views updated May 21 2018


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.


Jones, Gwyn. A History of the Vikings. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.


Janet S.Smith

See alsoNew England ; Norsemen in America .


views updated May 29 2018

Vinland the region of the NE coast of North America which was visited in the 11th century by Norsemen led by Leif Ericsson. It was so named from the report that grapevines were found growing there. The exact location is uncertain: sites from the northernmost tip of Newfoundland, where Viking remains have been found, to Cape Cod and even Virginia have been proposed.
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.


views updated May 18 2018

Vinland Region of North America settled (c.1003) by Vikings from Greenland led by Leif Ericsson. The existence of land w of Greenland had been reported a few years earlier. Leif stayed for one season only, but at least two other expeditions settled there briefly. Vinland was soon abandoned, apparently because of the hostility of local people.