Excavation at Cape Tanfield, mainland Canada. Image credit Patricia Sutherland
BBC NEWS HIGHLANDS & ISLANDS reports yesterday that –
An archaeologist with close links to Scotland is painstakingly gathering evidence of early Viking contact with people who once occupied Arctic Canada. Pat Sutherland has spent 13 years investigating artefacts recovered from Baffin Island and mainland Canada. The items are similar to those made in Greenland and European Viking sites. Dr Sutherland said they suggest close contact between the Norse and hunters known as the Dorset, who mysteriously disappeared in the 14th Century. The Dorset culture occupied parts of Canada for 2,000 years before Inuit moved in from Alaska. Dr Sutherland, a Canadian archaeologist, is an honorary research fellow at the University of Aberdeen.
Dr Sutherland said: “There are three groups of artefacts found over a 1,500km of coastline from north Baffin to northern Labrador from sites that were occupied by the Dorset people that suggest a Norse presence.” One group is cord spun from animal hair. Penelope Rogers, a York-based expert on Norse textiles from Greenland, studied the Canadian cordage and found that it was comparable to that found in Greenland.
Notched sticks used by the Vikings in trading goods, or as a calendar, make up a second group of artefacts.
The third is whetstones – used for sharpening weapons and tools – which have also been identified as being similar to those uncovered at European Viking sites. Dr Sutherland said: “The latest work being done on the whetstones is to identify smelted metal traces on the surfaces.”