Who Was the First to Discover America? ~ A guest post by Alex lemaire

I’m pleased to welcome to the blog Alex lemaire.  He describes himself as an ordinary guy who is interested in history and he believes metal detectors are time machines that help unearth history.  You can find his blog at https://metaldetectorplanet.com/ 

Leiv Eriksson Discovers North American. Painting by Christian Krohg, 19th C.


One of the popular beliefs is that Christopher Columbus was the first man to discover America.   He was an Italian sailor on board a Spanish ship, looking for a faster route to reach India.  The trip lasted for three months and he accidentally discovered the New World on October 12, 1492.  People in various countries of the Americas celebrate this day thinking Columbus is the discoverer of the new continent.

However, archeological evidence shows the Vikings already knew about the New World 500 years before Columbus.  They even settled for a while in Newfoundland and Labrador (the most easterly province of present-day Canada).  Their remains were found in the L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site discovered in 1960.  The site is 1000 years old and was inhabited somewhere between 989 and A.D 1020.

The site consists of eight structures built in the same style as those found in Greenland and Iceland during the 11th-century.  These buildings were shelters and workshops for woodworking and iron production.  Native Americans didn’t master metallurgy so the iron artifacts must have European origins.  After further examination of the blade sharpening tools excavated from the site, archaeologists found traces of bronze that was usually made by the Vikings.

Before this discovery, historians had no evidence suggesting that Columbus wasn’t the first European to arrive to the new world.  The only thing they had were sagas.  According to these tales, a sailor named Leif Eriksson discovered the American continent somewhere around A.D 1000.

Eriksson was the son of an outlaw, Erik the Red, who was expelled from Iceland to Greenland where he set up the first Viking settlement.  Eriksson was born in Iceland around A.D 970-980 but he grew up in Greenland.  He then traveled to Norway where he converted to Christianity.

There are a few differences between the sagas due to the fact they were transmitted by word of mouth before being written.  One version says that Eriksson accidentally discovered America because he lost his way when he was going back home to preach the new religion.  According to the other, he heard about the existence of a strange new land and he wanted to explore it.

After reaching his destination, he saw a rocky land he called Helluland, which means Stone Slab Land in Norwegian.  Then, the sailors headed west and found a land with lots of trees, which they called Markland (Forestland).  They finally dropped anchor and settled for a while in an area rich of wild grapes which they called Vinland (Wineland).

It is interesting how the Sagas match the reality.  The Helluland (Stone Slab Land) looks like the Baffin Island, the Markland (Forestland) is similar to Labrador and the Vinland (Wineland) could be the island of Newfoundland where the L’Anse aux Meadows was discovered.  The archeological site of L’Anse aux Meadows is dated to the time when Leif Erikson lived.


New horizons at L’Anse aux Meadows


Further reading:  “Vikings, the North Atlantic Saga” edited by William W. Fitzhugh and Elisabeth I. Ward, “The Viking Discovery of America: The Excavation of a Norse Settlement in L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland” by Helge Ingstad and Anne Stine Ingstad

L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site, UNESCO, https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/4

Leif Erikson: Norse explorer, Birgitta Wallace, ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Leif-Erikson

Evidence of Viking Outpost Found in Canada, Heather Pringle, National Geographic News, https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/10/121019-viking-outpost-second-new-canada-science-sutherland/

The Viking Explorer Who Beat Columbus to America, Christopher Klein, History, https://www.history.com/news/the-viking-explorer-who-beat-columbus-to-america


6 thoughts on “Who Was the First to Discover America? ~ A guest post by Alex lemaire

  1. Viking sailors did not get “lost”. They certainly would never sail West instead of East towards Norway. Eriksson would probably not have explored the North American continent with a warship (note the shields) but with a ship loaded with provisions and survival gear, a sturdy transport vessel similar to the Roar Egge in Roskilde.


  2. Excellent stuff – enjoyed that. I’m sure I heard somewhere a theory that monks made it across the Atlantic even before Erikson – need to check that (probably propaganda!). There’s also the mysterious carvings, apparently of corn on the cob, in Rosslyn Chapel – made 50 years before Columbus…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Columbus had Navigation Charts made by the Knights Templars. They had been declared BAD GUYS and everything about them was removed from history. ( Definition of HISTORY – The accepted lie of the past )


  4. An informative and well written post. I recommend avoiding such words as “discovered” since we all know Native Americans were already in North and South America much earlier,
    Why didn’t other Asians follow them and cross the Pacific, even to the north, and settle northwestern America? I’m sure there are good explanations.


  5. “Discovering America” was not a matter of just getting there. It was a matter of setting up frequent, large scale contact between hemispheres with major effects on both sides. In that sense, Columbus was the only meaningful discoverer of the Americas. Leif and his people got there, maybe various other people got there, but before Columbus none of them created the great inter-hemispheric contact that really mattered. I do not particularly like Columbus, who seems to have been a greedy and sometimes ruthless man, but he really was the true discoverer of the Americas.


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