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"A Base Camp on the Moon"

Vikings in North America
A recreation of just some of the Nordic buildings found at L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland, Canada

Move over Christopher Columbus. Leif Eriksson got there first.

To celebrate our 30th episode we’ve pulled out all the stops! We are finally getting to talk about the Norse in North America during the Viking Age. If you’re into Vikings, you probably know they made contact almost 500 years before any other Europeans, touching down and creating a small settlement in what is now L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland, Canada. So far, it’s the only Norse settlement that’s ever been found on the continent. And thanks to new science we know it was built in the year 1021 C.E., smack in the Viking Age.

To tell the story, our special guest is Loretta Decker. She works for Parks Canada which has responsibility for maintaining and interpreting the UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was a smallish way station for the Norse at the edge of their world, which Loretta says for them may as well have been “a base camp on the moon.”

But her connection runs deeper than that. It was Loretta’s grandfather George who owned the land on which the Vikings settled, so her childhood was steeped in Nordic archaeology. We couldn’t ask for a better person to give us a front seat at the table (or under the table as she recalls!) of this story.

But before archaeology, hard science, and Loretta could tell the story of this place, the Icelandic sagas were our guides. In particular, The Saga of Erik the Red and The Saga of the Greenlanders (collectively known as the Vinland sagas) have for centuries told of Norse exploits in a land that was new to them, replete with strange landscapes, a one-legged being, and Native Americans whom the Norse called skrælings. It’s the fantastical stuff that saga legends are made of.

But at L’Anse aux Meadows at least some of those legends were true.

Thanks Loretta! We know you’re getting ready for your busy summer season, so we appreciate you taking the time. It was a true delight!

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Vikingology Podcast
Vikingology Podcast
Terri and C.J. are first and foremost educators passionate about the Viking Age and Viking history. Theirs was a meeting foretold in the myths of old. Both are historians of Viking history, both live in Oregon in the U.S., and both share the same birthday. It seemed only natural they team up for something epic. The Norns have woven this fate.