Skip to main content
Create interactive lessons using any digital content including wikis with our free sister product
. Get it on the
Pages and Files
Democratic Teaching Methods
Hidden Histories, Dramatic Events
, Historical Biographies & Special Topic Pages
AP World History
AP United States History
AP Government & Politics
AP Art History
Grades 1 & 2
Grades 3 & 4
Grade 5 (United States History)
Grade 6 (World Geography)
Grade 7 (Ancient/Classical Civilizations)
World History I & II
United States History I & II
Influential Men: World
Infuential Men: U.S.
Influential Women: U. S.
Influential Women: World
Primary Sources: U.S.
Primary Sources: World
Public Domain and Copyright Information
Large Visitor Globe
Feedjit Live Blog Stats
Standard 5.2 >
Describe the earliest explorations of the New World by the Vikings, the period and locations of their explorations, and the evidence for them.
"Sea Stallion" Worlds Largest Reconstruction of a Viking Age Warship
See also Special Topic page on the
Peopling of the Americas
Discovering North America
, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
The Vikings, 800 to 1066
from the BBC provides an overview of Viking culture and exploration.
provides and overview of Viking culture in World History, via author John Green.
from the New World Encyclopedia provides information on Vikings in the service of the Byzantine Emperors.
about the old Pagan religion of the Vikings.
of the Viking voyages from the 8th century to the 11th century
Coming to America: Who Was First?
NPR (October 8, 2007).
for the game "Viking Quest" from BBC. In this game, you have to build a ship, chose your crew and route, and go to raid a monastery. The game gives a good overview of how Vikings raided other lands.
Leif Ericson Discovers Vinland; Painting from 1892
for links and resources on the Vikings for 3-6 graders from e-Themes, University of Missouri.
for instructions for building a Viking ship for a school project.
for guiding questions for teaching about the Vikings
The first evidence of Vikings was written in the 1300s, so researchers have relied on textual and archeological evidence to construct a picture of the Viking age.
Climate change during the late 700s through 900s caused food shortages throughout much of Northern Europe.
For more background, see
The Little Ice Age in Europe
from Scott Mandia, Suffolk County Community College.
The people who lived there, Vikings, were forced to go in search of food and land in some other way.
They raided Great Britain starting in the summer of 793, and sailed up the rivers into the heart of Europe every summer thereafter, looting and pillaging.
They brought all of their pirated goods back to their home settlements. Eventually though, this was not enough to sustain their growing population, so large populations were forced to leave. Some settled further south, in modern day Norway and Sweden.
Some set up island colonies north of Great Britain, and in Iceland. Another group however, led by Eric the Red, settled Greenland, starting in 980s
1. Viking Map Wikimedia Commons, "Territories and voyages of the Vikings".
The Norse had two main settlements in Greenland, one in the North called “West Settlement,” and one in the South called “East Settlement.”
Farmland was, and still is, relatively poor in Greenland, and it is difficult to sustain large populations. The growing season is only 5 to 7 months and the only crops that can be grown are hearty ones, like cabbages, beets, lettuce, and much later, potatoes.
The colonists mostly ate seal, walrus and birds that migrate to Greenland to breed at predictable parts of the year. They also kept cows, but they were very hard to maintain because it was difficult to grow enough hay to keep them alive through the very long and cold winters.
The population of Greenland likely never exceeded 5,000 because of the difficulty in finding food. The colonists in Greenland also kept up steady trade with Europe because Greenland does not have a lot of readily accessible natural resources such as metals and lumber.
The fall of Norse Greenland was likely due to the “Little Ice Age” which started in the early 1300s and didn’t end till the 1800s. The Greenland settlement lasted from the 980s CE to the middle of the 1400s.
Erik the Red
for an article on Erik the Red, the Viking leader who settled Greenland.
Hvalsey, a stone church built in East Settlement
Leif Erikson and Vinland
The scarcity of lumber is what caused Viking explorers to venture further west into modern day Canada, which is abundant in natural resources like timber and furs.
They made visits every summer for up to two decades starting just after they colonized Greenland. They set up small temporary camps that could house no more than a few dozen people, one of which has been found and
excavated by archaeologists
They called this new land “Vinland,” likely in reference to the one of the small settlements that they founded in open meadowland (
can mean either
in their language, depending on the way the
Unfortunately for the settlers, the land they had “discovered” was already occupied by the Native Americans. As already described, the Vikings were a violent culture by our standards, and invasion and warfare was nothing new to them. They attacked the Native Americans, but their numbers were not great enough to defend themselves for long.
Their hostility to the Native Americans, and their distance from Greenland and especially from their European metropole made it impossible to set up a permanent settlement south of Greenland.
1986 U.S. postage stamp
Proclamation 3610: Leif Erikson Day
(Issued by President Lyndon Johnson, September 2, 1964)
Is the Vinland Map a Fake?
from NPR examines the controversy surrounding a supposed map showing Viking presence in the New World.
The Vinland Sagas
are the first known European narratives about encounters with native peoples in North America.
File:L'Anse aux Meadows, recreated long house.jpg
How the Norse likely viewed the New World in relationship to Europe.
The Skalholt Map, made in 1570.
Focus Question: What evidence is there of a Viking presence in early North America?
There has been evidence found of the Vikings in North America, mainly in parts of Canada.
In 1999 archeologist Patricia Sutherland found what she believed to be Viking yarn on Baffin Island. It was not similar to the Arctic yarn, but identical to the yarn that Viking women made in the 14th century. When reviewing this area, they found more Viking yarn,a whalebone shovel, and pelts from Old World rats. These are all associated with the Vikings.
In 2012 Sutherland announced she and her team had discovered whetstones with grooves to sharpen blades. The grooves had traces of copper alloys, metals the Vikings had been known to use.
In 2000, Agnar Helgason and Sigridur Sunna Ebenesersdottir were researching the population of Iceland. They found that some Icelanders had a linage that is usually found in Asians and Native Americans. Once tracing the linage, they found that it descended from a woman from around 1700. It is hypothesized that she was a Native American woman who encountered the Vikings and was brought to Iceland. This theory is still under investigation, but is interesting to note.
Evidence of Viking Outpost Found in Canada
for the story on Sutherland from National Geographic.
for an interactive article that allows one to examine the Viking map of Vinland and see evidence on whether or not it is authentic.
for the Wikipedia page on "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed"
by Jared Diamond. This book uses evidence to provide a history of Viking expansion and speculates on what might have led to the downfall of their colonies. (Pages 178-277).
Viking Women Colonized New Lands, Too
, an article from LiveScience about Viking women and colonization (December 7, 2014).
from Nova offers information about the Vikings including a video tour of a Viking village.
for a youtube video
about the L'Anse aux Meadow site as a modern tourist attraction.
to read about the
Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage site for L'Anse aux Meadows
The Children of Erik the Red Explore the West:
The Norsemen Encounter Indigenous People of North America
Here is the link to
Gary Sanderson columns at the Greenfield Recorder newspaper about native american settlers of western Massachusetts
hundreds of years before European contact. He posts his columns on his blog, Tavern Fare. Students and teachers can search under the keywords local history or Indians or South Deerfield.
help on how to format text
Turn off "Getting Started"