Lögberg-Heimskringla - 07.07.2000, Blaðsíða 3

Lögberg-Heimskringla - 07.07.2000, Blaðsíða 3
Lögberg-Heimskringla • Föstudagur 7. júlí 2000 • 3 The search for Vínland On April 20, a show opened at the Cultural House in Reykjavík ori the set- ¦ tlement of Iceland and the Vínland journeys. Gísli Sigurðsson, an Arni Magnússon Institute scholar and the show's author, along with Sigurjón Jóhannsson, theatre designer, describe the show. The article appeared in the show 's program. AT the dawn of a new millenni- um we celebrate a thousand years of settlement and sailings across the North Atlantic Ocean. There at centre stage we find the Icelandic sagas with memories of Eirfkur the Red, Þjóðhildur, and their son Leifur the Lucky, the first European to explore the continent west of Greenland. He named the lands he explored, Helluland, Markland, and Vínland, which we now know as Canada's east coast and the northeastern US. Our national pride, as well as that of the other Nordic coun- tries, is mixed into these celebrations, and empathy with the Native peoples 'of North America, who don't have very good memories from the first visits of Europeans to their coast. In spite of var- ious reservations regarding such views we have reasons to commemorate the important events when two main branches of the human race first met on the east coast of North America, a thou-. sand years ago—when Viking Age sail- ing technology made it possible for peo- ple from Iceland and Greenland to cross the ocean. In Icelandic writings we find two different stories of the origin of Eiríkur the Red. In Ari the Learned's íslendingabók he is said to be descend- ed from a Breiðafjörður family. This was Ari's way of describing people born in Iceland. However, Norwegians give another description. In other written sources, Landnáma, and The Saga of Eirík the Red, he is said to be from Jaðar in Norway, having come to Iceland with his father. Father and son first lived at Drangar at Homstraðir, but Eiríkur moved south to the Valleys when he married Þjóðhildur, the daughter of Jörundur, son of Björg who was a sister of Helgi the Lean and a daughter of Eyvindur, the husband of Rafata Kjarvalsdóttir, king of Ireland. As a result Leifur traces his family to the British Isles, as many other people in the Valleys (Dalir) in Iceland. Written sources make no reference to the birth of Leifur the Lucky Eiríksson. However, keeping in mind that Eiríkur and his family moved to Greenland in 985 or 986, after Eiríkur spent three years exploring Greenland, it is estimated that Leifur must have been born in Iceland in order to be old enough to steer a ship to the Southern Islands (where he had the son Þorgils The exhibit features displays designed by theatre designer Sigurjón Jóhannsson. Phoív: Morguhbiaðið/Kristinn with Þórgunna), and Norway and back home in 999-1000. And it is not unlike- ly that he was born at Eiríksstaðir, Haukadalur where his parents first lived. Guðmundur Ólafsson, archaeolo- gist, has now excavated a 50 square meter structure (hall) which was occu- pied for a short time late in the tenth century. Two building steps have been identified, but the hall was deserted shortly after it was built. It was located at the eastern limits of the Vatnshorn land, which shows that it was squeezed down between two farmsteads, and the information archaeologists have on the history and location of the hall are in congruence with the stories of Eirík the Red. The oldest archaeological remains from the settlement of Nordic people in Greenland are found at Brattahlíð, where Eiríkur the Red and Þjóðhildur lived in the Eastern Settlement. The remains of a small church are found there. Carbon studies on skeletal remains from the graveyard indicate that they date back to late tenth century. The latest carbon studies of the oldest remains from the Western settlement, from the "farm below the sand," show that people have settled there early in the eleventh century. The earliest written descriptions of mainland North America are found in the Greenlanders' Saga and the Saga of Eiríkur the Red. Older stories also show that people in Iceland and mainland Europe knew about the Vínland jour- neys, before the two sagas were written at the beginning of the thirteenth centu- ry. A great deal of study and scholarly writings have grown out of these sagas and many theories on the Vínland jour- neys have come forth, with the sagas as the only source. The oldest written reference to Vínland are found in writings by Adam of Bremen, in Saxland. In 1075 he wrote the history of Hamburg Bishops, where he wrote down news he received in 1068-1069 from Sveinn Ulfsson, King of Denmark, regarding Vínland— an island in the west where both grapes and self- sown wheat grow. If we did not have more dependable stories from Iceland regarding this same Vínland we could think that Adam's descriptions were but one of numerous stories of legendary islands in the Atlantic Ocean, said to originate in Ireland and elsewhere. A considerably shorter reference to Vínland is found in íslendingabók (Ari the Learned) written in 1122-1133. There Ari tells of Eiríkur the Red having found "habitations" in Greenland of the same kind as the inhabitants of Vínland used—whom the Greenlanders called skrœlings. It appears that Ari considers Vínland to be known, and among those whom Ari first showed his book was Þorlákur Runólfsson, Bishop at Skálholt (1085-1133), a grandson of Snorri Þorfinnsson, the first Caucasian man born in North America. Þorlákur should have known about the Vínland journeys from his grandfather. Ari wrote Islendingabók shortly after 1121 when annals mentioned that Eiríkur upsi Gnúpsson, Bishop in Greenland, had left in search of Vínland. Although nothing more was heard of him, the search indicates that Vínland was upper- most in the minds of people at Please see Vínland on page 4 <m ir unn* fiin* um mv whiuw m n tmw mvnm\ « nm \ nn whfcinw



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