Exactly 1000 years ago: ‘Vikings were in North America in 1021’

The Vikings were in North America was already known, but a precise year was still missing. So far. Scientists from the University of Groningen and other researchers have shown that Northern Europeans were in todays Canada exactly a thousand years ago, in the year 1021. The research was published today in the scientific journal Nature.

An archaeological site in LAnse Aux Meadows, in Newfoundland, recalls the presence of the Vikings. โ€œThat was a kind of settlement that could accommodate a man or a hundred,โ€ says UG researcher Margot Kuitems in the radio programme News and Co.

This archaeological find meant that the researchers knew that the Vikings had been there. โ€œBut until recently it was not clear when this place came into existence,โ€ Kuitems said.

The Vikings dates in North America were mainly based on Icelandic folk tales, sagas, which were recorded centuries later and sometimes also included contradictions.


The researchers managed to determine the exact year the Vikings were in North America by analyzing pieces of wood at LAnse aux Meadows. It concerns wood with clear traces of cutting and cutting with blades of iron, a material that the indigenous people did not use.

The growth rings in the wood were also counted and radioactivity was measured. It was already known that there were solar storms in 775 and 993, so much more carbon-14 (c-14) was radioactive in the atmosphere.

Annual Rings Counting

In the wood, the peak of radioactivity from 993 was measured. โ€œAt that point, all you have to do is count the only annual rings towards the outside of the wood,โ€ says researcher Kuitems. โ€œAnd then you can determine exactly what year the wood was cut, or when the tree died.โ€

It remains unclear how many Vikings expeditions have been to the American continent and how long they stayed there, the researchers emphasize. In any case, their presence has not lasted long.