In the year 1000, the Norse began construction on a large church in Iceland. This was to be their new place of worship after moving away from their original small wooden churches. In addition to being a house of God, this church also held something much more important: historical records of Viking voyages and expeditions. Upon its completion, the famous Icelandic historian and poet, Ari the Wise, documented this event by writing “Leif Erikson found America” in a book about great discoveries by famous people. In response to such claims (and other fabricated stories) that Leif Erikson discovered America, we decided to do some investigating and see if there was any truth behind them. As it turns out, the official story is much different than what most people believe. Here is what we found out.
When Did Leif Erikson Discover America?
Leif Eriksson was a Norse explorer who was the first European to discover North America, 500 years before Columbus. He was born in Iceland and grew up among Norse settlers in Greenland. In 1001 AD, Ericson sailed from Greenland to northern Canada, where he discovered a land he named Vinland Leif Ericson’s voyage proved that the two continents were not joined, as was widely believed at that time.
Why Do People Think Leif Ericson Discovered America?
1. Ericson and the Norse explorers
The first thing people think about when they think of Ericson is the Norse explorers. The Vikings were seafaring people who explored the world, heading east, south, and west in their longships. It is thought that they discovered Newfoundland, Canada, in the year 1000 and spent a winter there. They named the land “Vinland” because of the wild grapes that grew there. If Leif Ericson did discover America, he would not be the first Norse explorer to do so. Way back in the year 985, Bjarni Herjolfsson was sailing from Norway to Iceland when he was blown off course. He ended up off the coast of North America, but he didn’t continue exploring. When he got back home, he told people about what he saw.
2. The “Vinland Map”
In the year 1513, about 75 years after Columbus set sail for the New World, a map was created. It was called the “Vinland Map,” and it was created by a monk in the British Library. The map was thought to have been drawn by the British monk, but it was later determined to have been a forgery. The Vinland Map looks very similar to a map drawn by Ericson’s uncle, the explorer Bjarni Herjolfsson. It shows Newfoundland, Canada, as a large island off the coast of North America, which is how Herjolfsson would have viewed it. The Vinland Map also shows Greenland as being a smaller island near Newfoundland. The Vinland Map has been examined many times and has been determined to be a fake. It is thought that the forger copied it from the chart of Herjolfsson, but modern scholars believe that the original chart was drawn by Ericson.
3. Ruins from Ericson’s trip
There are ruins in Newfoundland that are said to have been built by Ericson’s men. When Ericson and his men built a settlement there, they used materials from the land, including sod and timbers made of spruce root. After a couple of centuries, the settlement was abandoned. Unfortunately, all of the buildings have since fallen, and only the turf foundations remain. They are called the “Norse” or “Ericson” sites. The timbers in these houses were made of spruce with a central core of clay. The clay was probably taken from the banks of the nearby rivers. Most of the timbers were plain and uncarved, but a few of them had carved designs. The beams, gables, and wall posts of these buildings were made of spruce with the roots still attached. The walls were made of sod, which is a kind of the earth. The walls were made of grass cut from the nearby fields, mixed with crushed peat and gravel.
4. Ruins from another Norseman’s trip
There are ruins in Labrador that could have been built by Ericson’s uncle, Eric the Red. Eric the Red, who founded a Viking settlement in Greenland, was on a voyage when he was blown off course and ended up in North America. He spent a winter there, and then he sailed home. When he returned, Eric the Red brought samples of the native plants he found there, which is how people know that he spent time in North America. Eric the Red landed in Labrador, and he built a settlement there. Unfortunately, the settlement has been destroyed and only the ruins of a sod wall remain.
5. People might be confusing Ericson with his uncle Eric the Red
Eric the Red is best known for having founded a Viking settlement in Greenland, while Leif Ericson is best known for having discovered America. These two men lived in the same time period, so it’s easy for people to confuse them. There are stories that tell of Eric the Red exploring “Vinland” in North America and bringing back samples of the native plants. Because of this, people think that Eric the Red discovered America, when in fact he only explored Newfoundland, Canada.
What Is The True Story of When Leif Erikson Discovered America?
- Leif Erikson (or Ericsson) was born in Iceland in the year 970 AD – making him a Viking and not a Norseman (by about 100 years). By the age of 20, he had already become a renowned Viking explorer who traveled across the world in search of new settlements and trade routes.
- Although there are various accounts of his voyages, the most notable voyage was his trip to North America. His story begins in the year 1000 AD when the Norse were constructing a Christian church in Iceland. This church would become the new place of worship for the citizens of Iceland, replacing the small wooden churches that had previously been used.
- As the construction of the new building neared completion, the famous Icelandic historian and poet, Ari the Wise, wrote that Leif Erikson had found America. The only problem is that Leif Erikson was not in Iceland at the time. He had already sailed away to explore new lands. As such, he never actually saw the new church that the Norse were constructing. It would be several years later before he would return to Iceland to visit his family again.
- The story of Leif Erikson discovering America is based on the account given by Ari the Wise. The following are some of the key points in his story that are often used to back up this claim:
- The Norse built a church in Iceland after moving away from their original small wooden churches. The church was built to hold important historical records of Viking voyages and expeditions. When the church was completed, Ari wrote that Leif Erikson had found America. This is widely accepted as evidence that Leif Erikson was the first European to discover America. These points are often used to support the claim that Leif Erikson discovered America. But did they really?
Did Leif Erikson Really Discover America?
- He did not. If you read the first part of this article, you already know that Leif Erikson was in Norway when the church was completed in Iceland. As such, he was definitely not in Iceland when Ari wrote about his discovery.
- Another reason why Ari’s words do not prove that Leif Erikson discovered America is because he wrote that Erikson had found “dis land” (this land). This suggests that Leif Erikson reached the mainland of Canada and not one of the islands off the coast. Other versions of the same story, however, state that Ari wrote that he saw “dis island.”
- This could be a reference to Newfoundland which is an island off the coast of Canada. But because Ari wasn’t specific, we can’t know for sure. It should also be noted that Newfoundland was not actually discovered until almost a century later by John Cabot.
- The only thing we can say for certain is that no European actually discovered America. This is because North and South America was already inhabited by a number of different cultures and civilizations.
As you’ve no doubt concluded by now, the story of Leif Erikson discovering America is a bit of a mess. And the only reason why his name is remembered is that people have attached it to the story of him discovering North America. But, as we’ve seen, there is no real evidence to suggest that Erikson discovered America. There are other versions of the same story that suggest that he found Newfoundland, an island off the coast of Canada. This is not to say that Leif Erikson was not a great explorer.