Sunday, October 11, 2009

Leif Ericson

In observance of Columbus Day, it would not be complete without full disclosure.

For centuries we were told that Columbus was the first to discover America. Recently, we keep hearing how we should not celebrate Columbus Day or the man because he was not the first. So, what changed?

In 1960, archaeologists discovered the ruins of a settlement in L'Anse aux Meadows. This is located on the north tip of the large island of Newfoundland, off of eastern Canada. The artifacts found at the site were similar to those used by the Norsemen and consistent with the period of around 1000 AD. Evidence suggests that the people were not there very long before abandoning the settlement.

The Norsemen, or Norse (meaning people from the North), were first from the area of Scandinavia in Northern Europe. The are credited with establishing settlements in Iceland and Greenland. The term "Vikings" refers to the same group of people.

There are some Norse-Icelandic sagas that describe the exploration and attempted settlement, to the west, of a colony in 1003 AD. Evidently, this was led by a man named Leif Ericson. In the saga, the settlement was named Vinland.

It is not certain that Vinland is the same settlement found in Newfoundland or that Leif Ericson was the leader who established that settlement, but that appears to be the story that has gained widespread acceptance.

The main point that people use this to make is that someone was here (the Americas) pre-Columbian (besides the natives).

So, even if this is all true, and it appears that it is, why is this used as a reason to discredit Columbus? Why put him down because someone got to northeast Canada 500 years prior? When they got there, they did not do much and then left. Whatever they found and learned, it was mostly forgotten.

So, we can admit, even though Columbus was not the "very first" European to set foot on any area of the Americas, he was the one who made a difference. He was the one who started something that changed the rest of history. He was the one who made Europe aware of these new continents. So, if not technically correct; it is practically correct, he is the discoverer of America.

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