The Fact and Fiction of Vikings in America
By Karri L. Springer
Nebraska Anthropologist, Vol. 15 (1999-2000)
Abstract: Many people do not fully understand the stories, history, archaeology or evidence for Viking presence in North America. This paper evaluates the stories against the scientific evidence found to date. Archaeologists, although qualified to discuss all sides of the arguments, rarely do, because of the lack of career rewards for doing so. However, the problems associated with hoaxes should be important to all archaeologists interested in maintaining credibility with the public. Viking legends are well suited for such evaluation. The Kensington runestone hoax is emphasized in this evaluation while other Viking hoaxes are overviewed. Relevant evidence from archaeological sites in the United States and Canada is presented. The L’Anse Aux Meadows site is highlighted for unraveling many of the mysteries surrounding the North American legends of the Vikings.
Introduction: Adventure stories abound about the marauders of the north seas, the Vikings. Visions of sword-wielding giants of men and great swooping ships come easily to mind, but this is not the whole picture. Real Vikings smelted iron, carved wood, wove cloth, hunted, traded and explored more extensively across the North Atlantic than any other people before or since. They even beat Columbus to the Americas by 500 years.
The Vikings’ famous, or infamous, journeys left behind traces to follow. They told and retold stories about their journeys, which were written down as the Sagas. Their runic writing style has supposedly been found in the Americas, as well as in Scandinavia (their home). However, the most conclusive evidence that the Vikings eventually arrived in North America comes from scientific archaeology.