VINLAND refers to the southernmost region on the Atlantic coast of North America visited and named by Norse voyagers about a.d. 1000. Sagas and archaeological findings suggest this European contact with North America was part of the Norse westward movement across the Atlantic from the islands of Orkney, Shetland, and Faroe (a.d. 780–800) to Iceland (a.d. 870) and Greenland (a.d. 985–986). The first sighting is attributed to the Icelander Bjarni Herjulfsson about 986 and the first landing a few years later to Leif Eriksson (called Leif the Lucky), son of Erik the Red. The first attempt at colonization was made by an Islandic trader, Thorfinn Karlsefni. The settlement lasted approximately three years and was abandoned; it is hypothesized that this was prompted by native opposition. Other written evidence for Vinland settlement can be attributed to a German cleric, Adam of Bremen (c. 1076) as well as to the "Islandic Annals," which mention voyages to or from America in 1121 and 1347. The pre-Columbian Norse discovery and seaborne connection over a period of 400 years, remarkable achievements though they were, had little influence on subsequent American and Canadian history.
Nordic sagas, stories passed down orally through several generations, were often altered and enriched before they were written down. Two sagas, "The Greenlanders' Saga" and "Erik the Red's Saga," both dating from the 1200s, describe the Viking voyages, sailing directions, latitude, topography, flora, fauna, and the indigenous population. Additionally, these sagas tell of three lands west or southwest of Greenland named Holluland (Flatstoneland), Markland (Woodland), and Vinland (Wineland). The most northerly, Helluland, an area of glaciers, mountains, and rock, is commonly identified as the area from the Torngat Mountains to Baffin Island. There has been increasing acceptance of Markland as the large area around Hamilton Inlet in central Labrador. Vinland, so named for the grapes found growing abundantly in the area, is thought to be the region beginning in northern Newfoundland and extending to the south an indeterminate distance.
Archaeological evidence supporting the stories of Norse arrival in North America was found by a Norwegian archaeologist, Helge Ingstad, and his wife, Anne Stine, in the 1960s. The discovery of a Viking settlement, L'Anse aux Meadows (Meadow Cove) at Epaves Bay in Newfoundland contributed artifacts in the form of eight sod-walled structures, iron nail pieces, a soapstone spindle whorl, and a bronze-ringed pin.
The "Vinland Map" (perhaps dating to 1440) housed at the Beinecke Library at Yale University depicts Europe, the Atlantic Ocean, a large, relatively accurate Greenland, and a larger island to the southwest labeled "Island of Vinland." Since its discovery in 1957, the map has prompted debate over its authenticity. By 2002 chemical and historical analyses had not yet verified the map's integrity. Although many experts today question the validity of the "Vinland Map" and whether the Norse settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows was actually Vinland, it is widely accepted that the Norse were the first Europeans to reach North America around a.d. 1000.
Vinland or Wineland, section of North America discovered by Leif Ericsson in the 11th cent. The sources for the knowledge of Leif Ericsson's exploration differ as to whether it was planned or accidental, but it is definitely known that he found a land containing grapes and self-sown wheat, which he called Vinland. Later expeditions, particularly that of Thorfinn Karlsefni, attempted to rediscover that land. There has been much speculation as to the identification of Vinland. Places from Newfoundland to Virginia have been suggested. Efforts such as those by Eben N. Horsford, who in the late 19th cent. definitely located Vinland on the banks of the Charles River at Gerry's Landing, Cambridge, Mass., have usually met with little agreement. Inscriptions and relics have been sought to throw light on the subject. The discovery of the Kensington Rune Stone has been connected by Hjalmar R. Holand with the expedition of Paul Knutson to America. Holand has further claimed that the Newport Tower (or Old Stone Mill), in Touro Park, Newport, R.I., was the headquarters of Knutson's expedition, but some scholars maintain that the tower was built in colonial times. In 1960, Helge Ingstad, interpreting the word Vinland as
discovered remains of a Norse settlement dating from 1000AD at L'Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland. In the mid-1960s much discussion revolved around the so-called Vinland Map, a world map showing Vinland and said to date from 1440. Despite exhaustive subsequent analysis of the map, its ink, and the vellum on which it was drawn, its authenticity continues to be debated.
See W. Hovgaard, The Voyages of the Norsemen to America (1914, repr. 1971); H. Hermannsson, The Problem of Wineland (1936, repr. 1966); F. J. Pohl, The Lost Discovery (1952); H. R. Holand, Explorations in America before Columbus (2d ed. 1958); H. M. Ingstad, Westward to Vinland (1969); W. E. Washburn, ed., Vinland Map Conference: Proceedings (1971); R. A. Skelton et al., The Vinland Map and the Tartar Relation (exp. ed. 1996); W. W. Fitzhugh and E. I. Ward, ed., Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga (2000).
Vinland Map supposedly a 15th century map, first published in 1965, showing the northeastern coastline of the North American continent as an island named Vinland, with an inscription describing its discovery by Leif Ericsson; the authenticiy of the map is debated.