Sweden and Denmark. They ventured through Europe, sometimes colonizing and other times trading or raiding. They possessed extraordinary boat-building and navigation skills and established settlements in Iceland and Greenland.

“I think it is fair to describe the trip as both a voyage of discovery and a search for new sources of raw materials,” Dee said. “Many archaeologists believe the principal motivation for them seeking out these new territories was to uncover new sources of timber, in particular.

It is generally believed they left from Greenland, where wood suitable for construction is extremely rare.” Their wooden vessels, called longboats, were propelled by sail and oars. One surviving example, called the Oseberg ship, is roughly 70 feet (21.6 meters long).

The Viking Age is traditionally defined as 793-1066 AD, presenting a wide range for the timing of the transatlantic crossing.

Ordinary radiocarbon dating – determining the age of organic materials by measuring their content of a particular radioactive isotope of carbon – proved too imprecise to date L’Anse aux Meadows, which was discovered in 1960, although there was a general belief it was the 11th century.

The new dating method relies on the fact that solar storms produce a distinctive radiocarbon signal in a tree’s annual growth rings. It was known there was a significant solar storm – a burst of high-energy cosmic rays from the sun – in 992 AD.

In all three pieces of wood examined, from three different trees, 29 growth rings were formed after the one that bore evidence of the solar storm, meaning the wood was cut in 1021, said University of Groningen archaeologist Margot Kuitems, the study’s first author.

It was not local indigenous people who cut the wood because there is evidence of metal blades, which they did not possess, Dee said.

The length of the occupation remains unclear, though it may have been a decade or less, and perhaps 100 Norse people were present at any given time, Dee said. Their structures resembled Norse buildings on Greenland and Iceland.

Oral histories called the Icelandic Sagas to depict a Viking presence in the Americas. Written down centuries later, they describe a leader named Leif Erikson and a settlement called Vinland, as well as violent and peaceful interactions with the local peoples, including capturing slaves.

The 1021 date roughly corresponds to the saga accounts, Dee said, adding: “Thus it begs the question, how much of the rest of the saga adventures are true?”

While feeding bison, a man discovers a rare 1,000-year-old rock carving by accident

While feeding bison, a man discovers a rare 1,000-year-old rock carving by accident

An archaeologist has discovered rock carvings dating back over 1,000 years at Wanuskewin Heritage Park, Saskatchewan, Canada. What makes the discovery even more remarkable is that it happened completely by accident.

Wanuskewin’s chief archaeologist, Ernie Walker, made the discovery in the summer of 2020 while out feeding bison in a paddock located 800 meters west of the Wanuskewin building, it was announced on Friday.

As they were rolling around in the dirt wallowing, the bison had cleared a patch of ground where Walker spotted a boulder peeking through the dirt. Further inspecting the rock, the archaeologist noticed grooves that formed a definite pattern. Walker was able to determine that the boulder was actually a petroglyph.

Walker says that the boulder is a “Ribstone” resembling the bones of a bison and representing fertility, carved over a thousand years ago. He goes on to explain that he had searched the area previously but had missed the petroglyph.

Following this discovery, as the Ribstone was being excavated, Walker and his team turned up three more petroglyphs, as well as the tool that they believe was used to make the carvings.

“This is tremendously significant and very unusual,” Walker says. “Whoever did that, left it there or misplaced it, probably over a thousand years ago. I like to think it’s their business card. They left their business card here.”

The Wanuskewin Heritage Park team estimates that the petroglyphs date back anywhere between 300 and 1,800 years, when placed into the context of historic events this gives a probable age of 1,000 years old.

“It is extremely rare to find four carved boulders together, and even more rare to locate the carving tool used to make them.

A truly remarkable story, however, is the bison,” the team said in a press release. “Had they not been reintroduced to their traditional land— after being hunted nearly to extinction in the 1870s—this important scientific discovery would have remained hidden.”

Bison were reintroduced to Wanuskewin Heritage Park after an absence of over 150 years in 2019.


The reintroduction of the animal was part of a $40-million revitalization that included conservation efforts to repopulate bison numbers across North America.

While feeding bison, a man discovers a rare 1,000-year-old rock carving by accident
A 1,000-year-old petroglyph was found in Wanuskewin.

“The discovery of these petroglyphs is a testament to just how sacred and important this land is,” CEO of Wanuskewin Heritage Park, Darlene Brander, said.

“The individual who made these petroglyphs was actually carving their legacy into the rock many years ago.”

The Wanuskewin Heritage Park, located on Opimihaw Creek, a tributary of the South Saskatchewan River, is currently applying for the status as a United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization Heritage site. Brander believes that this could be the deciding factor in that application.

Ernie Walker found the petroglyphs in the summer of 2020.

An archaeological dig in Newfoundland unearths what could be Canada’s oldest English coin

Archeological dig in Newfoundland unearths what could be Canada’s oldest English coin

Archaeologists in Newfoundland have unearthed what may be the oldest English coin ever found in Canada—and perhaps North America. Working at the site of a former English colony, the team dug up a rare two-penny piece that was minted more than 520 years ago, between 1493 and 1499, reports Chris O’Neill-Yates for CBC News.

Minted in Canterbury between 1493 and 1499, the silver half groat dates to the middle of Henry VII’s reign, when a rebellion led by pretender Perkin Warbeck threatened to unseat the nascent Tudor dynasty.

Known as a half groat, the coin dates to the reign of England’s first Tudor king, Henry VII, who ruled from 1485 to 1509. It was uncovered at Cupids Cove Plantation Provincial Historic Site, where English merchant John Guy established a colony in 1610.

Researchers found the object near what would have been a bastion in the fortified settlement.

“Some artefacts are important for what they tell us about a site, while others are important because they spark the imagination,” says archaeologist William Gilbert, who discovered the site in 1995 and continues to lead excavations there today, in a statement.

“This coin is definitely one of the latter. One can’t help but wonder at the journey it made, and how many hands it must have passed through from the time it was minted … until it was lost in Cupids sometime early in the 17th century.”

A better-preserved example of a Henry VII half-groat.

Gilbert showed the newly unearthed, nickel-sized coin to Paul Berry, a former curator at the Bank of Canada Museum who helped authenticate the piece reports the Canadian Press.

The silver coin was minted in Canterbury around the middle of Henry’s reign when a rebellion led by pretender Perkin Warbeck threatened to unseat the nascent Tudor dynasty.

Previously, the oldest known English coin found in the country was a silver groat minted during the reign of Henry’s granddaughter Elizabeth I, in 1560 or 1561, and discovered at Cupids Cove in 2001.

Other centuries-old English coins found on the continent include a circa 1558 groat buried on Richmond Island in Maine around 1628 and a 1560 silver coin unearthed in Jamestown, Virginia.

Guy, accompanied by a group of 39 English settlers, founded what was then called Cuper’s Cove on Conception Bay in Newfoundland. Within a few years of the settlement’s establishment in 1610, the colonists had built numerous structures, including a fort, sawmill, gristmill and brewhouse, reports Bill Gilbert for BBC News. But the winter of 1612 proved “punishing,” according to the CBC, and most of the settlers—including Guy—eventually abandoned the site. The company that funded the venture went bankrupt in 1631.

Exactly who left the half-groat at the settlement is open to interpretation. Gilbert posits that one of the Cuper’s Cove settlers dropped it when the fort’s bastion was under construction. The half-goat was found within a few feet of a post that was part of the fortification’s foundation.

“My best guess is that it was probably dropped by either John Guy or one of the early colonists when they were building … in the fall of 1610,” the archaeologist tells CBC News. “That’s what I think is most likely.”


Given that the coin is about 60 years older than the Elizabethan groat found on the cove in 2001, it’s also possible that it was lost before the colonists arrived, perhaps by an early explorer of Canada.

“[The] coin was minted around the time John Cabot arrived in England in 1495,” Gilbert tells CBC News. “It’s during the period that Cabot would have been active in England and setting out on his early explorations of the new world.” (Per Royal Museums Greenwich, the Italian explorer landed on Newfoundland—literally a “newfound land”—in 1497, one month after setting sail from Bristol in hopes of discovering a shorter route to Asia.)

Analysis of the coin is ongoing, but researchers hope to display it at the Cupids Cove historical site in time for the 2022 tourist season.

Eerie Lake Erie is home to a giant ship graveyard: Nearly 2,500 sunken vessels

Eerie Lake Erie is home to a giant ship graveyard: Nearly 2,500 sunken vessels

Lurking below the surface of Lake Erie is a ship graveyard that is estimated to include up to 2,500 vessels, with the earliest wreck dating to the 1800s when it was part of the water route from the Atlantic Ocean to the upper Midwest.

Kevin Magee, an engineer at NASA’s Glenn Research Center, said in a statement: ‘Storms and waves are probably the number one reason ships sank in Lake Erie.

‘In fact, we think Lake Erie has a greater density of shipwrecks than virtually anywhere else in the world—even the Bermuda triangle.

The oldest shipwreck lurking below Lake Erie is the Lake Serpent, a 47-foot schooner that was lost in 1829, and then there is the Sir CT Van Straubenzie that is the deepest known wreck in the lake.

The exact number of wrecks in Lake Erie is not known – it could be anywhere from 500 to 2,500 – but explorers and researchers have been able to confirm 277 sunken ships.

The oldest shipwreck lurking below Lake Erie is the Lake Serpent, a 47-foot schooner that was lost in 1829. Pictured is a satellite image showing the outline of the sunken ship

Lake Erie is the fourth largest of the five Great Lakes and spans across the US and Canadian borders, reaching into the Ontario Peninsula, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.

The giant lake became an important route during the fur trade in 1700 to 1800s, which is when many ships disappeared beneath its depths.

Lake Serpent, the oldest wreck, left Cleveland in September 1829 for the 55-mile trip to the Lake Erie Islands – but it never made it back to its return destination, Smithsonian Magazine reports.

Bodies of the crew, Captain Ezera Wright and his brother Robert washed ashore, but the ship was lost until 2018.

The exact number of wrecks in Lake Erie is not known – it could be anywhere from 500 to 2,500 – but explorers and researchers have been able to confirm 277 sunken ships. Red is approximate wreck locations, while black is confirmed locations
Lake Serpent, the oldest wreck, left Cleveland in September 1829 for the 55-mile trip to the Lake Erie Islands – but it never made it back to its return destination
Archaeologists combing the area found remains of a vessel in 2018 that they are sure is the Lake Serpent (pictured)

Archaeologists combing the area found remains of a vessel but were unsure if it was the legendary Lake Serpent.

Looking through historical records of the ship, the team learned that it was carrying mounds of boulders before it went missing and divers identified the payload on the vessel in question.

The final voyage of Edmund Fitzgerald began on November 9, 1975, at the Burlington Northern Railroad Dock No.1, Superior, Wisconsin.

Closer to the shore of Traverse City, Michigan are several ghostly hulls laying on the lake bottom, reports Lake Leen Erz.

The wrecks are in Manitou Passage, which was often a haven for cargo-laden ships travelling through the area during the bustling lumbering industry in the 19th century.

The shipwreck of the James McBride, a 121-foot-long (37-meter-long) brig that was lost in a storm in 1857.

When the water is clear, anyone could spot the sunken ships, which includes the James McBride, a 121-foot-long brig that was lost in a storm in 1857.

The Rising Sun’s resting places can also be seen from the shoreline.

This is a 133-foot-long steamer that sank in 1917. There are hundreds of small hulls littering the lake bottom, but one ship is known for sinking farther than another vessel – the Sir CT Van Straubenzie.

This ship was lost during a collision with a steamer on September 27, 1909, and quickly sank 205 feet into Lake Erie eight miles east of Long Point. The Department of Transport reported 3 deaths, including a female cook.


The wire rigged forward mast is still standing, collision damage can be seen on the starboard side and the cabin is collapsed. There is a wheel, and the cast iron bell is in the bow of the wreck – all of which have been taken over by barnacles. 

‘One of the remarkable things about Lake Erie and Great Lakes shipwrecks is how well they are preserved due to the cold, freshwater,’ said Magee. ‘Wrecks in saltwater start corroding immediately. In the Great Lakes, you can find old wooden ships that are hundreds of years old that look like they just sank.’

Wreck of US ship that hunted Nazi spies in the Arctic finally discovered

Wreck of US ship that hunted Nazi spies in the Arctic finally discovered

Live Science reports that the wreckage of the U.S. Revenue Cutter Bear has been found in Canadian waters by the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and other researcher groups.

Wreck of US ship that hunted Nazi spies in the Arctic finally discovered
The US Revenue Cutter Bear was capable of sailing through Arctic ice.

The Bear has a storied history: It started working as a commercial sealer in 1874. Then, because the ship could travel through ice-filled waters, the government purchased it in the 1880s to use for rescue work in the Arctic. It also served as a relief ship during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-1919, a floating museum, a film set for a Hollywood movie and an expedition ship on Adm. Richard Byrd’s Antarctic explorations.

It also patrolled Arctic waters for the U.S. Navy in both world wars, and in 1941 it helped capture the Norwegian trawler Buskø, which was being used by the German military intelligence service Abwehr to report on weather conditions in the North Atlantic.

The Bear was decommissioned in 1944 and tied up at a wharf in Halifax, Nova Scotia. It finally sank after a storm in 1963, somewhere south of Nova Scotia and east of Boston, as it was being towed to Philadelphia.

“The Bear has had such an incredible history, and it’s so important in many ways in American and global maritime heritage because of its travels,” said Brad Barr, the mission coordinator for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Maritime Heritage Program, who has led the search for the wreck for several years.

A scan of the wreck is believed to be the Bear.

Historic ship

In the late 1970s, a group started searching for the Bear. It included the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Harold Edgerton, who invented side-scan sonar — a technology widely used today to detect and image objects on the seafloor.

The group tested out the new side-scan technology in 1979, but they didn’t find the wreck — possibly because the location of its sinking had been misreported by its tow ship, Barr told Live Science..

A secret Navy submersible — the nuclear-powered NR-1 —— carried out a second search in 2007, but it too was unsuccessful. Finally, the U.S. Coast Guard and NOAA joined forces with other partners and began another search in 2019.

After mapping 62 square miles (160 square kilometres) of seafloor with sonar, they identified two submerged objects in the search area. In September, they returned on a Coast Guard ship equipped with a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to take underwater video and confirm that the largest object is the wreck of Bear, Barr said.

The wreck now lies on the seafloor at a depth of about 200 feet (60 meters), in Canadian waters about 90 nautical miles (167 km) south of Nova Scotia’s Cape Sable. The exact location is being kept confidential in the hopes of deterring technical divers from trying to reach it, Barr said. The search partners are discussing with the Canadian government how the wreck can be protected.

The ageing wooden hull has been badly damaged by nets from fishing trawlers and strong currents on the seafloor. But the researchers identified several distinctive features of the Bear, including the “bow staples” that strengthened its hull to allow the ship to handle heavy ice in polar waters, Barr said. 

An image of the wreck taken by a remotely controlled vehicle.

Steamship to diesel

Although the Bear was equipped with three masts for sailing, it was built as a steamship for its role as a sealer in the 1870s. In the 1930s, the boiler was taken out and the steam engine was replaced with a diesel engine as it was refitted for its Antarctic service with Byrd. 

As a result, several piles of metal can be seen among the remaining wood of the wreck, which includes sailing-ship technologies, Barr said. 

“There’s a pile of metal rubble with a deadeye [a fixed wooden pulley] sticking up out of it,” he said. “These deadeyes have been around since the 1700s, but they were used on the Bear to attach the standing rigging.”

Among the Bear’s most famous exploits was its part in the 1884 rescue fleet for the Greely Expedition to the Arctic, which had become lost in 1881 near Ellesmere Island, northwest of Greenland. Several members of the expedition died of starvation and disease before the Bear rescued Greely and the other survivors. 

After serving for many years as a government revenue cutter in Arctic waters — intercepting and inspecting ships at sea, and often rescuing commercial ships trapped in ice — the Bear was transferred to the Navy; it patrolled around Alaska during World War I, and it delivered supplies there during the Spanish flu pandemic.

In 1929, the decommissioned ship was given to the city of Oakland in California, where it became a floating museum and then a film set for the 1930 movie “The Sea-Wolf,” an adaption of a Jack London novel. 


The Bear was recommissioned for Arctic patrols during World War II, when it helped capture the Buskø; but it was mostly tied up in Halifax after that until it sank in 1963 on its final voyage to Philadelphia, where it was destined to become a floating restaurant.

“These are incredibly compelling stories,” Barr said. “When you read the details of what the Bear did, how many lives it saved, how many incredible missions it was on — it is really the kind of history that people should be aware of.”

To commemorate its discovery, Barr has compiled years of historical research into several website posts detailing the many exploits of the Bear. “One of the reasons why we wanted to find it is because it allows us to tell all these stories,” he said. 

‘Hellboy’ horned dinosaur species discovered in Canada

‘Hellboy’ horned dinosaur species discovered in Canada

The prehistoric creature, named Regaliceratops peterhewsi, is a close relative of the familiar Triceratops and belongs to Ceratopsidae, a group of large-bodied, plant-eating dinosaurs that evolved in the Cretaceous period and were largely restricted to western North America.

Artistic life reconstruction of Regaliceratops peterhewsi.

Ceratopsid dinosaurs are divided into two subgroups: chasmosaurines, which include Triceratops and the new species, and centrosaurines.

Centrosaurines went extinct several million years before the chasmosaurines, which went extinct at the end of the Cretaceous along with all the other dinosaurs.

Characteristically, chasmosaurines have a small nose horn, large horns over their eyes, and shield-like frills with simple scalloped edges.

Regaliceratops peterhewsi is unexpected because it shows the exact opposite pattern: large nose horn, small horns over the eyes, and elaborately decorated frills similar to centrosaurines. This demonstrates that at least one group of chasmosaurines evolved ornamentation similar to centrosaurines following their extinction.

“This new species is a chasmosaurine, but it has ornamentation more similar to centrosaurines. It also comes from a time period following the extinction of the centrosaurines,” said Dr Caleb Brown, lead author on the study published in the journal Current Biology.

“Taken together, that makes this the first example of evolutionary convergence in horned dinosaurs, meaning that these two groups independently evolved similar features.”

‘Hellboy’ horned dinosaur species discovered in Canada
Citizen palaeontologist Peter Hews with the skull of Regaliceratops peterhewsi that he found.

The nearly intact skull of Regaliceratops peterhewsi was discovered by Calgary resident Peter Hews, a geologist in the petroleum industry, in southeastern Alberta in 2005.

“The specimen comes from a geographic region of Alberta where we have not found horned dinosaurs before, so from the onset we knew it was important,” Dr Brown said.

Despite the formal name, Dr Brown and his co-author, Dr Donald Henderson, said they’ve taken to calling this dinosaur by the nickname ‘Hellboy’ (after the comic book character).

“It’s due to the difficulty collecting the specimen and for the challenging preparation process to remove it from the very hard rock in which it was encased,” the scientists said.

“Upon discovery, it was instantly noticeable that this specimen was something that had never been seen before, especially considering its unlikely location and unique features.”

The palaeontologists said they hope to uncover more specimens of Regaliceratops peterhewsi.

Dr Brown added: “This discovery also suggests that there are likely more horned dinosaurs out there that we just have not found yet, so we will also be looking for other new species.”

Is this the rock that proves Vikings did discover America?

Is this the rock that proves Vikings did discover America?

They are infamous for terrorising the coastlines of Europe in their distinctive longships, but the Vikings may be able to claim another victory over their medieval neighbours. New evidence has been uncovered that suggests the Vikings may have discovered North America nearly 500 years before Christopher Columbus made his famous journey to the New World. Scientists claim to have uncovered what they believe to be a Viking settlement on the Canadian island of Newfoundland that appears to have been built between 800AD and 1300AD.

Is this the rock that proves Vikings did discover America?
New evidence of a Viking settlement in North America has been unearthed in Newfoundland (a hearth where iron ore appears to have been roasted is pictured) which suggests the Scandinavians were the first Europeans to set foot in the New World around 500 years before Christopher Columbus

It is only the second known Viking site to be discovered in North America and helps to confirm that they were the first Europeans to reach the New World. This new site, discovered in an area called Point Rosee in southern Newfoundland, is 400 miles (643km) south west of a Viking settlement found in L’Anse aux Meadows during the 1960s. Archaeologists said the discovery potentially opens ‘a new chapter’ in history by showing the Vikings had explored far further into the New World than previously believed possible.

Dr Sarah Parcak, an archaeologist at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, explained: ‘This new site could unravel more secrets about the Vikings, whether they were the first Europeans to ‘occupy’ briefly in North America and reveal that the Vikings dared to explore much further into the New World than we ever thought.

The new Viking settlement was found on the edge of Point Rosee in Newfoundland (illustrated above) 400 miles south of another site at L’Anse aux Meadows. They suggest that the Vikings’ mastery of the seas allowed them to venture to North America (illustrated on the map)

‘Typically in archaeology, you only ever get to write a footnote in the history books, but what we seem to have at Point Rosee may be the beginning of an entirely new chapter.’

The Vikings are well known to have been adept seafarers, using the sun and the stars to help pick their way across open stretches of ocean away from the coastline. It is thought the Vikings first discovered America by accident in the autumn of 986AD, according to one historical source, the Saga of the Greenlanders. It tells how Bjarni Herjolfsson was stumbled across North America after being blown off course as he attempted to sail from Norway to Greenland, but he did not go ashore. Inspired by his tales, however, another Viking Leif Ericsson then mounted his own expedition and found North America in 1002.

Finding it fertile land, rich in grapes and berries, he named it Vinland. Eriksson also named two further ‘lands’ on the North American coast – one with flat stones, which he called Helluland, and one that was flat and wooded, named Markland. The discovery of the settlement at Point Rosee now helps to confirm that these legends were in fact true. The settlement uncovered by Dr Parcak, who has been working with the BBC and a team of experts, was initially spotted using high resolution near-infrared images taken by satellites.

Archaeologists found evidence of stones blackened by iron ore processing (pictured), something that the indigenous North American population were not thought to do. It suggests the buildings that stood at the site were inhabited by Vikings, who made extensive use of iron
Using infrared images (pictured) of the site, the archaeologists were able to see the outlines of what they believe were longhouses similar to those used by the Vikings

Over time the structures have altered the soil and the way it retains moisture, changing the vegetation that grow above, making it possible to see the outline of the structures in satellite images. These helped them identify intriguing patterns in Point Rosee, which indicated there were some manmade features and the possible outline of a longhouse similar to those used by the Vikings. During excavations of the site, the team uncovered evidence possible bog iron ore processing.

The settlement at L’Anse aux Meadows was the only other site where pre-Columbian iron processing has been found in North America. The archaeologists discovered around 28lbs of slag in a hearth that they believe was used to roast iron ore before it was smelted in a furnace. Blackened stones, scorched by the extreme heat in this process, were also unearthed at the site. 

Point Rosee is a peninsula on the most south westerly tip of the island of Newfoundland (pictured). It provided a perfect location for the Vikings to set up an outpost, the archaeologists claim
Researchers found pieces of slag (pictured) in a hearth that they believe was used to roast iron ore prior to smelting it in a furnace at the site in Newfoundland, which suggests it was inhabited by Vikings

While Inuits are thought to have used some iron from meteors, there is no other evidence of indigenous people processing iron.  The longhouse building they identified appears to have been built using turf, in much the same style as other Viking structures. Black bands in the soil as the team excavated betrayed the presence of turf building blocks that had been used to construct a building. Douglas Bolender said: ‘Right now the simplest answer is that it looks like a small activity area maybe connected to a larger farm that’s norse.

‘If we were in Iceland we wouldn’t think twice about that. But the thing that makes you pause and check every last little bit of it, is that it is in Newfoundland.’ 

If they are right, it means Rosee Point is the most westerly Viking outpost yet discovered. Dr Bolender told National Geographic it could mean that the Viking sagas detailing journey’s to what has been interpreted as North America are true rather than merely legends.

He said: ‘We’re looking here because of the sagas. Nobody would have ever found L’Anse aux Meadows if it weren’t for the sagas. But, the flipside is that we have no idea how reliable they are.’

The remains of a Viking ship burial unearthed in Estonia also features in the BBC documentary (Dan Snow with some of the weapons and artefacts found there are pictured)
Smashed bones thought to have belonged to a Viking were found at a battlefield in Estonia (pictured)

Although the archaeologists leading the excavation are convinced the site was inhabited by Vikings, they say further work is needed to conclusively prove it was a Viking settlement. Nonetheless, Professor Judith Jesch, director of Nottingham University’s Centre for the Study of the Viking Age who was not involved in the discovery, described the find as ‘exciting’. 

She told the told The Telegraph that L’Anse aux Meadows may have been a way-centre as the Vikings ventured further south and that it is likely other sites may yet be unearthed.

She said: ‘Finding Vikings in the United States is the Holy Grail for many people, not least because there are many Americans of Scandinavian descent who would like to think that they were following in the footsteps of their ancestors.

‘But I don’t think they made significant progress past New Brunswick, in Canada.’

The discovery is outlined in a one-off 90 minute BBC documentary called Vikings Uncovered. It will be aired on BBC One in the UK. During the program, historian Dan Snow travels throughout the lands inhabited by the Vikings to explore just how far their influence spread.

Among the other discoveries outlined in the documentary are the remains of a battlefield in Estonia. Smashed bones were found alongside weapons and a Viking ship burial. In Portmahomack in Easter Ross, in the Scottish Highlands, archaeologists have discovered evidence that a monastery there was utterly destroyed by a Viking raid. Smashed sculptures were found with the ashes of the buildings of what had been once a prosperous community.

Skull fragments found at the site – thought to have belonged to monks – reveal the violence of the attack. Speaking about the find in Newfoundland, Mr Snow said: ‘The Vikings Uncovered was one of the most exciting projects of my career.

‘I was able to follow Dr Sarah Parcak and her team as they carried out pioneering research, using satellite imagery, in an attempt to unlock one of history’s greatest mysteries.

‘Were the Vikings really the first Europeans to settle North America? We know of one Viking site on the very northern tip of Newfoundland but was this part of a wider Viking territory?

‘It felt like Sarah’s team were making history, both in the high tech labs and on the ground in windswept Newfoundland, and I got to watch the entire process.’