Select Page

One of the reconstructed buildings at the L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site
(click on the image to enlarge)

L’Anse aux Meadows

L’Anse aux Meadows is situated at the tip of the Great Northern Peninsula of the island of Newfoundland. The site came to the notice of the Norwegian explorer Helge Ingstad 1960 when locals showed them grass-covered mounds which were the remains of buildings.

The first excavations were carried out from 1961 to 1968 by Helge’s wife, archaeologist Anne Stine Ingstad. These excavations showed that the site dated to the 11th century and was definitely Norse.

Since then, several archeologists have conducted excavations at the site, including Bengt Schönbäck (1973–75) and Birgitta Wallace (1976 and 2002). Their findings, complemented by a series of natural-sciences investigations, contributed to L’Anse aux Meadows being named the first UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978.

In 2007 to 2009 further excavations were carried out by Jenneth Curtis and Todd Kristensen which concentrated on the indigenous settlements on the site and the surrounding area.

Location of L’Anse aux Meadows
Image Wikimedia Commons
(click on the image to enlarge)


Results of the excavations

(click on selected areas of the plan to enlarge)

Complex ABC Complex DE Complex FG Complex J

The Buildings

There were eight buildings on the L’Anse aux Meadows site, marked by remnants of low turf walls. These buildings were organized into four complexes, two of which consisted of a large hall flanked by a small hut (D-E complex and F-G complex) . A third consisted of a large hall, a hut, and a small house (ABC complex). The halls were constructed in a distinctly Icelandic style of the late 10th and early 11th centuries.

Two of the small er huts were sunken featured buildings – i.e. they were constructed with a sunken area, or pit. This type of building ceased to be constructed in Scandinavia in the latter part of the 11th century.

A third hut (building C) was a round dwelling typical of quarters for low-status people, such as slaves, in Scandinavia.

The building complexes were about 100 m from the shore, set on a narrow terrace encircling a bog.

A small stream still cuts through the terrace. The fourth complex, an iron-smelting hut, was built into the bank of the stream, closer to the shore. This open-ended hut had a small stone-and-clay furnace where iron was smelted from small deposits of ore found in bogs. Nearby was a pit for making charcoal to be used as fuel in the furnace.

The Finds

The site produced quantities of wood, including hundreds of wood chips and about 50 discarded wood objects including a floor plank from a boat.

There was also smelting slag and smithing slag and discarded iron nails from boat repair.

Personal items included eleven worn-out fire strikers of red jasper, stones used with an iron “fire steel” to create a spark, which were found within and nearby the hall buildings. There were also a spindle and a whetstone.

Dating evidence came from a ringed pin of a type in use during the 10th and early 11th centuries

The artifacts, the nature of the buildings and over 50 radiocarbon dates give a date of c.1000 AD for the Norse part of the site. The cultural deposits, the size of the midden heaps and lack of rebuilding all indicate a short period of occupation, probably only ten years or so.