Where is Vinland?

The main clues to the location of Vinland come from the Vinland sagas, the collective name given to two sagas or stories preserved in medieval texts: The "Saga of the Greenlanders" and "The Saga of Erik the Red". In addition there are a few short sentences in the Icelandic Annals, a couple of geographic treatises, a paragraph in a work by an eleventh-century German priest, and a few maps. There are also archaeological remains that show that the Norse visited North American in the eleventh century.

The written sources tell us that as soon as the Norse were established in Greenland, they discovered that there was land further west. Once they began exploring these unknown areas, they noted three distinct regions. Farthest in the north was Helluland, Land of Rock Slabs, the region they first encountered after crossing Davis Strait from Greenland. South of Helluland was Markland, Land of Forests. Farther south yet was Vinland, Land of Wine. This was the richest and most hospitable area, and this was the region to which the Norse turned their interest. But where was this Vinland?

The sagas give us many clues. For example, they mention the distances from Greenland and from one new ‘land’ to another, sailing directions, descriptions of the landscape and its resources. But to understand these clues you will have to look at the background of the Norse as well. How fast could their ships travel, and how easy was it for them to go wherever they wanted? At what time of the year did they usually travel, and how safe were their ships? Why did they go to Vinland and what did they do there? How large was each expedition and what kind of people participated in it? What kind of settlement they build, and how long did they stay? You will also examine who the native people were whom the Norse met and see if that will give you additional clues. You will also want to consider how truthful and reliable these sources really are. Finally you will look at the known archaeological evidence. Are the sites really part of Vinland or do we need to look for new archaeological evidence?