The 'dark stain'. Credit: DigitalGlobe Inc

The discovery of a mysterious, ancient site could rewrite the history of Vikings in America

They were here before Columbus. 

JOSH HRALA
1 APR 2016
 

About 1,000 years ago, long before Columbus and other explorers, Vikings from Greenland landed in North America. Researchers know this based on histories written by the Vikings and also a settlement, called L'Anse aux Meadows, that was discovered in northern Canada in 1960.

But since the discovery of the first settlement, nothing else has been found. Until now, that is, because archaeologists might have found a second settlement. And this time, they used satellites. 

 

The discovery came about last year when Sarah Parcack, an assistant professor from the University of Alabama and notable space archaeologist - yes, that’s a real job and we're jealous - used infrared images taken from a satellite 643 km (400 miles) above Earth to study a site on the southwest coast of Newfoundland, according to Ralph Blumenthal from The New York Times

When analysing this data, Parcak marked numerous 'hot spots' - areas that may have had human settlements. However, one spot stood out among the rest because it was a severely 'dark stain' of vegetation that appeared man-made. 

Excited by this prospect, Parcak and her team set out to study the site, which they've dubbed Point Rosee.

Using a magnetometer, which measures anaomalies in the magnetic field of a certain area, the team found that the region contained high levels of iron and signs of metallurgy that Vikings were known for.

Also, objects pulled from the site were dated to the Norse era using radiocarbon techniques, Blumenthal reports. Though it’s still mysterious, the team also thinks there could be a structure buried beneath the site, which will get excavated later this year. 

Needless to say, there’s a treasure trove of questions for the researchers to answer, and a lot of work ahead of them.

The team has yet to have their findings peer-reviewed, so it will take some time to establish the details. But if true, the settlement could drastically change what we know about early North American settlers.  

Parcak’s work was documented by PBS for an episode of their science series NOVA, which will air on 4 April 2016. You can check out the trailer here.

Hopefully, when excavation starts, the team will find a bunch of ancient relics that will inform us further on the everyday lives of Vikings - one of the most discussed and popular groups in all of history. 

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