Canada is the first, and so far only, G-7 nation to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, and some new archeological research suggests its place as a pot trailblazer may have been predestined by none other than the Vikings over 1000 years ago. Not only that, it appears their presence in northern Newfoundland lasted around 200 years. Did the pot make them forget how to get home?
“The UNESCO World Heritage site of L’Anse aux Meadows (LAM) in northern Newfoundland is the only undisputed site of pre-1492 presence of Europeans in the Americas. In August 2018, we undertook fieldwork at LAM to sample the peat bog 30 m east of the Norse ruins for a multiproxy paleoenvironmental assessment of Norse settlement. Instead, we encountered a new cultural horizon. Here we report our fieldwork at this iconic site and a Bayesian analysis of legacy radiocarbon data, which nuance previous conclusions and suggest Norse activity at LAM may have endured for a century.”
L’Anse aux Meadows was founded by the Vikings around 1000 CE and up until now it was believed to have been occupied for just a few months, being abandoned by winter when local game fled into the wilderness. The latest edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published the report by Canadian and UK researchers who in 2018 excavated a peat bog next to the former Viking settlement and found “ecofacts” or environmental remains that appear to have been brought there by humans and were radiocarbon dated to the 12th or 13th century – putting Viking occupation there far longer than first thought. In addition to plants, insects and animals not native to the area, the researchers found Humulus pollen from either cannabis or the flowering plant in the cannabis family that is also the source of hops used in the brewing of beer.
“Cereal-type pollen could derive from wild grasses, while Humulus lupulus-type and Juglans may have arrived through wind dispersal. However, their sole presence in the cultural horizon and the past identification of Juglans macrofossils at LAM is intriguing.”
The study qualifies the cannabis finding with the caveat that it could have blown there from someplace else, but that would imply that it could be found elsewhere in the L’Anse aux Meadows area and that’s not the case. If the Vikings really did bring it there, did it play a part in them staying in L’Anse aux Meadows for over 200 years – albeit not continuously? It’s well known that they grew cannabis in Norway for the purpose of using the hemp for rope and clothing, so it seems highly plausible that they would have brought it with them to other settlements. Perhaps a future DNA study of the Canadian humulus pollen might identify it as the Norse variety.
Yes, yes, we all want to know if the Vikings got high during their extended stays in Canada. So far, the evidence says no. On the other hand, they’re Vikings! They’re hanging out in a new land far away from their families, bosses and anyone else who might care whether they got stoned or not. If you were a Viking, wouldn’t you chop down a tree, carve it into a round, hollowed-out piece, rub two other sticks together and light up a bowl?
“Ecofacts from cultural waste sandwiched between layers of peat may not be as evocative as artifacts such as a ringed bronze pin, or a finely crafted lithic projectile point. Yet, they present new horizons for examining the environmental legacies of inter- and intracontinental movement of people within North America prior to 1492. Whatever their affinity, the cultural deposits within the LAM peatlands preserve unique archaeological and biogeographical stories waiting to be told.”