Before we get into the cool stuff, let's get this out of the way before I have the entire world of snobby, four-eyed, pointy-noised academics on my britches. The word viking is really kinda used incorrectly here. Officially, the word for the seafaring people from Scandinavia who explored, raided, and settled around the North Atlantic is Norsemen, because they spoke variations of the Norse language (and a Norse is a Norse, of course, of course). In Old Norse, the term víking meant an expedition, as in, "We're heading out on a víking!" or "I hope I score at least sixty kills on my víking next weekend!" It wasn't until the 18th century when the period was romanticized (because no one from the time was alive to make you feel bad about praising such a bloody age) that viking was transformed from the journey to the actual journeyer. So I apologize in advance for using the word incorrectly in the title of this history, as well as throughout the text. Nonetheless, the public is more familiar with the term "Vikings," and who am I to argue with my adoring fans?
(You can also argue that the Vikings didn't discover America since it was already inhabited, and that America really isn't the correct descriptor since that name would apply only after the 16th century. But seriously, shut up. You wouldn't have clicked on this link if it was called "Norsemen Land upon a Western Hemispheric Landmass." I took a Marketing class once, thank you very much.)
|Fig.2: In Erik the Red's |
defense, not committing
manslaughter is a lot
harder when you hold
pointy stuff all the time.
But the fun didn't stop there! The Vikings couldn't help but explore further west, and it was on these journeys that another discovery was made. Legend states that a merchant who voyaged off course with his thirty-volume set of dictionaries "ascertained the abode of some acreage abreast of the archetypical avenue for my amphibious advancement apparatus" (he was still studying the "a" section). The first to hear of this tale was Leif Erikson, son of Erik the Red (thus: Erikson), who was respected throughout Greenland since he had only committed some minor assaults and kept clear of all the temptations of manslaughter. He quickly gathered a crew and set sail in a southwestern direction, where the temperature went from blisteringly cold to just blistering cold. After a voyage of just under two thousand miles (which greatly bolstered Leif's CaptialOne® Venture Card℠ account), they finally spotted new-found land on the northern tip of an island whose name I'm completely drawing a blank on.
|Fig.3: Remember to celebrate Leif |
Erikson Day every October 9th!
YARGEA HINGER DINGER!
Apart from the casual visits to chop down some timber and pee their names in the snow, this was about the extent of Norse settlement in the Americas. Sure, there have been some artifacts discovered within the United States that suggest a pre-Columbian Viking presence, but all of those are considered big fat phonies by most experts. This prominently includes the Kensington Runestone, discovered in 1898 in central Minnesota, whose inscribing appears to imply that Scandinavian explorers visited the region in the 14th century! However, pretty much every runologist (yes, that's a thing) in the world views it as a hoax, especially since the language on the rock closely resembles a modern form of Swedish that sounds more like the tongue spoken by present-day Viking invaders Daniel and Henrik Sedin than that of Leif Erikson. In the end, if it wasn't for the archaeological evidence of a settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland (fig.4), we wouldn't have had a bloody clue they came to visit in the first place! No house-warming gift or anything! How rude!
|Fig.4: Reconstruction of a Viking longhouse at L'Anse aux Meadows, which must of had a terrible |
roach problem if Leif Erikson preferred to return to the Earth's back pimple known as Greenland.