Scientists may have just uncovered an ancient Viking site in North America using satellites

An excavation site that once may have been the location of a bog iron ore roasting fire.
Photo courtesy Greg Mumford

A team of researchers may have just found a second Viking site in North America.

The Vikings were a seafaring group from Scandinavia that sailed around the world, raiding and pillaging along the way, about 1,000 years ago.

The new site is about 300 miles south of the only other known North American Viking site, called L’Anse aux Meadows, near the northern tip of Newfoundland. It was discovered using satellites. Sarah Parcak, a space archaeologist who recently won a $1 million prize from TED, has been using this method around the world to uncover and preserve ancient sites.

Using the satellites, Parcak saw clues that the site held more than meets the eye.

“What’s amazing about satellites, is that they don’t just process the visual part of the light spectrum, but when we process the data, all of a sudden we start seeing really subtle detail – it’s just amazing new technology,” Parcak said in a NOVA video clip.

Here’s what the site looks like as a processed satellite image. The darker spots suggest possible turf structures, which are now being investigated:

Photo courtesy DigitalGlobe

Parcak and her team picked up signs of iron, which the Vikings used in everyday life. What’s more, the way the iron was made could not be connected to any other group living in the area at the time.

Here’s a map showing the new site, which is located north of Maine in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador, in relation to the one discovered in 1960:

Google Maps

Vikings are thought to have traveled to North America a solid 500 years before Christopher Columbus arrived. But until now, the only traces of Viking settlements in North America had been at L’Anse aux Meadows.

“Either it’s … an entirely new culture that looks exactly like the Norse and we don’t know what it is,” Parcak told The Washington Post, “or it’s the westernmost Norse site that’s ever been discovered.”

And no, this is not an April Fools’ joke.

The new site will be explored further in a two-hour NOVA documentary called “Viking Unearthed” which will stream online at 3:30 p.m. EST April 4 on PBS, followed by a broadcast on PBS at 9 p.m. EST on April 6. A 90-minute version of the film will premiere on BBC in the UK on April 4.