Tuesday, May 24, 2011

In Search Of... Lost Vikings

Over the weekend I stumbled on part of a History Channel special that you can watch HERE called, "Who Really Discovered America?" Over 2 hours it examined various claims that the Chinese, Vikings, Polynesians and others may have made landfall in North America centuries before Columbus. The part about Leif Ericson establishing a colony in Canada called "Vinland" reminded me of an episode of the 1970s TV show In Search Of... that I had seen as a kid.  Called "In Search of....Lost Vikings," it first aired in  December 1978.  You can watch a segment HERE

While I was very open as a child to the existence of Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster, I remember being incredulous (for whatever reason) at the assertions in this episode that a colony of vikings had sailed in open boats from Greenland to Canada around 1,000 AD (500 years before Columbus), and established a colony there.   The irony is that this is one of the claims that In Search Of... examined during its six year run in the late 1970s that is now widely regarded as accurate.

But rather than focus on the more generally accepted archaeological work done at L'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland, this episode instead focused on now widely dismissed claims made by a Canadian archaeologist named Thomas Lee that another site, on Pamiok Island in Ungava Bay, was the location of the first Norse colony.  Watching it again this morning, I was struck by how many times interbreeding with the native Inuits was mentioned. A focus of Lee's claim was a 10 foot tall stone monument there, which he named "The Hammer of Thor" (see photo).  It's now widely believed that this was actually an Inuit stone monument. Lee died in 1982, less than four years after appearing in this episode.

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