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The Vikings in North America.

Updated on February 18, 2021
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This veteran writer has been on HubPages for a decade and has created over 100 original pieces.

The Vikings in the Americas.

Did the Vikings, those ferocious barbarians of Scandinavia travel thousands of miles and meet the cultures of Central America?

We know that they visited the Newfoundland area and they had colonized Greenland as early as 984 AD. From Greenland it is only around a 250 mile voyage to mainland North America, the Viking's long ships were capable of travelling great distances and could negotiate even the most terrible of conditions.

Greenland at one stage, had represented the extreme west of Viking civilization. Greenland was only sustainable as a colony if Iceland could supply building materials to what appeared the most inhospitable of settlements. Greenland did not encourage the number of settlers that Iceland had attracted. The new territory was not an attractive option when compared to the inviting lands of Europe.

I have found a few interesting pieces of evidence to suggest that the Vikings had explored more of North America than they had been given credit for and given their ability to sail. It is entirely believable that they could have navigated deep into the heart of the distant continent.

A Journey to Distant Shores

A Viking long ship similar to the type that reached North America
A Viking long ship similar to the type that reached North America | Source

Viking Colonization of North America and Greenland

The last recorded voyage to North America was made by Thorfinn Karlesfni in 1015 AD, but there were numerous hunting and trading expeditions into the area between 1050 AD and 1350 AD. Some of these expeditions travelled into the the area now known as Hudson's Bay. The need for timber often motivated the Norse settlers in Greenland to make the voyage to Markland. The Norse settlers were still visiting the American coast in 1347 AD, and we have written evidence of one ship drifting drastically off course after having made a trip to Markland and eventually reaching the western coast of Iceland.

Runic Stone of Minnesota

In 1898 AD a Swedish immigrant farmer found a stone etched with what he believed to be the runic alphabet of the Vikings. The discovery of this controversial rune stone chronicling the exploration of North America has divided the scientific community. If the rune stone is a true historical artefact, then it would prove the Vikings and their descendants had moved a lot further into the American continent than had previously been believed.

The carved tablet made mention of a group of Vikings exploring what is now the U.S state of Minnesota. This expedition is a good hundred years before Christopher Columbus set foot upon the American continent. How this rune stone ended up near Alexandria, Minnesota is a mystery that has yet to be solved. Current thinking on the Viking route into Minnesota is that they would have travelled by long ship into the Hudson Bay area and used the twisting waterways to enter the Great Lakes. This seems a hazardous and a very arduous journey, but it is something the Vikings were very capable of doing.

There has been two scientific tests on the tablet and both have placed its creation before the discovery by the farmer, but they are yet to fully rule out the farmer hoaxing the rune stone as the scientists cannot accurately verify its carving. The series of tests used to determine the age of the tablet does not unfortunately prove that the inscriptions were from the same time period, but the inscriptions on the rune stone do seem to match medieval writings and many of the runes used are recognisable and authentic.

It is the few obscure symbols used which have caused many experts on the Viking runic alphabet to treat the rune stone as a fake or at least a curiosity without a definitive history.

Viking Influence in North America

The Vikings brought their tools and weapons to North America
The Vikings brought their tools and weapons to North America | Source

The Lands of the Viking in North America

Viking Name
Land of vines
May relate to the fruit found at their landfall
Land of stone
Land of forest

The White Bearded Gods.

When Hernan Cortes met the Aztec Emperor Moctezuma II in 1519 AD, it was the first time the Aztec Emperor had seen a white skinned visitor. This may not have been the case though, as the Aztec culture had legends of white skinned people going back a number of years. In fact these white skinned and white bearded people were thought of as gods. Could this have been due to a chance encounter with Viking explorers along the Gulf of Mexico some time after 1000 AD. After all the Vikings with their larger physical attributes and fearsome steel weapons would have looked like gods compared to the indigenous people's technology.

One key piece of evidence for European peoples such as the Vikings visiting the Aztecs is the religious figure called Quetzalcoatl, Quetzalcoatl is a bearded god with white skin. The god has it roots a thousand years before the Vikings visited but they could have influenced the belief by their presence.

The Inca civilization came to prominence around the 13th century in Peru, but their people could have moved south from the a Central American location. The Inca's had a white god called Wiracochan, his name translated as " Foam of the Sea ". Maybe this could be a reference to the Viking dragon ships breaking through the surf to land on the coast line of Central America.

These Viking vessels could navigate the winding rivers of North America.
These Viking vessels could navigate the winding rivers of North America. | Source

Given the in built desire for the Vikings to explore new areas, it is hard to believe that the Vikings would see such a large forested land mass and not want to push further in a voyage of discovery. Whether or not the Vikings encountered the people's of Central America is an answer I cannot clearly give. It would have been possible for the Viking long ships to travel such large distances, maybe a Viking trading vessel was lost and a solitary Viking trader landed in the area we now call Mexico. The bearded Norseman with his strange steel axe would have been a very foreign and alien sight to the peoples of Meso-America.

Whether the Norse explorers reached as far south as modern day Mexico is open to debate, the Viking settlers in Greenland had the ships capable of such a voyage. They also had nearly 300 years to explore the continent and trade with the Native Americans. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that Viking traders landed in the lands of the Aztec after drifting off course, they could have met the Aztecs or the ancestors or Inca's and headed back off to Greenland. It is possible that a returning Viking vessel could have been sunk by a violent tropical storm.

Your Opinion

Do you think the Vikings visited the following areas?

See results

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Andrew Stewart


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    • Asp52 profile imageAUTHOR

      Andrew Stewart 

      8 years ago from England

      Thank you for your kind comments, and I will return the favour. Thanks for visiting

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image

      Daisy Mariposa 

      8 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)


      Thanks for publishing this very informative article. I just added a link from my "Countries of Central America" article to your Hub. I'll be sharing your Hub with my followers and also tweeting it.

    • Asp52 profile imageAUTHOR

      Andrew Stewart 

      8 years ago from England

      I have never read the Farley Mowat book, but you have now peaked my interest with that as a suggestion. I would love to visit the area's I have mentioned in the article as I can imagine in my mind the kind of journey these early pioneers took in exploring the endless land mass. In researching the article I did come across some stories of Native American woman returning to Europe and producing children with the Vikings. There is DNA evidence of some North Europeans having genetic markers shared with American's native people. That sounds a new hub in itself!, thank you for the comments and your continued interest.

      Regards Andy

      Here is the link

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 

      8 years ago from Traverse City, MI

      Asp52, this is my favorite part of history to read. Farley Mowat's book, Vikings is a treasure of information, and it at least sounds like you may have read it. I'm sure there are other sources for this information as well, though. I've been to Newfoundland where Mowat believes one of the earliest landings occurred. I have no doubt that the Vikings traveled far and wide on the North American continent. Great hub. Thanks.

      I shared this on my fb page for freelance writers.

    • Asp52 profile imageAUTHOR

      Andrew Stewart 

      8 years ago from England

      I'd like to think that they did explore a bit more of North America than they are given credit for, like you say why not? Thanks for reading.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      8 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Well done as always. The question of the distance is to me, more a question of why not?


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