The Vikings had a settlement in North America exactly a thousand years ago, centuries before Christopher Columbus arrived on the continent, a study says.
Scientists say a new dating technique that analyzes tree rings has provided evidence that the Vikings occupied a site in Newfoundland, Canada, in AD 1021.
It has long been known that Europeans reached the Americas before Columbus’ arrival in the New World in 1492.
But this is the first time that researchers have suggested an exact date.
Writing in the journal Nature, the scientists said they analyzed tree rings from three pieces of wood cut for the Norwegian settlement at L’Anse aux Meadows.
They said that using a radiocarbon atmospheric signal produced by a dated solar storm as a reference, they were able to pin “the exact year of the tree being felled” to 1021.
One such solar storm – a huge burst of radiation from the Sun hitting the Earth – was known to have taken place in the year 992 AD, the scientists said. This allowed them to determine a more accurate date than previous estimates for the field of around 1000 AD.
“The association of these pieces with Norwegian is based on detailed research previously conducted by Parks Canada,” says the study, adding that there was strong evidence that the sampled wood had been modified by metal tools.
He adds that the L’Anse aux Meadows camp was a base from which other locations were explored, including regions further south.
The authors say the discovery represents a defining point for future research on the early consequences of transatlantic activity, such as knowledge transfer and the potential exchange of genetic information and disease.
The Anse aux Meadows, a Unesco World Heritage Site on the northernmost tip of the island of Newfoundland, is the first and only known site founded by the Vikings in North America and the first evidence of European settlement in the New World.
Radiocarbon dating is a technique that measures the residual concentrations of a radioactive isotope of carbon (carbon-14) present in an object.
Carbon-14 decays over time and measuring how much of it remains tells you the age of a sample.
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