Vikings in North America: A Saga’s New Chapter
National Geographic fellow Sarah Parcak, an expert in detecting buried structures from satellite images, has identified another likely Viking site on the southernmost tip of Newfoundland, and that could rewrite the story of the colonization of North America.
In summer 2015 Parcak and her team broke ground at Point Rosee near Channel-Port aux Basques, a windswept stretch of grassy coast overlooking the Cabot Strait. The dig unearthed remains of turf walls and an ironworking fireplace, yielding valuable information on the Vikings’ seafaring and metalworking techniques when on the move.
Parcak, a professor of anthropology at the University of Alabama, has successfully used satellite images to detect evidence of looters at archaeological sites in Egypt. This spring, her images also revealed the spectral outline of a large, buried structure at the site of Petra in Jordan.
On turning her attention to Newfoundland, Parcak used remote-sensing tools to comb the area for clues of buried objects. Soil that contains hidden structures retains moisture in a different way from undisturbed ground, and the resulting patterning on the vegetation alerted her to the possibility of buried objects at the Point Rosee site.
…The excavations undertaken at Point Rosee are just the opening phase of an ongoing project that Parcak hopes will shed more light on the early history of European exploration of North America. If the 1960 discovery at L’Anse aux Meadows proves that the Vikings reached America, the find at Point Rosee will help historians build a picture as to when, and for how long, they explored this coast, and how far their wanderings took them in the New World.