History of Vikings in N.L. celebrated

Danette Dooley
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New exhibit will open in L'Anse aux Meadows this summer

More than 100 people dined Thursday on a Viking-themed luncheon of grilled salmon, roasted root vegetables, potato rosti and Gotland pancake with saffron, rice almonds and honey as the Historic Sites Association and Parks Canada kicked off 50th anniversary celebrations of the discovery of the Vikings at L'Anse Aux Meadows.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, L'Anse aux Meadows is the only authenticated Viking site in North America and the earliest evidence of Europeans in Canada.

Michael Sexton of Goose Cove gives a re-enactment as Viking chief, Bjorn the Beautiful. - Photo by Danette Dooley/Special to The Telegram

More than 100 people dined Thursday on a Viking-themed luncheon of grilled salmon, roasted root vegetables, potato rosti and Gotland pancake with saffron, rice almonds and honey as the Historic Sites Association and Parks Canada kicked off 50th anniversary celebrations of the discovery of the Vikings at L'Anse Aux Meadows.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, L'Anse aux Meadows is the only authenticated Viking site in North America and the earliest evidence of Europeans in Canada.

One of the highlights of the luncheon was a Viking re-enactment by Michael Sexton of Goose Cove.

Sexton is part of the L'Anse aux Meadows Viking encampment program.

Dressed in full costume and playing the role of Viking chief Bjorn the Beautiful, he captivated his audience with stories about the Viking's journeys to L'Anse aux Meadows more than 1,000 years ago when Leif Eriksson sailed from Greenland in search of land first sighted by his countrymen. According to Parks Canada, Eriksson's base camp is believed to be the jump-off point for the exploration of Vinland.

Parks Canada archaeologist Birgitta Wallace gave a presentation about the archaeological work that's taken place in L'Anse aux Meadows.

A native of Sweden, Wallace worked on the L'Anse aux Meadows excavation site with Norwegian explorer Helge Ingstad and his wife Anne Stine Ingstad.

Helge Ingstad first came to the area in 1960 where he met L'Anse aux Meadows fisherman George Decker.

Helge Ingstad was searching for Vinland, Wallace said. The following year he returned to the area, this time bringing his wife, an archaeologist, with him.

Together, with Decker's help, they discovered a rich Norse site.

"In October 1961, Helge announced to the world that he had found Vinland - the place where Leif Eriksson stepped ashore," Wallace said. The Ingstads spent seven summers excavating the site.

Since that time, further archaeological digs have uncovered numerous other items, which led to the reconstruction of some Viking buildings.

A visitors' centre was also built to help tell the story of the Vikings.

This summer, Wallace said, a new exhibit will be opened in L'Anse aux Meadows. Outside the Bella Vista where the luncheon took place, Stephen Payne of St. John's and Sarah Lee Bennett of Bay St. George were dressed as a Viking blacksmith and his wife.

Bennett and Payne stood outside their tent-like home complete with a bed, the mattress and pillows made of eiderdown feathers. They are excited about the Viking celebrations that will take place at L'Anse Aux Meadows over the summer months.

"We usually get about 30,000 people every year, but that doesn't mean we can't crack that this year," Payne said. Today, the Viking encampment program will be setting up on the lawn of The Rooms.

For information on the events taking place at L'Anse aux Meadows contact Parks Canada at (709) 458-7602 or kate.power@pc.gc.ca.

telegram@thetelegram.com danette@nl.rogers.com

Organizations: Parks Canada, Historic Sites Association, UNESCO

Geographic location: L'Anse, Vinland, North America Canada Goose Cove Greenland Sweden Bella Vista St. John's

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