Ancient solar storm helped pinpoint exact date Vikings settled in Newfoundland

When the Vikings arrived

A groundbreaking study has confirmed Vikings settled in Newfoundland in AD 1021, marking with scientific certainty the date when Europeans first arrived in the Americas — exactly 1,000 years ago.

The remains of the Norse settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows were unearthed by Norwegian explorer Helge Ingstad and his wife, archaeologist Anne Stine, in 1960.

But the methods used in the 1960s and 1970s to pinpoint the date of construction were imprecise by today's standards.

Until this week, it was believed the encampment was established around AD 1000 — and the province celebrated that finding with a huge Viking festival in 2000.

The original settlement date was based on radiocarbon techniques, the results of which were cross-referenced with analysis of the architectural remains and some artifacts, as well as interpretations of centuries-old Icelandic sagas.

The new study published this week in the journal Nature used accelerator mass spectrometry to re-examine wood used to build the camp and identified wiggly tree rings caused by a solar storm in AD 993, which allowed researchers to determine the exact year the trees were cut down.

"Our result of AD 1021 for the cutting year constitutes the only secure calendar date for the presence of Europeans across the Atlantic before the voyages of Columbus," the study says.

"Moreover, the fact that our results, on three different trees, converge on the same year is notable and unexpected."

The site is the first and only authenticated Viking settlement in North America.

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