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Vikings and the First American Colony

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Vikings and the First American Colony

The idea that Columbus did not provide Europeans with their first long term contact with America is now nearly universally accepted. Activists for the Irish monk, St. Brenden, and other early explorers are gaining support with new archaeological evidence. It is the Norsemen, though, that have the distinction of being the first colonizers of the Americas, whether or not chance meetings occurred before. The legacy they left the Americas is striking considering the short amount of time they actually spent here, and historians are baffled by nearly every aspect of their colony. The forces that made them abandon Vineland, their main colony, are the subject of an ongoing debate on both sides of the Atlantic. The nature, location, and inhabitants of the Americas the Vikings knew would all have been obstacles to forming a permanent settlement. The economy, the driving force for colonization, also affected the need for Vineland.

The peninsula in the northwest corner of Europe known as Jutland has been inhabited by Scandinavians for centuries. Ptolmey writes about the area and Roman artifacts have been found during excavations of Norway and Sweeden demonstrating considerable contact with southern Europe (Wilson 21-23) Literacy is indicated by the Runes which first appeared at the beginning of the third century. The Runic alphabet has changed and evolved through the years, and claims of inscriprions dot the United States and are largey the basis on knowledge of Viking presence (Wilson 27). During the first century, Europeans embarked on a period of great migration, a time of great wealth and prosperity for the Scandinavians. One cause was the settlement of a new territory on the basis of "an eco...

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...ed factual. Other sites in Greenland substantiate the sagas and we can rely on them for information regarding the Viking exploration of America. They do not, unfortunately, tell us the precise location of Vineland, so many aspects of the Viking adventures remain a mystery. For now, historians credit Vikings with the first European discovery of America. The colony was not permanent, but the legacy the Vikings left is seen in many places like Cape Cod where street names like Leif Lane and Viking Way dot the maps.

Historians may never know all the details concerning why settlement did not last. For now the evidence points to skirmishes with the natives, the long distance from Greenland, the population shortage and the natural environmental factors. The Vikings were here for an instant and, for various reasons abandoned their settlement, leaving their mark forever.

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