The discovery of cannabis pollen near a Viking settlement in Newfoundland raises the question
Did Vikings smoke or eat cannabis while exploring North America? Researchers have found evidence that the Vikings have been occupying this outpost for more than a century, much longer than previously thought.
Located in northern Newfoundland, the site of L'Anse aux Meadows was founded by the Vikings around the year 1000. Until now, archaeologists thought the site was only occupied for a short time. The new research, published today (15 July) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that the Vikings lived there probably in the twelfth or even the thirteenth century. [ In Photos: Viking outposts eventually found in Canada ]
In August 2018, an archaeological team excavated a peat bog located near 30 meters east of the Viking settlement of L'Anse aux Meadows. They discovered a layer of "ecofacts", environmental remnants that could have been brought to the site by humans, dating from the 12e or 13e century to radiocarbon.
These ecofacts include the remains of two non-native Newfoundland beetles - Simplocaria metallica from Greenland and Acidota quadrata from the Arctic. The layer also contained pollen from Juglans (walnut) and Humulus, two species that do not grow naturally at L'Anse aux Meadows; On the contrary, the Vikings could have collected all these plant and animal species while sailing south.
They also found leftover caribou dung on pasture, as well as leftover wood and charcoal. The bog layer is similar to the other "cultural layers of the North Nordic Atlantic", wrote the team of archaeologists in the review article.
In addition, archaeologists conducted a Bayesian analysis, a type of statistical analysis - on radiocarbon dating from artifacts previously discovered at L'Anse aux Meadows. This analysis also suggests a Viking occupation of up to 200 years.
"It does not mean continuous occupation," the researchers wrote, noting that the Vikings could have abandoned and reoccupied L'Anse aux Meadows when it suited them.
Did the Vikings use cannabis in Newfoundland?
The discovery of cannabis pollen raises the question of whether the Vikings used cannabis to make clothes or for medico-recreational purposes when they explored North America. Paul Ledger, the paper's lead author and postdoctoral researcher at the Memorial University of Newfoundland, urged caution in interpreting the results, noting that the pollen can be easily carried by the wind.
It is also possible that some of the other "ecofacts" were introduced into the peatland by Aboriginal peoples who lived in Newfoundland and not by the Vikings.
In the end, "the results presented here pose more questions than answers," wrote the team of archaeologists.
Reaction of other Viking researchers
Viking researchers not affiliated with the research team strongly recommended weighting the results
"I think it's too early to draw any conclusions," said Birgitta Wallace, archaeologist emeritus of Parks Canada, who has done extensive research on the Vikings in North America. Wallace told Live Science that she was not convinced that the Vikings left these ecofacts.
"I think it's highly unlikely that the Norwegians [another word for the Vikings] have come back to the 12th and XNIXXth centuries, because there is no structure on the site of this period that could be Nordic," he said. Wallace. "We know there were natives, ancestors of the Beothuks, on the site at that time."
Patricia Sutherland, a visiting researcher at the Canadian Museum of Nature who has also done extensive research on the Vikings in North America, said that although the Vikings may have been in Newfoundland in the 12th or 13th centuries, it is too early to say for sure. "It seems premature to suggest such a scenario based on the" ecofacts "listed in the document," said Sutherland. It is possible that some of the beetles and plant pollen found in the diaper were brought to Anse aux Meadows by the Vikings around the year 1000 and continued to flourish after the departure of the Vikings. said Sutherland.
The research team plans to continue work at L'Anse aux Meadows in August, Ledger said.