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This door opens a Viking turfhouse in Eiríksstaðir, Iceland.

But don't worry, you won’t have to stay in one of these when you visit, they have hotels and Airbnb now!

Vikings built turfhouses like these out of sod or turf, instead of wood, like everyone else in the world was using at the time.

There’s a reasonable explanation for this but it might not be what you think. At the time, wood was used as fuel to keep homes warm but the long winters in Iceland meant trees took a very very long time to grow, in turn, making wood an extremely valuable resource.

Icelandic Turfhouse
Sod is visible from the side of the turfhouse, revealing the building process.

To get around this problem Icelanders began using dirt and grass for the walls and roofing of their homes. It was very effective; Icelanders lived in houses like these for nearly 1000 years, and some lived in them as recently as the 1950s.

Viking Turfhouses were often crowded, housing several families at once. Turfhouse ruins have been found all over Iceland and Greenland but when archeologist Anne Stine Ingstad and her husband, the explorer Helge Ingstad discovered some in L’Anse Meadows, Canada, it shocked the world.

Icelandic Turfhouse
The Icelandic flag is always waving in windy Iceland.

However, Icelanders knew about the presence of the Canadian turfhouses all along. While the global community stuck to the narrative that Christopher Columbus “discovered” North America, Icelanders were claiming that one of their own, Leif Erikson, was the true first.

The world needed proof but the only proof that Iceland could come up with were a few stories in the Icelandic Sagas, a series of historical narratives written in the 13th Century.

“You can’t really say this is history or fiction,” according to Ármann Jakobssen, Professor of Medieval Icelandic Literature at the University of Iceland. “They are simply less reliable as history.”

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An excerpt from one of the many Sagas, written hundreds of years ago.

Jakobssen explains that the Icelandic Sagas include a lot of mythology and folklore about Elves, Trolls and Witches. Alongside these folklore tales are a lot of historical facts, like the location of Viking settlements in Canada and Greenland.

Much of the skepticism regarding Iceland’s claim about Leif Erikson and North America comes from these sagas.

When the discovery in L’Anse Meadows revealed up to ten Viking structures, any doubt about Iceland’s claims had dissipated. Now, archeologists believe that they may even have discovered another settlement about 400 miles south of L'Anse Meadows.

There are rumors that Vikings traveled as far south as the US state of Maine. No one knows when or why the settlements were eventually abandoned.

If you have an idea, let us know! Find out more about these turfhouses from an Icelander himself, by listening to our latest podcast episode.

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This door opens a Viking turfhouse in Eiríksstaðir, Iceland.

But don't worry, you won’t have to stay in one of these when you visit, they have hotels and Airbnb now!

Vikings built turfhouses like these out of sod or turf, instead of wood, like everyone else in the world was using at the time.

There’s a reasonable explanation for this but it might not be what you think. At the time, wood was used as fuel to keep homes warm but the long winters in Iceland meant trees took a very very long time to grow, in turn, making wood an extremely valuable resource.

Icelandic Turfhouse
Sod is visible from the side of the turfhouse, revealing the building process.

To get around this problem Icelanders began using dirt and grass for the walls and roofing of their homes. It was very effective; Icelanders lived in houses like these for nearly 1000 years, and some lived in them as recently as the 1950s.

Viking Turfhouses were often crowded, housing several families at once. Turfhouse ruins have been found all over Iceland and Greenland but when archeologist Anne Stine Ingstad and her husband, the explorer Helge Ingstad discovered some in L’Anse Meadows, Canada, it shocked the world.

JOIN US: Travel Podcast Travel Podcast Travel Podcast Travel Podcast

Icelandic Turfhouse
The Icelandic flag is always waving in windy Iceland.

However, Icelanders knew about the presence of the Canadian turfhouses all along. While the global community stuck to the narrative that Christopher Columbus “discovered” North America, Icelanders were claiming that one of their own, Leif Erikson, was the true first.

The world needed proof but the only proof that Iceland could come up with were a few stories in the Icelandic Sagas, a series of historical narratives written in the 13th Century.

“You can’t really say this is history or fiction,” according to Ármann Jakobssen, Professor of Medieval Icelandic Literature at the University of Iceland. “They are simply less reliable as history.”

Travel Podcast
An excerpt from one of the many Sagas, written hundreds of years ago.

Jakobssen explains that the Icelandic Sagas include a lot of mythology and folklore about Elves, Trolls and Witches. Alongside these folklore tales are a lot of historical facts, like the location of Viking settlements in Canada and Greenland.

Much of the skepticism regarding Iceland’s claim about Leif Erikson and North America comes from these sagas.

When the discovery in L’Anse Meadows revealed up to ten Viking structures, any doubt about Iceland’s claims had dissipated. Now, archeologists believe that they may even have discovered another settlement about 400 miles south of L'Anse Meadows.

There are rumors that Vikings traveled as far south as the US state of Maine. No one knows when or why the settlements were eventually abandoned.

If you have an idea, let us know! Find out more about these turfhouses from an Icelander himself, by listening to our podcast episode below:

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You can find out more about these topics by clicking the links in the article above. If you want to find out more interesting things about Iceland and travel, then subscribe to our Podcast here: iTunes  Acast  Stitcher  TuneIn

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George
Guest

There is actually a fairly strong theory that the Vikings sailed and landed in Rhode Island.

The Boston Globe covered it: https://www.google.it/amp/s/www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/travel/2013/11/23/uncovering-new-england-viking-connections/JhxUdp7xvwZK8DjxqQ9cFO/amp.html?client=safari

but as far as I know, this guy is the first to start uncovering the connection between the ancient Viking saga and the geography of the region: http://www.vinlandsite.com/Viking%20Artifacts%20in%20New%20England.htm

Doug R
Guest
For more information about the Vikings in pre-Columbian America check out the Kensington Runestone. Apparently Vikings were in Minnesota, with their boats and a camp at the “inland sea” of Lake Superior and went further inland to hunt, to what is today Kensington, Minnesota and some of the party got slaughtered. (By Indians apparently.) The survivors carved the Runestone and left it behind. Also…. there are holes in rocks on the west bank of the Red River in South or North Dakota which are unmistakably mooring points for boats. The holes are of Viking style and most plausibly of Viking… Read more »
Ivriniel
Guest

The Kensington Runestone is considered a hoax by reputable archeologists. Beyond that, simple geography should tell you how unlikely it was for Vikings to get into Lake Superior. They would have had to portage their long boats around Niagara Falls just to get to Lake Erie.

Doug R
Guest

What convinced me is that the Kensington Runestone bears runes which were completely unknown at the time of its discovery, but which have since been independently dated to the same period as the year written on the stone (1362.)

In addition there are several other significant points which would support the artifact’s authenticity:

http://www.kensingtonrunestone.us/html/_conclusions.html

Ken M
Guest

Seems to me no one wanted to “discover” this country. Maybe we should only give credit to those who knew it existed and meant to discover it.

Eric
Guest

I am confused… so who would get the credit?

Jen
Guest

DUH! Whoever already knew N. America existed and had set out with the express purpose and desire of discovering the new world. Ken M is on to something here

Ken M
Guest

The forefathers of course!!!!!!!! They knew America existed and sent a thesis to Britain in 1776. They discredited the thesis and we proved them wrong eventually.

Eric
Guest

But the Vikings ‘discovered’ Canada. The Americas are bigger than the good old U.S. of A. of course…

Ken M
Guest

They “discovered” Minnesota which is part of the United States.

Andrew
Guest

Hi!
Great article.. as someone from newfoundland we were always taught that the Vikings were forced to leave their settlements in newfoundland due to ongoing conflicts with the aboriginals who inhabited the island. This was out of learnings from middle school (10-15) years ago so thoughts may have changed since then.

Andrek79
Guest

I need to find all the links., but it was brought to my attention about a year ago that the Native Americans of the NE part of the continent were the only people to repel & drive back the vikings.

Here is a link I found quickly, but more research needs to be done.

http://nativeamericannetroots.net/diary/1161

cunneda
Guest

there is at least circumstantial evidence that St Brendan of Ireland made landfall in the America’s in the 5th century

Jeffieboy
Guest

We visited l’Anse aux Meadows this summer and were simply left in awe of the rugged beauty and remoteness of the area. Seeing how they lived in this little settlement and seeing how few resources were at hand, you couldn’t help but think that there HAD to be other sites set up for support, hunting, trading, creating hoards, etc. if you get the opportunity to go there, do it. Amazing, haunting, beautiful.

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