If you needed grapes, salmon and hide-covered canoes, where would you go? If you said, “the Miramichi-Chaleur Bay area in northeastern New Brunswick, Canada,” you may want to check your family tree for some Viking ancestry. An archeologist searching for the mythical Viking settlement of Hop has used Norse sagas and historical evidence uncovered at the first (and so far only) North American Viking site at L’Anse aux Meadows to pinpoint the Miramichi-Chaleur Bay area as the location of what may turn out to be the second. Does this mean the Vikings TV show and dozens of documentaries will need to be redone?
“I’m really convinced that the Vikings did visit that area. Not all my colleagues would agree with me.”
Birgitta Wallace, senior archaeologist emerita with Parks Canada and research director for the “Where is Vinland?” segment of the “Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History” project, told the CBC that she started with written records from Iceland that document parts of the oral history of the Vikings. Unfortunately, the documents were written at least 300 years after the events, resulting in two tales of what is most likely North American exploration.
One saga centers around about Leif Erikson being blown off-course while sailing between Iceland and Greenland and finding what became known as Vinland, eventually building a base camp and making four voyages. The second epic tale is more detailed and covers all of the expeditions between a summer camp at Hop, which means “tidal lagoon,” and a northern settlement on what is described as being in a fjord or narrow inlet.
To the sagas Wallace added evidence dug up at L’Anse aux Meadows, the first and so far only proven North American Viking settlement located on the northern peninsula of Newfoundland … evidence such as butternuts and butternut wood.
“And butternuts have never grown north of northeastern New Brunswick. They are not native to either P.E.I. or Nova Scotia, so New Brunswick is the closest location.”
The sagas also mention grapes – not surprising since the name given to the new land was Vinland. Wallace points out that grapes and butternuts grown in the same area and ripen at the same time, so the butternut harvesters probably flipped a coin and decided not to call the area Butternutland. (If only they could find that coin.)
Finally, New Brunswick is the home of the Mi’kmaq, the indigenous inhabitants of the Metepenagiag or Red Bank area whose ancestors lived there for over 3,000 years – long enough for their hide-covered canoes to be seen by Vikings.
Unfortunately, no physical evidence from the Vikings has been found in New Brunswick. Wallace believes that, since the area was only used as a summer camp, all tools, equipment, tents and even bodies of those who had died were taken back to Greenland when the weather turned colder. Today, the area is developed and under concrete.
Will that stop modern explorers from hammering through the parking lots for evidence of the second Vikings settlement in North America? Not as long as there’s a History Channel.