Potential Vikings site in North America spotted from space

Story highlights

  • Satellite technology has picked up on a possible Vikings site in North America
  • This could be the second Norse site to be discovered on the continent

(CNN)Vikings -- known for their fearsome conquests -- first came to North America a thousand years ago, according to historians. Now scientists may be able to shed more light on that history with satellite images that reveal what may be a Norse site in North America.

It would make it the second Viking site to be unearthed in North America The new potential site is located on the southwest coast of the large Canadian island of Newfoundland, according to scientists.
    Infrared images captured from more than 400 miles up in space revealed the possible site. Space archeologist Sarah Parcak at the University of Alabama, who pioneered the use of satellite imaging for archeology, scanned through the images to find signs of discolored soil and changes in vegetation, which are some features that indicate something may be hiding underneath the Earth's surface.
    The scans picked up man-made shapes in the region that indicated iron-work -- a key sign of certain cultural activity such as the ability to make certain types of weapons, adornments and tools. This is significant because outside of some instances of Inuits using meteoric iron in the Arctic, there is no evidence that indigenous people in North America had the knowledge or capacity to process iron ore. So it may be
    A sample of bog iron ore from the possible Norse site in Point Rosee.
    "Typically the Norse would collect iron ore from bogs, which are like walnut-size pieces, and they would then roast them and smelt them to create iron," Parcak told CNN.
    The site will be explored in an upcoming NOVA documentary called "Vikings Unearthed," which will stream online at pbs.org/nova early next week, and will also air on the BBC and PBS.
    Parcak, archaeologist Douglas Bolender at University of Boston, historian Dan Snow and a team of international scientists discovered, excavated and examined the site at Point Rosee.
    The site is 300 miles south of the only confirmed Viking settlement in the area, called L'Anse aux Meadows, an 11th-century site that gives evidence of the first European contact with North America, which is 500 years before Christopher Columbus set foot in the Americas.
    L'Anse aux Meadows was discovered 55 years ago. If the new site is confirmed as Norse, it could provide more clues into the historic journey of the Vikings, known for their seafaring techniques, skilled trading and exploration.
    Researchers have spent decades trying to uncover more information about Norse settlers in North America without much success. In fact, Parcak was not looking for signs of Vikings when she turned her attention to North America. There have been several incidents in which a newly discovered Viking "relic" turned out to be a hoax, leaving many experts skeptical on the subject.
    Excavation site at Point Rosse in Newfoundland.
    "When we started the search, I thought we wouldn't find anything Norse. I hypothesized that we would find evidence of indigenous people," she said.
    However, the site in Point Rose showed evidence of turf walls and processed bog iron ore, which is only associated with Norse culture.
    The potential site could provide information on how long Vikings stayed in North America and provide other information about the group. But further excavation and research is needed to determine the time period of the site, according to Parcak. Her team will be returning to the site in the summer to continue their research.