Vinland was the name given to an area of North America by the Norseman Leifr Eiríksson, about the year A.D. 1003.Fact|date=March 2008

In 1960 archaeological evidence of the only known Norse settlement [Ingstad, Helge; Ingstad, Anne Stine (2001). "The Viking Discovery of America: The Excavation of a Norse Settlement in L'Anse Aux Meadows, Newfoundland". Checkmark Books. ISBN 0-8160-4716-2.] in North America (outside of Greenland) was found at L'Anse aux Meadows on the northern tip of the island of Newfoundland, in what is now the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Although this proved conclusively the Vikings' pre-Columbian discovery of North America, whether this exact site is the Vinland of the Norse accounts is still a subject of debate.

There is a consensus among scholars that the Vikings did reach North America, approximately five centuries prior to the voyages of Christopher Columbus. [Jones, Gwyn (1986). "The Norse Atlantic Saga: Being the Norse Voyages of Discovery and Settlement to Iceland, Greenland, and North America". Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-1928-5160-8.]


The name "Vinland" has been interpreted in two ways: traditionally as "Vínland" ("wine-land") and more recently as "Vinland" (meadow- or pasture-land).


The earliest etymology of "Vinland" is found in Adam of Bremen's 11th-century Latin "Descriptio insularum Aquilonis" ("Description of the Northern Islands"): "Moreover, he has also reported one island discovered by many in that ocean, which is called "Winland", for the reason that grapevines grow there by themselves, producing the best wine." ("Praeterea unam adhuc insulam recitavit a multis in eo repertam occeano, quae dicitur Winland, eo quod ibi vites sponte nascantur, vinum optimum ferentes"). The implication is that the first element is Old Norse "vín" (Latin "vinum"), "wine".

This explanation is essentially repeated in the 13th-century Grœnlendinga saga, which provides a circumstantial account of the discovery of Vinland, and its being named from the grapes ("vínber") found there.


A more recent interpretation of the name Vinland is that the first element is not "vín" but "vin", an Old Norse word with the meaning 'meadow, pasture'. (Proto-Norse "winju".) The word is a common suffix in old Norwegian place names - but because it mostly has been weakened (into "-in", "-en", "-e", "-a", and more), it is often hard to recognize in its modern forms. See, for example, Hornindal; Bergen, Løten, Røyken, Sande, Skodje, Time; Halsa; Bodø; Gjerdrum.

"Vin" is a common name on old farms from Norse times in Norway, and present-day use of the word are Bjørgvin, the Norse (and Icelandic) name of Bergen, Norway, and Granvin, where "-vin" translates into 'pasture' in both. A poetic Norse name of the Danish island of Sjælland (Zealand) was "Viney" 'pasture island'. The word can also be a name in itself (see Vinje).

A cognate name also existed in Old English (Anglo-Saxon), in the name of the village Woolland in Dorset, England: This was written "Winlande" in the 1086 Domesday Book, and it is interpreted as 'meadow land' or 'pasture land'.

Historical accounts

The island ("insula") of Vinland ("Winland") was first recorded by Adam of Bremen, a German (Saxon) geographer and historian, in his book "Descriptio insularum Aquilonis" of approximately 1075. To write it he visited Danish king Svend Estridson, who had knowledge of the northern lands.

The main source of information about the Viking voyages to Vinland is derived from two Icelandic sagas, "The Saga of Eric the Red" and the "Saga of the Greenlanders". These sagas were written down approximately 250 years after the settlement of Greenland and are open to considerable breadth of interpretation. Combining those two, it seems that there were possibly two separate attempts to establish a Norse settlement in Vinland, neither of which lasted for more than two years. The disbandment of the small Viking colony seems to have had several causes. Disagreements among the men about the few women that followed on the trip, and fighting with an unidentified group of indigenous people (called "skrælingar" in the Sagas) already living in the area, are both indicated in the written sources.

The two Sagas tell that after the settlement of Greenland by the Vikings, a merchant by the name of Bjarni Herjólfsson set sail from Iceland to Greenland to visit his father, a new settler in Greenland. His ship was blown off course by a storm and thus accidentally discovered a new land, presumably the east coast of North America, in 985 or 986. It was late in the summer, and he did not want to overwinter in this new land, which he noted was covered with forests, so he did not land and managed to reach Greenland before winter fell. He then afterwards told the story and sold ships to Leifr Eiríksson. With wood being in very short supply in Greenland, the settlers there were eager to explore the riches of this new land. Some years later Leifr Eiríksson explored this coast, and established a short-lived colony on a part of the coast that he called Vinland.

The first discovery made by Leifr was according to the stories Helluland ("flatstone land"), possibly Baffin Island. Markland ("wood land"), possibly Labrador - was discovered next (there is some evidence that the tree line in northern Labrador has been diminished or eroded since Leifr's time) and lastly Vinland. Vinland is possibly identifiable with the archaeological site of L'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland. The expedition included both families and livestock, and its aim was to found a new settlement. "Straumfjörðr" ("stream", possibly in reference to the strong currents of near-by Strait of Belle Isle and Belle Isle) was the name of the northern settlement and "Hóp" (lagoon) was the name for the warmer southern settlement. Only two Viking leaders actually overwintered in Vinland, the second being Thorvald Eiríksson, Leifr's brother, who was killed the second summer. However, according to the stories, the idea was soon abandoned due to conflicts with the "skrælingar" and among the Norsemen themselves. New voyages for woodcutting seem to have been discussed even as late as the 1300s.Fact|date=July 2008

Until the 19th century, the idea of Viking settlement in North America was considered by historians to be the product of folk tales. The first scholarly theory for the idea was put forth in 1837 by Danish literary historian and antiquarian Carl Christian Rafn in his book "Antiquitates Americanæ". Rafn had made an exhaustive examination of the sagas, as well as potential settlement sites on the North American coast and concluded that Vinland was a real place in North America that had been settled by the Norse. Newfoundland historian William A Munn (1864-1939), after studying literary sources in Europe, suggested that the Vikings had first made land at L'Anse aux Meadows and then sailed round to Pistolet Bay.

Localization debate

Historians do not agree on the location of Vinland. Rafn and Erik Wahlgren believed that Vinland was probably in New England. In 1960 a Viking settlement was discovered by Helge and Anne Stine Ingstad and excavated during the 1960s and 1970s at L'Anse aux Meadows in northern Newfoundland, and some historians believe that this was Leifr's settlement, thus connecting Vinland to Newfoundland. Others have followed Rafn in sharing the belief that Vinland was farther to the south. In this view, L'Anse aux Meadows was perhaps part of an undocumented later attempt at settlement.

Those who believe Newfoundland is the location of Vinland generally think that settlements farther south are unlikely, because maintaining such a distant lifestyle from the Norse homelands would have been far too difficult for the Vikings of the time. Iron and other needed resources would have been too difficult to sustain on any workable level, as the later English settlers in New England would find. Costly fights with Native populations so far from supply lines would have been another deterrent.

An argument for placing Vinland farther south is presented in Adam of Bremen's account. In his "Descriptio insularum Aquilonis" he wrote that the name Vinland comes from the grapevines growing there. He received this information from King Svend Estridson.

There are a number of theories to explain this discrepancy:
*It was an early marketing attempt, something like the naming of Greenland by Erik the Red. In this theory, Leifr's naming of Markland and Vinland was to encourage others to explore and settle there.
*A theory subject to much debate among scholars is that there was a misinterpretation of short-i "*Vinland" as long-i "Vínland", as described above. This theory can be combined with the previous one: Estridson might have embellished Adam's mistake if he believed it would increase the fame of Vinland for joint-financed ventures he would no doubt claim for himself. One problem with this theory is why the sagas outside of Adam of Bremen's account also refer to long-i "Vínland", and mention vines as well. Since the sagas were written later, an explanation for this could be that the sagas were somehow influenced by Adam of Bremen's account.
*Alternatively Estridson was joking or lying, or even referring to similarly sounding Wendland instead in an earlier account, where grapes did grow, and this was later confused with Vinland by Adam of Bremen.
*Another theory is that we have not discovered the true location of Vinland yet, and it is further south, where grapes do grow. More subtly Vinland could be seen as a gateway or northern part, in reach of more temperate areas where grapes grew.
*Another possibility is that later, longer voyages further south, reporting Concord style grapes confused the story told about the settlement, as there were individuals of the crews who had ventured out on their own to return with tales.
*Still another possibility is that the reference is to any of the abundant berries in Newfoundland, including gooseberries or blueberries, which are both abundant near L'Anse-aux-Meadows (51°N) and are both suitable for winemaking. Blueberries look very much like small black Corinth grapes, although they grow on bushes very unlike grape vines.
*Finally it has been speculated that grapes did in fact grow in Newfoundland (47-51°N) in the past. The first recorded grapes were grown 2002, when a successful vineyard was established in Gambo, Newfoundland, 48°50'N. [ [ Gambo vineyard website] ] The time period of the Vinland settlement corresponds with the Medieval Warm Period (from about the 10th century to about the 14th century). Water temperatures in the northern hemisphere during this time were up to 1°C warmer, allowing the planting of vineyards as far north as the coastal zones of the Baltic Sea (ca. 56°N) and southern England (ca. 51°N). There are vineyards at 54°N in Lancashire and Yorkshire, northern England.

While the theory that Vinland was further south is a legitimate line of inquiry, for some the motivation to search Vinland further south could have been more personal to justify or romanticize the Scandinavian colonization of areas in the present-day United States. There have been several instances where evidence of pre-Columbian Norse explorers in the United States has become a source of controversial debate, for example, the Kensington Runestone. However, the Maine Penny is regarded by many as a legitimate artifact. Alleged Runestones found throughout America are often used to attempt to show proof of pre-Columbian Norse settlement, but this is not thought to represent Vinland.

Promontorium Winlandiae

From Skálholt foreland] .

The Skálholt map shows "Promontorium Winlandiae" as a narrow cape extending from 53°N to 56°N. But, the map also shows the position for Bristol, England, at around 56°N. So the "grid" of the map is somewhat inaccurate (+5°) as Bristol and L'anse Aux Meadows are actually at 51°N.

Proposed locations

Including some of the possibilities mentioned above, popular locations for the possible site of Vinland generally include, in order from north to south:
*Anticosti Island
*Gaspé Peninsula
*Cape Breton Island
*Nova Scotia
*northeast coast of New Brunswick. Supported by finding a few hickory nut shells at L'Anse aux Meadows. See "The Norse Atlantic Sagas" by Gwyn Jones.
*coastal Maine (see Maine Penny)
*Cape Cod, Massachusetts
**Follins Pond, between Dennis and Yarmouth
**Waquoit Bay, between Falmouth and Mashpee
*: coord|42|22|23.82|N|71|8|3.17|W|.
*Martha's Vineyard
*Nomans Land (Massachusetts)
*Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island (see Newport Tower)

Other usages of the term Vinland

Ethno-cultural uses of the term Vinland

"Vinland" is also used as the symbolic name for the cultural and geographic landscape of Canada ("Upper Vinland") and the United States ("Lower Vinland") which some adherents of modern Germanic Neopaganism groups and some Anglo-Americans use to distinguish themselves from other ethno-cultural groups who share the same geographical areas of North America.


The name "Vinland" has historically been also an alternative spelling of Finland, for example in some Dutch maps from the 18th century.

ee also

*Pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact
*Skálholt Map (Showing parts of a route from Europe to Vinland)
*Vinland map (a map of Vinland generally considered a forgery)
*Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum (An historical treatise by Adam of Bremen. The article has a link to the full text in Latin. The fourth book or section of the Gesta is the Descriptio insularum aquilonis, in which chapter 38 contains the reference to "Winland").


External links

* [ Vikings: The north Atlantic saga] ; [ Searching for archeological evidence of Vikings in Labrador and Newfoundland] - from The Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History
* [ Images from L'Anse aux Meadows]
* [ "Was Vinland in Newfoundland?"] - Paper by Einar Haugen, (1906-1994) Professor emeritus of Scandinavian Studies, Harvard University
* [ The Vikings in Newfoundland]
* [ Skalholt Map]
* [ "Where is Vinland?", Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History website]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Vinland — Bandera …   Wikipedia Español

  • Vinland — fue el nombre dado por los vikingos a la zona del Golfo de San Lorenzo, Nueva Brunswick y Nueva Escocia. El área fue explorada por iniciativa de Leif Eriksson a partir de Leifbundir, una colonia establecida alrededor del año 1000 en la costa… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Vinland — (Weinland), die Hauptansiedelung der alten Normannen in Nordamerika, das jetzige Neuengland, s.u. Amerika S. 404 …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Vinland — (»Weinland«), bei den Nordländern ein Teil der Ostküste von Nordamerika, nach der Meinung einiger noch das jetzige Massachusetts und Rhode Island umfassend. 986 entdeckte nämlich Bjarne Herjulfson auf einer Reise von Island aus mehrere… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Vinland — (Winland, d. o. Weinland), Hauptansiedlung der alten Normannen in Nordamerika, an der Küste von Neuschottland, 1000 n. Chr. durch den hierher verschlagenen Leif den Glücklichen, Sohn Eriks des Roten, gegründet …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • Vinland — d.h. Weinland, nannten die Normannen das Küstenland von Massachusetts u. Rhode Island, von den wildwachsenden Trauben (den sog. Fuchstrauben); 986 entdeckte es Bjarne Herjulfson, um 1000 besuchte es Leif der Glückliche, 1007 siedelte sich der… …   Herders Conversations-Lexikon

  • Vinland — [vin′lənd] [ON, lit., wine land (after the wild berries or grapes discovered there)] region, now believed to be part of North America, discovered by Norsemen led by Leif Ericson in c.A.D. 1000 …   English World dictionary

  • Vinland — Carte à l origine controversée dont l’extrémité gauche montre le Vinland. Vinland est le nom donné par le Viking islandais Leif Ericson au territoire qu’il explora le premier autour de l’an 1000. Des fouilles ont permis de retrouver des traces de …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Vinland — Färöer Briefmarke mit fundierter Skálholt Karte …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Vinland — /vin leuhnd/, n. a region in E North America variously identified as a place between Newfoundland and Virginia: visited and described by Norsemen ab. A.D. 1000. Also, Vineland. * * * Wooded land in North America visited and named by Leif Eriksson …   Universalium

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.