National Geographic : 1964 Nov
"What will you give me if I find something we know from the Norse farms in Greenland?" "The ring you wanted in Montreal," I an swered without hesitation. Anne Stine went on digging, and soon we saw a small sunken place at the outer edge of the hearth. It measured about 61/2 by 10 inches and was neatly lined with slate on sides and bottom (opposite). This had to be an ember pit. Here a few hot coals were kept alive at night, covered with ashes, ready to start the breakfast fire next morning. Similar ember pits have been excavated at several Greenland farms, including Brattah lid, the homestead of Eric the Red. Anne Stine had won her ring. Labrador Landmarks Match Saga Leaving the work at L'Anse au Meadow going confidently on, I sailed northward in Halten with a couple of companions to play Vikings ourselves, tracing out the route of the Vinland voyagers along the coast of Labrador. The Saga of Thorfinn Karlsefni says: "They sailed south along the land for a long while till they came to a cape. The land lay to star board; there were long beaches and sands there. They rowed ashore and found there on the cape the keel from a ship, so called the place Kjalarnes. The beaches they called Furdustrandir [Marvelstrands] because it was such a long business sailing past them...." At Cape Porcupine, south of Hamilton Inlet, the much-indented coast abruptly straightens into a wide beach about 30 miles long. Woods reach down to soft white sands, where black bears wade at sunset to feast on drifts of small fish called capelin. The ridged backbone of Cape Porcupine looks like the keel of a ship. I became convinced that Professor Tanner and W. A. Munn were right: This beach must be Furdustrandir and the point Kjalarnes, the landmarks of the Vinland voyagers. After backtracking the Viking route much farther north in Labrador, we returned south to L'Anse au Meadow. My wife met the small boat as it grated against the shore. "How is the work going?" I asked. "Well, we have not found Leif Ericson's slippers yet," said Anne Stine. But there was a rather smug smile on her face. "Come on. Speak up!" I begged her. "You have to see for yourself," she replied. On the terrace lay partly uncovered the outline of a large house which I would never have guessed existed. Exposed foundation walls showed that they were made of layers 730 of turf. Anne Stine told how the light, when the sun was low, had hit the site just right to pick out the faint outline of a corner. In the fall of 1961, when we finished our first season, we had discovered traces of seven structures and some curious pits. We had unearthed a few very rusty nails, lumps of slag, and other finds quite unlike those known from settlements of Indians, Eskimos, or people from colonial times. The good-hearted L'Anse au Meadow peo ple proved wonderfully hospitable and help ful. George Decker was a tireless source of old stories and songs. Sometimes a hunter passed by, carrying a big muzzle-loading gun and powderhorn, a brace of ducks slung over his shoulder. In 1962 and 1963 I organized new expedi tions, principally financed by Norwegian sci entific foundations and individual donors in my country. But I also got valuable support from the Government of Newfoundland, the Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources of Canada, the Royal Canadian Air Force and Navy, and from an American, Dr. Terris Moore, through the Arctic Insti tute of North America. For its major contribution to my last expe dition, I am indebted to the National Geo graphic Society, not only for its financial help, but also because the Society gave the expedi tion valuable scientific and practical aid.* The last two seasons' work filled in many gaps in our knowledge. Anne Stine found that the big house measured 70 by 55 feet. It had five or six rooms, with several fireplaces and a floor of hard-packed sand and clay. In most of the buildings, lower walls con sisted of turf, for the obvious reason that no suitable stone is available nearby. Wood probably served for the upper walls and roof. Across the stream from our first dig, we found hollows obviously man-made. "There we will find the smithy," Anne Stine said. Several of the house sites had yielded lumps of iron slag, some quite large. Looking about in peaty areas, we discovered rich deposits of bog iron. Turning over turf with a spade, we would find it caked on the bottom with clus ters of these iron nodules, some as small as marbles, others as big as hens' eggs (page 728). *An international group of scientists and specialists participated in one or more of the L'Anse au Meadow expeditions: From Norway, besides my wife and myself, there were Kari Henningsmoen, Paul S¢rnes, Dr. Odd Martens, Erling Brunborg, Hans Hvide Bang, Nicolay Eckhoff, and Benedicte Ingstad. From Iceland: Dr. Krist jan Eldjarn, Professor Th6rhallur Vilmundarson, Gisli Gestsson. From Sweden: Rolf Petre. From Canada: Dr. William Taylor and Dr. Ian Whitaker. From U.S.A.: Charles Bareis and Jon Winston of the University of Illinois, in addition to Dr. Collins and Dr. Bird.