Environmental Data

The mystery of Vinland rests heavily on the question of the “grapes” implied in the name and where they might have grown. We can find out about past vegetation and climate in several ways. Trees, bushes, grasses, flowers and other vegetation all leave distinct types of pollen. By studying the pollen in the soil, a specialized scientist can tell exactly what vegetation has been on a site. The vegetation in turn furnishes clues to past temperatures and growing conditions.

The results of a pollen study are usually published in the form of tables. Can you tell from the table below when there was more birch on the L’Anse aux Meadows site than there is now?

Are the seeds identified in the report on seeds from L’Anse aux Meadows the type from the type of species we would expect in northern Newfoundland? Can you find any grape seeds?

Humans and animals cause changes to the vegetation. For instance, clearing an area of trees and grazing by cows, sheep, and goats, cause buttercups, bluebells, and plantago to thrive. Pollen from these species gives indirect evidence that domestic animals have once been present. Another way to determine if domestic animals have once been present is to look for fossilized insects. The fleece louse live on sheep and in wool. If such insects are found, one knows that sheep were present once upon a time. Other insects are sensitive to cold temperatures. When they suddenly disappear from the local fauna, it is likely that the temperatures have dropped.