Face to Face: Vikings and Native Americans

Topics: Inuit, Viking, Cape Dorset, Nunavut Pages: 1 (324 words) Published: June 7, 2014
It only took a very small, almost forgettable find to potentially rewrite understood history as we know it: yarn. Discovered at the northern tip of Canada’s Baffin Island in the 1980s, they were initially just thought to be ‘strands’ of fabric. Upon inspection under a microscope however, revealed that these were in fact short hairs were spun into yarn. The problem: the people – called Dorset, that lived on Baffin Island made their clothing from skins and furs – they were not spinners or weavers. The yarn discovered has been confirmed by experts to match yarn made by Norse women in Greenland.

The nomadic Vikings were known for their excellence of ocean navigation. They have also been portrayed throughout history as ruthless raiders, murderers and thieves that pillage and burn everything they encounter. A friendly encounter(s) with the natives of Canada’s Baffin Island would rewrite history.

Excavations of Baffin Island have unearthed other objects that would reinforce a friendly Viking presence: numerous pieces of wood (the landscape is treeless tundra), fragments of tally sticks use by Vikings for trade, spindles, Norse whetstones, an carvings of faces with long noses, prominent eyebrows and beards. Other finds were evidence of drill holes; the Dorset had no drills, they made holes by gouging. For Vikings, augers were commonplace used for drilling wooden dowels to fasten wooden pieces together. Even architecture was drastically different. The Dorset homes were roughly the size of modern bedrooms, but a building has been uncovered in which the walls measured over 40 feet in length. It is theorized that the Vikings set up a seasonal trading outpost.

The Dorset people offered the Vikings no threat, and would have been interested in two things the Vikings had to offer: wood for carving and metal for hunting weapons. The Vikings on the other hand would be interested in furs and prepared animal pelts. A friendly and mutual trading agreement would...
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