Sarah Parcak, famed space archaeologist and winner of this year’s $1 million TED Prize, and colleagues have made a monumental find that may shed light on how far the Vikings traveled into North America after reaching the continent more than 1,000 years ago. And it will be the subject of a new PBS documentary “Vikings Unearthed” set to premiere on April 4.
Viking sagas have told of Leif Eriksson, the son of Erik the Red, and his westward voyage to the New World from Greenland. However, the venture was solely considered a legend up until 1960, according to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.
But the discovery of Norse Viking artifacts and the foundations of an Icelandic-style house verified that the Vikings beat Columbus to North America by almost 500 years. The site where the relics were found is called the L’Anse aux Meadows, located in Canada’s Newfoundland.
According to The New York Times, the new Canadian archaeological site is 300 miles from L’Anse aux Meadows at Point Rosee. It was discovered by infrared images taken from satellites 400 miles above.
“I am absolutely thrilled,” Parcak told BBC News. “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.”
According to National Geographic, a small dig at the site revealed an iron-working hearth. While that’s not confirmation of a Viking presence, it’s a good indicator. The Norse had a predilection for iron, which they harvested from peat bogs. “Metal nails held their ships together as they sailed west—expanding their realm across the North Atlantic—and south, establishing trade routes throughout Europe and the Far East,” according to National Geographic.
Parcak told The Washington Post that the site either belonged to the Norse, or a culture that was quite similar.
The site was found, according to National Geographic, by glimpsing the earth surrounding the buried structure. With satellite imagery, Parcak can see how remnants of structures affect the soil and vegetation growing above them, which led to the Point Rosee site’s discovery.
The PBS documentary premieres online at 3:30 p.m. on Monday. You can watch it here.
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