‘Leif Eriksson Discovers America’ by Christian Krohg (1893).

Years Before Columbus: Leif Erikson, His Life and His Voyage of Adventure to the New World

(Read the article on one page)

Many people still believe that the person who “discovered” America was Christopher Columbus, forgetting the fact that there were already indigenous people living there. An additional fact that is often overlooked is that the new world was visited, and temporarily colonized, about 492 years before Columbus by another European - a man known as Leif Erikson.

A Family History of Banishment and Adventure-Seeking

Leif Erikson was born circa 970 AD in Iceland. He was a son of Erik the Red and his wife Thjodhild. Leif had a sister Freydis and two brothers: Thorsteinn and Thorvald. Together, they were the children of the man who colonized Greenland.

According to the Sagas of Icelanders , Leif was the first European who landed in the territory of modern-day Canada. But before that, Leif grew up in Greenland, where the family of Erik the Red moved after they colonized the land. Leif’s wife was Thorgunna who gave him at least two sons: Thorgils and Thorkell. Leif Erikson is remembered as a considerate, strong, and wise man.

The history of exploration in Leif's family started from the day when Thorvald Asvaldsson (his grandfather) was banished from Norway for manslaughter. Asvaldsson began the family’s first adventure in the company of his son Erik (the Red). The family lived in Iceland until Erik was banished from his new home and started traveling west, landing at the place now called Greenland. He arrived there in 986 AD.

Leif Erikson memorial statue at Shilshole Bay Marina (Port of Seattle)

Leif Erikson memorial statue at Shilshole Bay Marina (Port of Seattle) ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )

That was not the end to the family’s travels however, and Leif left Greenland seeking an adventurous life. It should be noted that unlike his father and grandfather, he wasn't banished from his homeland. Leif died around 1020 AD in Greenland, but during his lifetime, he was a legend.

Adventures to a New Land

Leif left Greenland for the first time at age 24, when he went to deliver gifts from his father to King Olaf of Norway. This trip may have sparked his interest in exploring another land, one far away from Norway and Greenland.

When Leif returned home, he reflected on his grandfather’s and father’s explorations, and decided he too wanted to experience adventure. Thus, he bought a boat and started preparations for the greatest journey of his life. Sources say that he sailed west for 600 miles (965.6 km) and saw a land with rocks and high glaciers which he called Helluland, meaning “The Slab Land”.

Nowadays, researchers believe that this place was Baffin Island. Leif and his crew did not stop their voyage there however, and decided to sail on south, where they saw a land with a beach and trees that they called Markland (The Woodland). This was perhaps the eastern coast of Canada.

Baffin Island, thought to be “Helluland” to Leif Erikson.

Baffin Island, thought to be “Helluland” to Leif Erikson. ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )

When they found the right place, they decided to build houses to live in for the winter. After preparation for the coldest period of a year, Leif sent out an exploration group to learn more about the land they had arrived upon. When they came back, they were very excited about finding grapes in the area. This discovery led Leif to call the land Vinland, meaning “Wineland”. The grapes were one of the greatest treasures he brought back to Greenland.

Northeast coast of Baffin Island, north of Community of Clyde River, Nunavut, Canada.

Northeast coast of Baffin Island, north of Community of Clyde River, Nunavut, Canada. ( CC BY-SA 2.5 )

Differing Beliefs of Father and Son

Leif and his wife had left the faith of the ancestors and became Christians. He had been baptized by King Olaf Tryggvason and became sort of an ''evangelist of Vikings'' on Greenland. Leif also served on the court of Tryggvason in Norway. After returning to his homeland, he tried to convert all of Greenland into Christianity. Leif and Thorgunna even built the first church in Greenland. At the same time, Erik stayed a follower of Norse paganism and truly disliked Christianity.

While Leif was away in modern North America, perhaps a part of Newfoundland, Erik was worshiping his old gods. Before he left, Leif hoped that his father would follow him and join in on his trip. Nevertheless, Erik wasn't interested in leaving Greenland anymore.

According to legend, Erik did give this opportunity one chance, and rode a horse to go to his son’s ship. However, getting closer to the harbor he fell off his horse, which he took as a bad sign. Thus, Erik decided his son would take the voyage without his company. The prophecy of the bad sign may have been true, because they never saw each other again. Erik died during the winter, before Leif came back home.

Comments

The reason for Leiv Erikson to name Amerika vinland was not that he discovered winegrapes.
"Vin" in ancient norwegian means "open spaces"
Like the city of Bergen. In the viking Age the name was "bjørgvin" its many other examples to.

There are evidences of many other visitors here in North America prior to C Columbus. There are Runic markings in the South and Southwest along with Ogham markings along the East Coast that are way older. In New Mexico there are original or paleo-Hebrew texts of the Ten Commandments. In the Grand Canyon there are Egyptian hieroglyphics. These kind of things are glossed over as anything but real by academic types, but that is to be expected so as not to upset their paradigm of whatever they were told in school. Sooner or later, conventional wisdom (the Earth is flat) is replaced by facts (the Earth is spherical). Barry Fell has a book, "America B.C." that is good on his explanation of Ogham markings and Gloria Farley's book "In Plain Sight" covers Ogham as well as Runes in Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, and N Mexico.

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Myths & Legends

Open Book Photo
A legend is a tale regarded as historical even though it has not been proven, and the term “myth” can refer to common yet false ideas. Many myths and legends describe our history, but they are often treated skeptically. This is because many of them, while explaining a phenomenon, involve divine or supernatural beings.

Human Origins

Noah's Sacrifice - watercolor circa 1896–1902 by James Tissot
The imperfect state of archaeological researches in the Near East impedes any definite identification of the original race or races that created the earliest civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt. According to Gordon Childe, however, the predominant racial element in the earliest graves in the region from Elam to the Danube is the ‘Mediterranean’.

Ancient Technology

Ancient Places

Google Earth image of manmade stone structures in Saudi Arabia
Deep in the heart of Saudi Arabia, 400 peculiar stone structures have been found, dating back thousands of years ago. These stone features were discovered by archaeologists with the use of satellite imagery, identifying what they call stone "gates" in an extremely unwelcome and harsh area of the Arabian Peninsula.

Opinion

The ancient and mysterious Sphinx, Giza, Egypt.
In 1995, NBC televised a prime-time documentary hosted by actor Charlton Heston and directed by Bill Cote, called Mystery of the Sphinx. The program centered on the research and writings of John Anthony West, a (non-academic) Egyptologist, who, along with Dr. Robert Schoch, a professor of Geology at Boston University, made an astounding discovery on the Great Sphinx of Giza in Egypt.

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article