Lögberg-Heimskringla - 23.04.1970, Blaðsíða 7

Lögberg-Heimskringla - 23.04.1970, Blaðsíða 7
LÖGBERG-HEIMSKRINGLA, FIMMTUDAGINN 23. APRÍL 1970 TOM OLESON: Norsemen.ln America WESTWARD TO VINLAND: by Helge Ingsiad, 250 pp„ Toronio, Macmillan, $7.95. Tom Oleson er stúdent við Manitoba háskólann, auk þess sem hann ritar af og til greinar fyrir Winnipeg Free Press. Hann er sonur Dr. Tryggva heitins Oleson sagnfræð- ings og Elvu konu hans. Hún stundar kennslu við mennta- skóla hér í Winnipeg. Síðasta bók Dr. Tryggva mun hafa verið Early Voyages and Norihern Approaches 1000-1632. Var það fyrsta bókin, sem gefin var út af sextán bókum, sem gefnar voru út í tilefni hundrað ára afmælis fylkja- sambands Canada — The Canadian Centenary Series. Ánægjulegt er, að Tom Oleson fetar í fótspor föður síns. Hann hefur ánægju af, að kynna sér fornsögu íslendinga hér í álfu og hikar ekki við, að gagnrýna bækur og rit um þau efni og tekst það vel. — I. J. The subject of the explora- tions and settlements of the Icelanders in North America before Columbus has inspired a considerable amount of lit- erature. Some of thi's has been pure fantasy, some the result of honest scholarly en- deavor; for the most part all of it has been inconclusive. In this book Norwegian author and explorer Helge Ingstad has set out to remedy this. He has two objectives: first, to find conclusive ar- cheological evidence that the Norsemen did visit the coasts of North Amerioa, and sec- ond, to settle finally the ques- tion of the location of Vin- land. Where was Vinland? For years this question has plagued students of the Norse voyages to the New World. Scholars of all types — ar- oheologists, historians, run- ologists, medievalists, philolo- gists, students of medieval lit- erature, and wildeyed avid amateurs — have pondered the question, looked at the evidence with greater or les- ser degrees of objectivity and placed it in such places as Florida, Hudson Bay, the Great Lakes and Newfound- land, to name only a few. Our knowledge of Vinland c o m e s from the Icelandic sagas, primiarily the Tale of the Greenlanders and the Saga of Erik the Red. These sagas mention three places in North America: Helluland, Markland, and Vinland. On the first two of these there is general agreement (more or less). H e 11 u 1 a n d has been identified als Baffin Island, and Markland is considered to be somewhere on the Labrador coast. No such agreement has been reached on the question of Vinland. First discovered by Leif Eirikson, the sagas describe it as having a tem- perate climate with so little frost that the cattle could forage for themselves all winter. Grapes and self-sown wheat were plentiful there. A river ran from a lake into the sea, salmon were found in abundance and there was an island to the north. Day and night were of more equal length than in Greenland. It was in Vinland that Leif Eirikson built his houses and wintered; it was there that Thorfinn Karlsefni founded his settlement and there that the first white child was born in North America. To the Ice- landers it must have seemed truly a land of milk and honey, and perhaps this is why it so captures our imag- ination today. Between 1960 and 1968 Mr. Ingstad made several expedi- tions in search of Norse ruins along the North American coast. At L'Anse aux Mead- ows, on the northern tip of Newfoundland's peninsula, he seems to have found what he was looking for. Several ex- peditions were m a d e to L'Anse aux Meadows for the purpose of archeologioal ex- cavations and there can be little doubt that what Mr. Ingstad has discovered there was a Norse occupation site dating from around the elev- enth century. His book was not written as an archeological report; it is meant only as a popular ac- count. When it was written the archeological report was still unpublished and we shall have to wait for it to evaluate fully the significance of the discoveries. Mr. Ingstad does, however, give us enough evi- dence to draw some conclu- sions. The excavations, under the supervision of an archeologist (Mr. Ingstad's wife, Anne Stine), r e v e a 1 e d several house-sites of different sizes, a smithy, four boatsheds and three outdoor pits. The house- sites show characteristics sim- ilar to Norse houses of the Viking age and Norse paral- lels to the hearths in these houses can be found in Green- land and Iceland. In any case, they are neither Indian nor Eskimo, but indisputably European. Fragments of iron and slag indicate that iron was smelted there, and a small piece of smelted copper. and some nails were also found. Stone and bone implements round out the inventory. Of all the L'Anse aux Meadows discoveries, howev- er, the most important were a ring-headed bronze pin and a Norse spindle-whorl. The ring-headed pin is the type commonly used by the Norse- men for personal ornament. The spindle-whorl. used in the spinning of wool, was un- known to the Indians and Eskimo of the area and clos- ely matches spindle-whorls dating from the Middle Ages throughout the Norse coun- tries. It seems to be indisput- ably of Norse origin. T w e 1 v e Carbon-14 dates have been made from the L'Anse aux Meadows materi- als. All are around the year A.D. 1000, the latest being 1080, give or take 70 years. The discoveries, then, date from around the time of the saga voyages. Of all the numerous Norse "finds" in North America, with the possible exception of Thomas Lee's recent work in Ungava, Mr. Ingstad's dis- coveries are the only ones that invite confidence. He has, it seems, fulfilled the first task he set for himself — to find conclusive evidence of the Norse in America. This would have been a good place for him to stop, but he goes on to identify the L'Anse aux Meadows occupa- tion site as Leif Eirikson's Vinland, the Vinland of the sagas. For this his only justi- fication is that at present his discovery is the only known Norse occupation site on the Atlantic coast of North Am- erica. The most reasonable 1003»- tion for Vinland is that of the area around Cape Cod. This area fits all the require- ments of the descriptions in the sagas, including the ac- count of the grapes and the wine that t h e Icelanders made from them. This is one of the integral characteristics of Vinland according to the sagas (Vinland means Wine- land). Wild grapes are found no further north than Passama- quoddy Bay and any attempt to put Vinland further north w o u 1 d leave unexplained those passages in the sagas. Mr. Ingstad attempts to over- come this difficulty with a little philological jugglng (Vinland means Grassland in- stead of Wineland) but it is quite unconvincing. However, arguing the loca- tion of Vinland is like arguing religion and politics — a win- ner h a r d 1 y ever emerges. U n t i 1 more archeological work is done, and until more archeological evidence is brought to light, there are several theories that can be argued endlessly. While one can understand Mr. Ingstad's temptation to do so, it is fool- ish to argue that since the Norse were in Newfoundland that Newfoundland must be Vinland. Without doubt the Iceland- ers in Greenland made many voyages to North America. Eirik's Saga records three, the Tale of the Greenlanders rec- ords six; but these are family sagas, recorded to enhance the reputations of the families involved. Many unrecorded voyages to America must have been made in search of such things as lumber, per- haps even the fabled grapes, and it is likely that Mr. Ing- stad has found the traces that one of these expeditions has left. behind. Even if it is not Vinland, it is still a valuable contribution to our knowl- edge of the pre-Columbian explorations of North Am- erica. Winnipeg Free Press, November 1, 1969. BARNABLAÐID ÆSKAN Stærsta og fjölbreyttasta barnablaðið á íslandi kemur út í 9 heftum á ári, alls yfir 500 blaðsíður. Verð árgangurinn í Canada $3.25. Greiðist fyrirfram. Þeir sem vildu gerast fastir kaupendur, skrifi til blaðsins. Óskum eftir umboðsmönnum í Canada. BarnablaðiS Æskan, Box 14 Reykjavík Island. Fyrir erindi og skeyimtun Þið getið lært að fljúga, til þæginda og ánægju, hjá Wilniheg FlyÍllg Club L. F. HDFFMAN, CHIEF FLYING INSTRUCTOH W. FELLER. CLUB HOUSE MANAGER WINNIPEQ INTERNATiaNAL AIRPDRT WINNIPEG, MAN. TELEPMDNC 774-553S MEMBER ROYAL CANAD1AN F LYIN G CLU8S ASSOCIATIDN Low coach f ares f rom CP Rail WINNIPEG TO THUNDER BAY $16.00 One Way WINNIPEG TO REGINA $13.65 One Way Comfortable air-conditioned coaches. Reduced fares also available between intermediate stations. Contact your Travel Agent or any CP Rail office. L< CP Rail



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