Nordic Heritage of New World Discovery

compiled by

Gunnar Thompson, Ph.D.

Director, Multicultural Discovery Project

International Heritage Society

6910 Roosevelt Way NE, #125

Seattle, WA  98115

6000 BC   Small groups of maritime hunters traveled across the North Atlantic in skin boats and dugout canoes following migratory birds and mammals.  They are known as the "Marine Archaic culture" in Scandinavian pre-history and as the "Red-Paint People" in New England archeology. 

550 AD    Jordane's History of The Goths reports Swedish-Germanic voyages to isles in the Western Sea. 

770 Pope Gregory IV refers to the forested isle of "Greenland" (i.e., North America) in the far west.

800 Climatic Optimum

    Unusually warm weather in the northern latitudes results in excellent growing seasons on farms and rapidly expanding populations in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.  Young Vikings and traders sail to the Black Sea, the Mediterranean, and to isles in the far west (North America). 

865 Viking settlements in Iceland

981 Eric the Red's colony established on the Arctic Isle of Greenlandwhich is "greener" than usual due to a warmer climate shift of the 10th cent.

996 Icelander Bjarny Herjolfsson sights unknown isles southwest of Greenland.

1001 Leif Ericson sails from Greenland to mainland near the Gulf of St. Lawrence.  He calls the region "Vinland" due to abundant grapes.  (16th cent. explorers Cartier, Champlain, & Verrazano all reported wine grapes in New England.) 

1004 Leif's brother Thorvald and company attempt a commercial venture in Vinland.  They withdraw after a battle with Skraelings (i.e., natives). 

1010 Thorfin Karlsefni's company of 160 Greenlanders establish camp in Vinland and explore the continent from Christian's Bay (later Hudson Bay) to Florida.  After two years, they withdraw following a skirmish with Skraelings.  Nevertheless, their venture is a commercial success. 

1050 A runestone in Honen , Norway, honors mariners lost at sea on a voyage from Vinland to the Arctic hunting grounds. 

1053 Vinland is mentioned as part of the diocese of Bishop Jon of Ireland. 

1067 Historian Adam of Bremen reports that Nordic Prince Harold of the Northmen "explored the northern ocean to the boundaries of the earth." 

1073 Historian Adam of Bremen reports that the Wineland colony is noted for its wines.  (Apparently, some Nordic settlers managed to get along with the natives by this time.) 

c.1100    A tapestry from Skog, Sweden, features a farmstead of turkeysthe distinctive New World game bird. 

1112 Pope Paschal II appoints Erik Gnupsson bishop of Greenland and adjacent regions (i.e., Vinland).

1117 Bishop Gnupsson visits "Vinilanda"according to text on the 1440 Yale Vinland Map. 

1120 French historian Odericus Vitalis refers to "Wineland" in his Historia Ecclesiastica

1121 Icelandic historian Are Frode ("The Learned") reports Bishop Gnupsson's 2nd voyage to the western colony of Wineland. 

1130 Are Frode mentions "Vinland" four times in the Islendingabok

1154 Arab geographer Al-Idrisi shows Greenland to the far north on his world map. 

1200 The Far North

    As Nordic mariners depended on the compass, the "far north" meant lands near the north magnetic pole of Christian's (Hudson) Bay. 

1245 The Kristni Saga is an Icelandic record of a Norse tale about "Lucky" Leif Ericson's discovery of Wineland.  He traveled in company with his German uncle and two Swedish couriers. 

1250 The Heimskringla Saga is another version of Leif Ericson's Wineland voyage.  The Eyrbygga Saga tells of Nordic trade and battles with Native Americansthe Skraelings. 

1258 The New Land 

    Rolf of Iceland reports discovery of a New Land called "Nyaland" in the western continent.  (This is entered in Kongfriget Norges Historie.  Are Frode and Bishop Einarsson both noted that the direction to Nyaland from Iceland was southwest, i.e., toward Newfoundland or Nova Scotia.)  

1260 Eric The Red's Saga gives a detailed account of voyages to Wineland based on old folk tales. 

c.1260    King Haakon IV Haakonson of Norway-Sweden sailed "to Greenland and beyond."  So reports historian Olas Magnus.  A 15th-cent. Icelandic songwriter, Sturle Tordsson, praised Haakon for increasing Nordic possessions in the far north as far as the "Leading Star"Polaris. 

1261 Haakon IV claims sovereignty over all the lands from the Baltic Sea to the north (magnetic) pole including "landanu" or The New Land. 

1267 Taxes in Natura

    A letter from the archbishop of Nidros to the pope informs his Eminence that the overseas realm is so large that it will take 5 years to collect the taxes.  Payments are in the form of marine products and animal hides (furs)most of which come from North American mammals such as beavers, foxes, and black bears.  Thus, thriving Norse colonies are indicated for the East Coast region of North America. 

1285 The Icelandic Annals identify Adalbrand and Thorvald as two priests who found "new lands" to the west of Iceland. 

1289 Landa-Rolf sails to the New Land for King Eric. 

1330 English (Nordic) friar Nicholas of Lynn begins mapping the North Atlantic under the aegis of the King of Norway-Sweden. 

1346 Bubonic plague reaches Iceland ahead of the epidemic in England suggesting spread of the disease along the route of the North Atlantic fur trade from America. 

1347 Icelandic Annals report the arrival of a Norse ship bearing a load of lumber from Markland (i.e., Newfoundland).  Transport of lumber along this route of the Gulf Stream current is so well known that it is indicated on the Hans Resen map of 1605.

1348 Bubonic Plague in Norway

    Epidemics and cold weather devastate Nordic territories.  English, Portuguese, and Danish nations recover more quickly and soon claim the old Nordic colonies of the far northwest Atlantic (i.e., the New Land of America).

1350 A Spanish Franciscan's Book of Knowledge reports that an Irish colony (Ibernia) situated on a forested isle in the far-western Atlantic is under Norse sovereignty.  (This refers to Great Ireland located in the region of Nova Scotia.)

c.1350    The Flateyjarbok (Gronlendinga Saga) describes Lucky Leif's 11th-cent. discovery of Wineland. 

c.1350    A Faroese fairy tale places Vinland in the far west across the Atlantic Ocean. 

c.1350    Maps by English geographer Ranulf Higden show that "Wineland" is situated to the far north.  Copies of Higden's geography, Polychronicon, were available throughout Europe. 

c.1350    The Little Ice Age

    Cooler climatic conditions in northern areas and shorter growing seasons drive people south. 

1350 Inhabitants of the Arctic Greenland apparently left Vestribygda (the Western Settlement) and settled in Vinland (America) according to Bishop Ivar Bardarson. 

c.1350    Vinland The Good

    Icelandic Abbot Nikulas Bergsson describes "Vinland hit Gode" as a land south of the Arctic isle of Greenland whereas earlier geographers had it near the North Pole.  (See 1351.)

1351 Medici Marine Atlas of Florence, Italy, shows Greenland for the first time in its correct geo-graphical position northwest of England.  This reflects accurate scientific surveys of the far north by such explorers as friar Nicholas. 

1355 King Magnus Eiriksson dispatches a search party under Paul Knutsson to ascertain the fate of immigrants from the Western Settlement of Greenland. 

c.1360    A travelog by friar Nicholas, the Inventio Fortunatae, reports abandoned European settlements in the western mainland (America). 

1360 Priests from "Dusky Norway" (North America) visit the king in Bergen. 

1362 Kensington Runestone records the tragedy of a band of Vinland explorers who followed the Nelson River from Christian Bay into Minnesota. 

1363 King Haakon Magnusson battles with Hanseatic Pirates in seas near Greenland.

1366 King Peter of Cyprus writes that the Norse realm overseas is so large that it takes 3 years to collect taxes and return to Bergen. 

1380 Venetian explorer Nicolo Zeno reports pirates fighting the Norse king in isles of the "far north."  These islands near the Gulf of St. Lawrence were later called by such names as the "Icelandic Isles," "Frisland," and eventually "Newfoundland."

1380 Danish Domination of Atlantic Isles

    A map by the Dane, Claudius Clavus, in 1424 refers to the former Norse possessions collectively as "Gronlandia Provincia."  Later Danish maps indicate that this "Greenland Province" extended all the way to Christian's (Hudson) Bay. 

1385 An English rhyme places "Veneland" (or Vinland) to the far north beside Greenland and Frisland. 

c.1400    A runestone from Spirit Pond, Maine, tells of a Vendal or Hanseatic merchant ship in Vinland. 

1414 Venetian cosmographer Albertin DeVirga notes the Nordic continental province "Norveca Europa" to the northwest of Norway (probably an archaic reference to Greenland Province or N. America).

1427 The Dane Claudius Clavus reports in his Nancy Ms. that an explorer (friar Nicholas?) has located the North Pole of the Western Hemisphere at 66° (the location of the north magnetic pole).

1427 French priest, Guillaume de Filastre, argues that "Greenland" (i.e., North America) must be south of Iceland due to the reported temperate climate. 

1436 Stockfish Land

    Maps by the Portuguese cartographer Andrea Bianco identify an isle northwest of Norway as the source of cod.  This land is later claimed by Portugal as the isle of "Bacallaos" (i.e., New-foundland).  This isle is indicated as part of the Danish province of "Gronlandia" on the Jacob Ziegler map of 1532. 

1440 Swiss Franciscan's map shows "Vinilanda" west of Europe. 

1450 Pope Nicholas V. refers to "the forests of Gronolonde."  This is probably a reference to the greater Danish Greenland Province (i.e., North America).  The Arctic isle didn't have forests.  

1450 Icelandic Isles & Codfish

    The Catalan Atlas shows a group of isles situated northwest of Iceland called the "Icelands."  Subsequent maps show these isles migrating to the position of Newfoundland.  They have the same names as the codfish isles mentioned by Nicolo Zeno circa 1380.  English and Basque fishermen sail to these isles often. 

1464 Portuguese explorer Jao Vas Corte-Real sails to Labrador & Newfoundland.  His name appears on Portuguese maps of the region in 1534. 

1473 In the service of a Danish king, Norse captains Didrik Pining and Hans Pothorst sail with a Luso-Norwegian expedition to isles in the northwestern Atlanticthat is, to Labrador & Newfoundland. 

1475 German (Hanse) Lubeck map shows "Wineland" as a European colony of the far northwest. 

1476 King Christian I of Denmark sends the Pole Johannes Scolvus (Skolp) with a joint Luso-Danish fleet to explore the northwestern isles.  A map by Gemma Frisus in 1537 indicates that Scolvus traveled as far as Grocland (Labrador).

1477 Cristobol Colon (Columbus) travels 100 leagues beyond Ultra Tile to a land that has 25-foot tides (probably Nova Scotia).  Historian J.R. Tornoe believes Colon accompanied Scolvus in 1476. 

1480 Map by Hans Rust of Augsburg shows "Vinland" as an European colony to the far northwest.  Thousands of copies of this map were printed assuring that most European merchants were aware of the existence of the old Nordic colony. 

1484 Portuguese Atlantic Domination

    A papal bull designates Portugal as owner of all Atlantic isles by virtue of its new campaign of exploration and evangelism.  Portuguese mariners sail often to old Norse territories where they report "white" natives in Stock Fish Land (i.e., Newfoundland).  Gaspar Corte-Real took many white settlers from this region as slaves in 1500 and shipped them back to Portugal. 

1486 Portuguese captain Fernao Dulmo and German cosmographer Martin Behaim chart the isles of "Stockfish Land," i.e., Newfoundland. 

1486 Lubeck manuscript mentions "Vinlandia" as mainland reaching as far as Livonia (Russia). 

1492 Upon the resignation of Jacob Blaa, Bishop of Gardar, Greenland, Pope Innocent III appoints Mathias Knutsson to head the northern diocese.  

1493 In the Treaty of Tordesillas, Spain recognizes Portugal's sovereignty over Atlantic isles 370 leagues west of the Canary Isles.  This region is thought to include Greenland, Labrador, New-foundland and Brazil.  King John II of Portugal promptly dispatches ships to harvest timber, slaves, and stockfish from the northern isles. 

1497 Genoese navigator, John Cabot, sailing for the English finds the Norse "New Land" in the region  of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.  His report that he "found New Land" is eventually interpreted as "Newfoundland."  But most maps call the mainland simply "Terra Nova" or New Land. 

1520 Pope Leo X appoints a new bishop, Erik Valkendorf, to Greenland.  However, the Danish bishop's mission was aborted when the Protestant Reformation swept through Scandinavia. 

1524 Norumbega

    Giovanni Verrazano, sailing for the king of France, reports the location of a province called "Norumbega" along the East Coast of North America.  Later explorers report that Norumbega is a city along a great river where Europeans and natives trade goods for furs.  The name might derive from Norbegia, Nuremberg, Northumbria or some other combination of European names designating Old World mercantile centers. 

1578 Frederick II of Denmark sends an expedition under Magnus Henningsen to explore former Danish territories in the northwest. 

1626 Norse frontiersman Cornelius Sand negotiates the Dutch purchase of Manhattan from native Mohawks using Old Norse words that had become part of the Algonkian language. 

c.1650    The Danes send several expeditions to the western Atlantic piloted by the English navigator James Hall.  A map from this era designates the region of "Groenland" as all the isles north of Christian Strait (i.e., Hudson Strait).  Central Canada is called "New Denmark" on this map. 

1659 Peter Heylyn's Cosmography mentions that the ancient Frisland colony of the far north (i.e., Newfoundland) was under the aegis of the Crown of Norway. 

1721 Danish missionary Hans Egede re-establishes the Danish claim to the Arctic Isle of Greenland.  However, the former Norse territories of Wine-land and Norumbega were by this time under English and French colonial administration. 

Modern Era Research

1880 Eben Norton Horsford excavates Nordic ruins at Watertown, Massachusetts.  He identifies the region as the site of the Nordic Vinland colony. 

1892 Magnus Anderson & crew sail a replica of a Viking longboat from Bergen to Rhode Island in 28 daysproving the ability of Nordic mariners to sail to America in ancient times. 

1898 Swedish immigrant farmer Olof Ohlman finds a Norse Runestone near Kensington, Minnesota.  Some historians brand the artifact a "hoax," but subsequent examination has verified that the ancient writing dates to the 14th century. 

1940 Hjalmar Holand documents the case supporting validity of the Kensington Runestone. 

1948 Arlington Mallery excavates Nordic iron furnaces in pre-Colonial ruins along the St. Lawrence and Ohio rivers.  He locates remains of Nordic habitation sites along the isles of Newfoundland. 

1952 Frederick Pohl excavates Nordic ruins near Cape Cod, Massachusetts. 

1964 Anne and Helge Ingstad excavate Nordic ruins at L'Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland.  

1965 J.K.R. Tornoe documents the Arctic voyage of Columbus in 1477. 

1965 Yale University reports donation of a "Vinland Map" dating to 1440.  Although once denounced as a "hoax," proton beam analysis verifies that it is very similar in composition to the authentic 15th-century Gutenberg Bible.  It is authentic. 

1970 Thor Heyerdahl sails replica of Egyptian boat, the Ra II from Morocco to Barbados proving that it was possible for Old World voyagers to reach the New World before Columbus. 

1972 Canadian archeologist Thomas Lee excavates numerous Nordic longhouses along the shores of Ungava Bay, Canada. 

1991 Norwegian researcher Kare Pritz identifies the New World on ancient Portuguese maps that predate Columbus. 

1994 American scholars Robert Hall, Richard Nielsen, and Rolf Nilsestuen complete their linguistic analysis of the Kensington Runestone.  Their exhaustive study proves that all of the so-called "suspected modern runes" on the artifact were actually were used during the 14th century.  

1994 Gunnar Thompson finds DeVirga's map of 1414 showing Norse overseas province of "Norveca"i.e., North America from Greenland to Florida.  He identifies scores of "Vinland maps" that predate the Columbus voyage proving that Vinland was a well-known feature of European geography at the time of Columbus. 

1997 Evanston scholar W.R. Anderson compiles an encyclopedia of Nordic artifacts and maps of the New World before the Columbus voyage.  He proposes the erection of a giant statue of Lief Ericson over the Chicago river to commemorate Nordic exploration of the New World.