Story at a glance

  • Researchers behind a new study published Wednesday in the journal Nature analyzed wooden artifacts from a Viking village in Canada’s Newfoundland.
  • In order to pinpoint the year Vikings lived at the site, researchers analyzed the pieces of wood in search of signs of a massive solar storm that occurred sometime between 992 and 993 AD.
  • The solar event produced a distinct radiocarbon signal in the tree rings, which allowed researchers to then determine when the vikings were in the area.

While historians have long known Vikings reached North America roughly 1,000 years ago, new research is providing an exact date of when the first Europeans may have lived in the Americas. 

Vikings from Greenland first settled at L’Anse aux Meadows in Canada's Newfoundland sometime in the 10th century. The site, which is the first and only known viking archaeological site in North America, is widely accepted as evidence of European contact with the Americas centuries before Christopher Columbus, and was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in the late 1970s.

Researchers behind a new study published Wednesday in the journal Nature analyzed wooden artifacts found at the site using a new radiocarbon dating technique. The pieces of wood came from three different trees and displayed clear evidence of cutting by metal blades, which were not produced by indigenous populations at the time. 


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In order to pinpoint the year Vikings lived at the site, researchers analyzed the pieces of wood in search of signs of a massive solar storm that occurred sometime between 992 and 993 AD. The solar event produced a distinct radiocarbon signal in the tree rings, which allowed researchers to then determine when the vikings were in the area. 

“Finding the signal from the solar storm 29 growth rings in the bark allowed us to conclude that the cutting activity took place in the year 1021 AD,” Margot Kuitems, researcher at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands and the study’s lead author, said in a statement

Researchers said 1021 AD is the earliest year in which the earliest presence of Europeans in the region can be scientifically proven, as previous estimates relied on oral histories that were written down hundreds of years later. 


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Published on Oct 20, 2021