Evidence of Viking metalworking in Arctic Canada


Share post:

An object that was found by archaeologists a half-century ago has now been recognized as further evidence of a Viking or Mediaeval Norse presence in Arctic Canada during the centuries around 1000 A.D.

Evidence of Viking metalworking in Arctic Canada
Archaeologists have examined bronze found inside a broken 
stone vessel [Credit: Patricia Sutherland/BBC]

In an article published in the international journal Geoarchaeology, archaeologist Patricia Sutherland and her co-authors report that scanning electron microscopy was employed to determine if metal traces were present in a small stone container from an archaeological site on southern Baffin Island.

They found that the interior of the vessel contained fragments of bronze, an alloy of copper and tin, as well as small spherules of glass which are formed when rock is heated to high temperatures. The object is a crucible for melting bronze, likely in order to cast it into small tools or ornaments. The crucible appears to have been broken while in use, suggesting that it was likely used at the locality where it was found.

The artifact was originally excavated during the 1960s and identified as the fragment of a small soapstone pot made by the local indigenous people, the Palaeo-Eskimo who occupied the area in the centuries around 1000 A.D. However among the Palaeo-Eskimo artifacts Sutherland has identified a wide range of specimens that resemble those used by Europeans of the Viking and Mediaeval periods. These include lengths of yarn spun from the fur of local animals, whetstones bearing metal traces from tools that had been sharpened, and tally sticks of the type used for recording transactions.

The Vikings and their mediaeval Norse descendants established colonies in southwestern Greenland about 1000 AD, and occupied the region for over 400 years. After more than a decade of research on material from the Eastern Arctic, the evidence indicates a significant early European presence in Arctic Canada.The Norse would likely have travelled to the area in order to obtain furs and walrus ivory, either by hunting or by trading with the indigenous people.

Dr. Sutherland states “The crucible adds an intriguing new element to this emerging chapter in the early history of northern Canada.”

The Inuit and earlier peoples of Arctic Canada cold-hammered meteoric iron and native copper in order to make tools, but neither they nor other indigenous peoples of northern North America practised high-temperature metalworking. This crucible may be the earliest evidence of high-temperature non-ferrous metalworking in North America to the north of what is now Mexico.

Source: Wire Service [December 09, 2014]




Related articles

4,000-year-old stelae unearthed south of Aswan

Egypt's Antiquities Minister, Dr. Mambouh Eldamaty announced today the discovery of three ancient stelae at Wadi El-Hudi that...

Dives on Arctic wreck yield 19th century artefacts

Archaeologists diving on a 19th century shipwreck have brought back a small supply of artefacts they hope will...

Research team unravels how dagger in Tutankhamun’s tomb was forged

A Japanese research team has concluded that an iron dagger made of meteorites found in the tomb of...

Bactrian fortress reveals how ancient civilizations of Central Asia lived

Scientists from Russia and Uzbekistan found a unified fortification system that on the northern border of ancient Bactria....

Gondi script found in Hampi

The world heritage site of Hampi is famous for its remains of the 15th century Vijayanagar empire, but...

Death masks from warrior tomb unearthed in Siberia

A crypt with up to 30 burials is giving archeologists fresh insights of intriguing ancient Siberians famed for...

One of the oldest cases of tuberculosis is discovered

Tuberculosis was present in Europe as early as 7000 years ago, according to new research published October 30th...

Bioinvasion is jeopardizing Mediterranean marine communities

Non-indigenous species (NIS) are harming indigenous species and habitats in the Mediterranean Sea, impairing potentially exploitable marine resources...