Vikings Did Come to America (Dispelling Yet Another Mistruth I Was Told As A Child)

Decades ago, I read two books on how Vikings had come to America long before any other Europeans. I saw blurry photographs of structures and tools that were said to be associated with the Viking’s visit. My friend Jeff and I pretended to be Eric the Red and hit each other with sticks.

Being of partial Viking descent myself (based first upon my family’s oral history—which I said, “yeah, right”—and then confirmed by my duly-noted DNA analysis—okay, so they were right), I found it fascinating. Then school came and I was told it was all a myth.

Adamantly told that it was a myth.

Everyone knows Christopher Columbus discovered the New World (though there were already people here—but that’s beside the point). Vikings did not fit with conventional historical or scientific knowledge. How often have we heard that little phrase? Well, it seems, several decades later, those old black-and-white pictures of North American Viking rune stones weren’t so “doctored” after all.

The British journal Nature has confirmed that Vikings were in L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland, Canada (though they probably didn’t call it that) exactly one-thousand years ago. That’s 1021 A.D. (Old Christopher Columbus didn’t show up until 1492.)

There was such doubt among scientists regarding these Vikings that three different methods of determination were used to decide the actual dates: knowledge of a solar storm in 992 A.D., annual tree rings, and marks made by metal tools (the indigenous people at the time did not have metal tools).

The moral of the story? Inquisitive minds never say never, especially little kids who know in their minds that this is definitely a Viking rune. As Fox Mulder in the X-Files made clear: “The truth is out there.” Sometimes, though, it takes decades (or more) to find it.

Clay Stafford is still a Viking at heart.