Nfld. & Labrador

Possible 3rd Norse site near Point Rosee N.L. piques archeologist's interest

A man in the Codroy Valley says he's uncovered evidence that points to another Norse site, a find that has one archaeologist eager to investigate.

Codroy Valley man shares news of site after archeological find at Point Rosee

At Point Rosee, within a few kilometres of MacIsaac's claimed find, researchers unearthed what they believe to be evidence of Norse turf walls. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

A man from the Codroy Valley is coming forward with what he says is evidence of a third Norse site in Newfoundland, in the wake of the buzz about an archeological find suggesting Viking activity on the island's southwest coast.

A team of researchers made international headlines in early April when they revealed the presence of a hearth, along with bog iron at Point Rosee, signs that point to a Norse settlement, although that find is far from definitive.

Wayne MacIsaac of St. Andrew's welcomed that news, as it backs up his own research in the area, as well as a story his grandfather told him, about a massive storm years ago that changed the shape of the sandbar at the mouth of the Little Codroy River.

"When the people went out there after the storm, they found it had unearthed a boat — a plank-built boat," MacIsaac told CBC's On The Go, adding the wood was unlike any the locals had ever seen.

"And under that boat were three skeletons of tall men, and one stone arrowhead."

MacIsaac doesn't know what happened to the boat, skeletons or arrowhead, but believes they were Norse remains.

More evidence?

The site of the skeleton find is almost within eyesight from Point Rosee, according to MacIsaac.

In the same area, he said there is a long, straight earthen mound, and also "a collection of other mounds, including one that's completely, perfectly square."

It was like pieces of a puzzle, falling into place over the years.- Wayne MacIsaac

MacIsaac has studied the Viking sagas, ancient tales that blend fact and fiction as they detail Norse voyages, and believes the area around Little Codroy River lines up with those descriptions.

"It was like pieces of a puzzle, falling into place over the years. Everything fit. And there was not one thing that was contradicted by what I read in the sagas," said MacIsaac.

MacIsaac said despite years of trying to bring the site to archaeologists' attention — a fruitless ordeal he compared to "reporting a UFO" — it wasn't until the Point Rosee researchers arrived to dig last summer that his idea gained traction.

Expert interest

One of those team members on the Point Rosee dig is looking forward to investigating MacIsaac's claims, calling them "possible."

"The material that we have at Point Rosee is suggestive of Norse activity in the area. At this point, it's not clear if this really is a settlement... [or] where the houses, or the domestic residences would be," said Douglas Bolender, a research assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Massachusetts - Boston, and a Norse expert.

Point Rosee is about 600 km away from L'Anse aux Meadows, fitting with a description from the sagas that Vikings sailed south. (Google Maps)

"The entire area in the region is a good place for farming. It's a good place for settlement," he said.

"I wouldn't be surprised if future work shows that it's not just Point Rosee where there was Norse activity, but that the area around it may have additional Norse ruins or remains."

Too early to tell

Overall, Bolender cautioned that even the discovery at Point Rosee is far too ambiguous to be confirmed as Viking at this point.

"We do want to be very cautious about it, because it's an important claim to actually have it be validated," he said.

"There's very little work that's been done, and so definitely more work needs to be done to open up new areas, to really take a detailed look at it."

Douglas Bolender was on the team of researchers who dug at Point Rosee in the summerof 2015. (BBC)

Bolender said the Point Rosee find does have two major points of credibility — the bog iron, which is known to only have been produced by the Norse, as well as a lack of other human activity, by Inuit for example.

Site kept secret

Researchers plan to return in the summer for further excavation, and MacIsaac is looking forward to that visit.

In the meantime, he won't reveal the location of the mounds he has found, worried about possible damage from amateur archaeologists.

"The only thing that anybody could possibly accomplish there would be to destroy it, like ruin it for anybody else. Even if they did find something and knew what it was, how would anybody be able to place where it was?" he said.

One thing is certain. It will take a lot more digging, evidence and research to fully validate any Norse activity in the area.

"Archaeologists really want evidence from the ground," said Bolender. 

"It's very important to have other archeologists have a chance to come in and very critically assess this material, before we can really make any claim that it is, definitively, Norse."

With files from On The Go