Vinland is the name of the legendary place described in the Viking sagas that was said to have been founded by Leif Ericson on the North American continent. But its connection with the Viking archaeological site in Newfoundland called L'Anse aux Meadows is fraught with controversy. Canadian archaeologist Birgitta Linderoth Wallace has studied L'Anse aux Meadows for the past forty years, and has developed some interesting notions about that precise issue. Wallace's work, published primarily but not exclusively in the 2006 book Westward Vikings: The Saga of L'Anse aux Meadows, isn't often cited, but in my considered opinion, should be.
This woodcut showing Erik Bloodaxe's widow Gunnhild Gormsdóttir inciting her sons to take possession of Norway is from Erik Bloodaxe's Saga, as it was published in Snorre Sturlassons's Heimskringla in 1235. Although Erik Bloodaxe's Saga isn't part of the Vinland sagas, it's one of numerous other Viking sagas. Image uploaded by Christian Krogh
During the first studies at L'Anse aux Meadows in the 1960s, the original excavators rather overdid their reliance on information provided in the Vinland sagas. The Vinland sagas are four manuscripts written in the 11th-13th centuries AD, which describe the adventurous ramblings of the Norse in Iceland, Greenland, and the North American continent. Relying on any historical record for archaeological evidence is dicey, even if the records are confirmed to be authentic manuscripts. The Vinland Sagas are not factual records. They're legends, written down decades or centuries after the described events, and as such they can't be trusted to contain "just the facts". That certainly wasn't the writers' intent: they intended to tell a good story, to glorify an ancestor, to keep the ancient legends alive, or some other intention now lost to the ages.
The early over-reliance on the Viking sagas as fact led later scholars to ditch the sagas as completely untrustworthy; some dismissed the discoverer Leif Ericson as a literary myth. But Wallace bravely cracked open the sagas again, and combining archaeological evidence and historical records has discovered some fairly interesting things, particularly about what Vinland might have meant and whether L'Anse aux Meadows can be tied to a specific place named in the Vinland Sagas.
Read More about Vinland
Wallace, Birgitta Linderoth. 2006. Westward Vikings: The Saga of L'Anse aux Meadows. St John's, Newfoundland: Historic Sites Association of Newfoundland and Labrador in association with Parks Canada.
Wallace, Birgitta Linderoth. 2003. L'Anse aux Meadows and Vinland: An Abandoned Experiment. Pp. 207-238 in Contact, Continuity, and Collapse: The Norse Colonization of the North Atlantic, edited by James H. Barrett. Brepols Publishers: Trunhout, Belgium.