Thursday, July 29, 2010

L'Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site

Time to get back to finishing my blogs about our Canada trip last year.

We entered Newfoundland from the North via a short ferry from Blanc Sablon, Quebec to St. Barbe, Newfoundland. We headed to St. Anthony to get our accomodations. We had learned about L'Anse aux Meadows from the Americans we met at Manic 5. The site of the Viking landing in North America, it is both a National Historic Site in Canada and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Naturally, it was on my must see list.

It was a gray, rainy day for our visit and lighting didn't look promising., so I left my good camera in the car and set out to enjoy my day in spite of the weather. These pictures are courtesy of Henry, as he carried his smaller camera with him on our tour.

As you begin your guided walk through the excavated mounds, you pass through this amazing sculpture, The Meeting of Two Worlds. Designed to celebrate the meeting of the European culture with the Aboriginal people who were Newfoundlands first peoples.

The site is grass covered and there are still a few houses in the distance along the sea that will be removed as the original owners have been allowed to remain for their lifetimes. Ultimately the goal is for this site to look much as it did when the Vikings arrived.

We took the guided tour of the site and were so fortunate that our guide was intimately involved - his grandfather had led archaeoloists Helge Ingstad and his wife, Anne Stine Ingstad to a mound on his farm that turned out to be Leif Erickson's Vinland colony. This 11th-century settlement is the first European presence in North America. The excavated ruins are similar to the wood framed peat-turf buildings found in Norse Greenland and Iceland. In some ways the construction is like the sod houses originally built by settlers in the Great Plains - wood timbers with blocks of the peat bog creating thick walls with a sod roof.

Time to get back to finishing my blogs about our Canada trip last year.

This long house is still under construction or they are redoing the peat sod roof, but it gives you an idea of the size and construction of these amazing buildings.

The Vikings only stayed here somewhere between three and ten years, but the archaeologists found a soapstone spindle whorl, a bronze-ringed pin process and toerh iron, bronze, stone, and bone items. I learned that you can get iron ore from peat bogs and the Vikings made nails from the iron found in the peat.

We were lucky to be visiting on a day when public school teachers were visiting for training - so there were hands on demonstrations of making nails, knitting with one needle, and story telling. They have recreated the long houses and the site is a living history with people dressed up as Vikings and showing how the people lived and retelling the ancient stories.

As the day was cold and rainy, I enjoyed sitting by the fire and soaking in the stories and the ambiance of life in the 990-1030 AD time period.