It’s been known for a while that Norse raiders made it as far as Newfoundland long before Christopher Columbus talked Isabella into hocking the Spanish crown jewels to fund his explorations. Now it seems the Norsemen may have made it as far as New Brunswick. Excerpt:
A lost Viking settlement known as “Hóp,” which has been mentioned in sagas passed down over hundreds of years, is said to have supported wild grapes, abundant salmon and inhabitants who made canoes out of animal hides. Now, a prominent archaeologist says the settlement likely resides in northeastern New Brunswick.
If Hóp is found it would be the second Viking settlement to be discovered in North America. The other is at L’Anse aux Meadows on the northern tip of Newfoundland.
Over the decades, scholars have suggested possible locations where the remains of Hóp might be found, including Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick (on the east coast of Canada), Nova Scotia, Maine, New England and New York. However, using the description of the settlement from sagas of Viking voyages, along with archaeological work carried out at L’Anse aux Meadows and at Native American sites along the east coast of North America, an archaeologist has narrowed down the likely location of Hóp to northeastern New Brunswick. The likeliest location there? The Miramichi-Chaleur bay area. [In Photos: Viking Settlement Discovered at L’Anse aux Meadows]
Based on the research, “I am placing Hóp in the Miramichi-Chaleur bay area,” Birgitta Wallace, a senior archaeologist emerita with Parks Canada who has done extensive research on the Vikings in North America, told Live Science. Hóp, she said, may not be the name of just one settlement, but rather an area where the Vikings may have created multiple short-term settlements whose precise locations varied from year to year. Tales of the Viking voyages were passed down orally before being written down, and “Hóp” may have been misunderstood as being just one site when it could have referred to several seasonal settlements, Wallace said.
Speaking as someone who makes a pretty good living helping big corporations learn how to analyze data and find solutions, I really don’t envy archeologists their jobs. They work with fragmentary data and, the farther back in time their targets of study are, the more disjointed and fragmentary the data is. The distance in time now between us and the first Europeans to visit the Americas is vast enough to leave only a few tantalizing clues; and the Norsemen weren’t very good at keeping records, leaving us only bits and pieces of oral legends.
Still, it’s important to note that the New Brunswick settlement hasn’t actually been found. It’s also important to note that the Norse may not have been the first Europeans to land in the Americas, although the prospect of Ice Age hunter-gatherers skirting arctic ice to get to North America is supported by even sketchier evidence.
Still. It’s an interesting idea, and maybe now some diggers have a better idea where to dig.