A team of lanscaping workers, proceeding to an excavation near the banks of the Hudson river, has discovered the archeological remains of a Norse village dating from the 9th or 10th Century AD.
The workers were digging with a mechanical shovel near the shores of Minisceongo creek, when they stumbled upon the ruins of an ancient building. A team of archaeologists linked to Columbia University, was called to the site to inspect the findings, and they rapidly identified the site as a possible Viking settlement. They proceeded to extend the excavation, and have finally discovered the remains of six buildings.
The various structures are believed to have been constructed of sod, placed over a wooden frame. Based on the associated artifacts, the buildings were variously identified as four dwellings and two workshops. The largest dwelling measured 88 by 42 feet (26.8 by 12.8 meters) and consisted of several rooms, while two of the dwellings were much smaller and were identified as living quarters for lower-status crew or slaves. The two workshops for their part, were identified as an iron smithy, containing a large forge, and a carpentry workshop.
It is unclear how many men and women lived at the site at any given time, but the archaeological evidence suggests it had the capacity of supporting between 30 to 100 individuals, and that the site was inhabited by the Norse for a relatively short period of time.
During their search of the site, the archaeologists have discovered nine skeletons, who were identified as four adult males, two adult females and three children. Only one of the male warriors had been given a proper burial, being placed in a tomb with his weapon and belongings. The other skeletons showed traces of violent injuries and seemed to have been simply left on the site of their death by the killers.
Many clues discovered on the site suggest that the Vikings could have come into conflict with the indigenous people of the region. Besides the skeletons that were found, who were most likely killed in combat, the numerous remains of native American weapons found on the site suggest the colony suffered a large-scale attack by indigenous warriors.
Several artifacts were also found on the site, suggesting the inhabitants of the site who survived the attack, must have left hastily. These include a dozen of pieces of jewelry, like brooches, pins and arm-rings, mostly made of silver and walrus ivory. The archaeologists also unearthed iron pots, potteries, oil lamps, tools, a whetstone, coins, as well as a few broken weapons and pieces of armor.
The Vikings were Germanic Norse seafarers, speaking the Old Norse language, who raided and traded from their Scandinavian homelands across wide areas of northern and central Europe, as well as European Russia, during the late 8th to late 11th centuries.
Using their advanced seafaring skills and their famous longships, they created colonies and trading posts throughout the North Atlantic islands, navigating as far as the north-eastern coast of North America. Another short-lived Viking settlement was already discovered in 1960, in present-day L’Anse aux Meadows, located in the province Newfoundland and Labrador, in Canada. The remains of butternuts found on that site, had indeed suggested that other settlements further south, because these nuts do not grow naturally north of New Brunswick.
The scientists believe that the settlement could indeed be the legendary Norse colony known as “Vinland”, mentioned in the Icelandic Sagas. Based on the idea that the name meant “wine-land”, historians had long speculated that the region contained wild grapes. Wild grapes were, indeed, still growing in many areas of the Hudson Valley when the first European settlers arrived in the region, so the archaeologists believe that this could really be the colony described in the mythological saga.