|Map of possible Norse exploration routes|
|Recreated norse longhouse at L'Anse aux Meadows|
Although following the course of Ericson’s exploration on modern maps has not been really useful, many people have posed the theory that Helluland could actually be Baffin Island, which is immediately west of Greenland. Yet, until this year no proof had been discovered to support this hypothesis.
Earlier this fall, a professor of archaeology associated with Newfoundland’s Memorial University named Patricia Sutherland made significant new discoveries while excavating a centuries old building on Baffin Islands. According to National Geographic, Sutherland’s team uncovered several whetstones. What made these stones significant is that they contained traces of metal alloys like bronze, brass, and smelted iron. Each of these metals were unknown to the natives of Baffin Island, but were well known the Scandinavians of Greenland.
|Patricia Sutherland (orange jacket) excavating Baffin Island|
from National Geographic
After uncovering additional unexplained artifacts from Baffin Island being stored in the museum, Sutherland decided to begin a reinvestigation on 2001. She began on the southeast coast, at an area called Tanfield Valley, near a site where a stone and sod house had been excavated in the 1960’s.
In addition to the whetstones, Sutherland’s team has discovered pelt fragments from Old World rats, a whalebone shovel similar to some used by Greenlanders, stones which appear to have been cut using European techniques, and stone ruins similar to those found in Greenland. Although some archaeologists have argued that radiocarbon dating has shown that the Tanfield Valley area was populated well before the supposed Norse visit, Sutherland believes the area shows evidence of several occupations well into the Viking Age.
As Baffin Island is far north of Newfoundland, it appears the original theory connecting Baffin Island to Helluland may be correct. In addition, most researchers believe that Newfoundland may have been the area described by Ericson as Vinland. Still, others believe the Scandinavian explorers of 1000 AD came as far south as New England. These theorists point to stone structures like Mystery Hill in Salem New Hampshire, and to mysterious characters found inscribed in large stones all across New England.
Of course, these discoveries in Baffin Island do not help to prove a medieval Norse presence in my area. Those unexplained New England curiosities today remain unexplained. Still, after hundreds of years of theory and speculation, we have finally begun to retrace a route of New World exploration first followed by Europeans over a thousand years ago.