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CONTACTS MENU INTRODUCTION ICELANDIC SAGAS AND INUIT LEGENDS BASQUE FISHERMEN A MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE FUR TRADE
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Icelandic Sagas and Inuit Legends

According to the Icelandic sagas, Lief Eriksson (Eric the Red) discovered Greenland around the year 982 of our era. Scandinavian colonists, known as the Vikings, consequently established two settlements on the southwest coast of the island and at one point numbered between 3 000 and 5 000 inhabitants. The Viking sagas and chronicles relate various expeditions to the east coast of North America and the discovery of new lands. These included Helluland (land of flat stone), which was probably Baffin Island, Markland (land of wood), which was no doubt Labrador, and Vinland (land of wine), which may have been the shores of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

« DE NOORDELYCKSTE ZEE KUSTEN VAN AMERICA VAN  GROENLAND DOOR DE STRAET DAVIS ENDE... » / [F. DE WIT] -  [1675?], QUÉBEC NATIONAL LIBRARY
« DE NOORDELYCKSTE ZEE KUSTEN VAN AMERICA VAN
GROENLAND DOOR DE STRAET DAVIS ENDE... » / [F. DE WIT] -
[1675?], QUÉBEC NATIONAL LIBRARY

In these sagas, the Amerindians or Inuit encountered by the Scandinavians are called “Skraelings.” These people figure in accounts describing, for example, how some Vikings in Greenland came across two “sorcerers” cutting up the meat of a marine mammal near a hole made in the ice. According to the sagas, such meetings were fairly rare and, when they occurred, often violent. However, traditional Inuit legends suggest that the Vikings may have been as eager to trade as they were to fight. Inuit sites in the Arctic have yielded bits of fabric and iron, bronze and copper objects that might have been obtained through trade with the Vikings.

 

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