Dan Snow uncovers the lost Vikings in America with Dr Sarah Parcak. As Sarah searches for Vikings across the Atlantic, Dan explores their journey 500 years before Columbus.
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Blond, brawny and brutal.
They plundered and pillaged across continents
in the days before the Norman Conquest.
-Whoa! That is a sword cut into someone's head.
-A sword cut mark.
Their longships wreaked havoc across the North Atlantic...
but how far did these seafarers voyage?
The Vikings are still a mystery.
Now I want to shine a light into the Vikings' dark past.
I'm joining forces
with world-renowned satellite archaeologist Dr Sarah Parcak.
Together we'll search for the greatest prize
in Viking archaeology.
It screams, "Please excavate me!"
SAGA SPOKEN IN OLD NORSE
The Vikings' own stories, the sagas,
reveal they explored deep into North America
some 500 years before Columbus.
If this is a Viking site, you've just discovered
the furthest known western point
of the entire Viking expansion.
We'll hunt for those lost Vikings
and I'll discover how they voyaged further
than any European had ever done before.
Lovely! That reindeer droppings are really cutting through there.
On this journey, I'll uncover
just how closely related to the Vikings we are.
I hate to admit, but we are probably the same species as the British.
And they weren't just Hells Angels,
they were shrewd entrepreneurs.
Mesmerising, isn't it?
We're setting out to prove that they were the first Europeans
to settle in the New World 1,000 years ago.
This is a very good day indeed!
It would just be really good to have the dates work out.
So, are you ready?
Lerwick on the Shetland Islands.
Every January, it hosts Up Helly Aa.
One of the most colourful celebrations of our Viking past.
You know what? When you see these big, tough men
walking down the street in glittering armour,
they do convey an amazing impression.
-Three cheers for the Guizer Jarl. Hip, hip!
The Vikings arrived here in their longships 1,200 years ago.
They famously plundered and pillaged,
but they also settled much of Britain
and explored the North Atlantic.
They left powerful marks on our identity
and our gene pool.
We are more Viking here than Scottish.
Aaagh! I know who I am.
Yet much of what we know about them
still comes from comic books rather than history books.
No real Viking ever wore a winged or horned helmet.
If even our most familiar image of the Vikings is wrong,
what other myths are there left to explode?
I'm heading to Copenhagen, the heart of the Viking homeland,
to start my quest to discover how far beyond our Shetland friends
Viking power extended.
Waiting for me is an old Norse saga named after one of the Vikings'
most heroic and notorious characters.
So, this is the Saga of Erik the Red
and this is the oldest surviving text that we have of this saga.
Dr Emily Lethbridge is an expert on the sagas,
the Vikings' own stories, written down by their descendants.
So, this is 700 years old, this book?
SHE SPEAKS OLD NORSE
This saga tells of a voyage by Erik the Red's son, Leif,
to a place west of Greenland.
The sagas describe the discovery of this country
and it's an incredibly lush place, absolutely teeming with wildlife.
So that's how, according to this saga, North America was discovered.
So, this is hundreds of years before Christopher Columbus,
-here it is, in this manuscript, right here.
And that's not all.
The first people to explore this place they named Vinland
may actually have been British.
SAGA IS SPOKEN IN OLD NORSE
A couple of Scots are sent ashore to explore the land
and they come back, one of them with a handful of self-sown wheat
and the other with a vine in their hand.
Wild vines. Is that where they get the name Vinland from?
That's one interpretation, yes.
So, where in North America could Vinland have been?
In 1960, at a place called L'Anse aux Meadows
on the northern tip of Newfoundland,
archaeologists made the remarkable discovery of a Viking transit camp.
It contained Viking hallmarks - their long houses
and evidence of metalworking...
..but the sagas don't just talk about one camp.
They describe other settlements elsewhere.
So, what does it say about other stories in here?
I mean, there must be a lot more to find out in North America.
There could well be, because the sagas describe not only these guys
stopping off in one place, but stopping off in a number of places
and they were there for several years.
They had a whole new world to explore.
So, there may be some archaeology out there?
There may be some archaeology out there.
Scots amongst the first Europeans in the New World -
and then there's the promise of more sites in America.
But how to follow in the footsteps of Erik the Red and his son Leif
and find those lost Vikings?
The answer might lie in an unlikely location - Birmingham, Alabama...
..in the lab of the world-renowned space archaeologist Dr Sarah Parcak.
Sarah has pioneered the use of satellites
to make ground-breaking archaeological discoveries...
She uses infrared imagery to show up the differences between desert sand
and building material beneath the surface.
And lo and behold - the map of a whole city.
She's already uncovered lost pyramids in Egypt...
..and together we found the fabled lighthouse
of Ancient Rome's harbour.
That is awesome!
Now, Sarah's joining me on the trail of the Vikings -
but this is uncharted territory for her.
After all, her speciality is Ancient Egypt.
This project is my biggest challenge yet -
I've been working in Egypt for the last 15 years -
but then, thinking about the Vikings,
you have a vast empire across a vast ocean.
Also, the Vikings lived in farmsteads.
It was much more ephemeral, you know -
they simply didn't leave a lot behind.
Sarah will have to adapt her methods.
Unlike in Egypt, she'll be relying on subtle differences
in surface vegetation that only hint at what may lie beneath.
All from a camera 383 miles above the earth's surface.
I can't wait to find out what Sarah's discovered.
She's been searching all the places the Vikings went
across the North Atlantic -
Scotland, Iceland and Greenland...
..but the Holy Grail is North America.
We've really been focusing our efforts
on the eastern seaboard of Canada.
If you find something on the eastern seaboard of Canada,
that would be huge.
So, let's go into Newfoundland.
Right now, the only known Norse site in all of North America
is at the northern tip of Newfoundland, at L'Anse aux Meadows.
So, if you believe the sagas, that might just have been a transit camp.
Would they have had something more permanent somewhere else?
Where are these other places?
Over the last couple of months, we've spent a lot of time
looking along the entire Labrador coast.
We looked up every single river.
It's like looking for a needle in a million haystacks.
Tens and tens of thousands of square kilometres.
We've even looked along the coastline of Maine
into Massachusetts. So, we've looked everywhere...
Come on! Show me!
..and this very interesting site appeared in Newfoundland.
So, when we were doing initial processing,
all I saw was a dark stain.
You can see this slightly darker area right here, that's all I saw...
-..and I almost discarded it.
But when we processed that imagery...
..that rectilinear structure shows up very clearly here.
You can see the outline of what looks like a long house better here,
but you can see actual internal divisions.
-It's 22 metres long and seven metres wide.
The exact same size as the long houses at L'Anse aux Meadows.
This is the first site we've had in 55 years
that merits closer examination and excavation.
I mean - its size, its shape - it screams, "Please, excavate me!"
If this is a Viking site, you've just discovered
the furthest known western point of the entire Viking expansion.
When you visit Sarah's lab for the day,
it feels like you've got a front row seat at the making of history.
We've seen the data on the big screen
and now I can't wait to put my boots on and get out there on the ground.
It's now down to Sarah and I to prove the Vikings put down roots
even further west than anyone has ever thought.
First of all, Sarah needs to convince the authorities
to let her dig.
So her team will carry out surveying work at the new site,
while Sarah tests out her satellite technology
by gathering evidence of the Viking route
across the North Atlantic from Britain to North America.
Meanwhile, I'm going to work out how they managed to travel so far west
1,000 years ago.
Now the hard work begins,
when we get this beast up the top of the mast.
I'm getting a crash course in Viking sailing
on an exact replica of an 11th century ship.
There is one concession to modern convenience.
That's pretty heavy work.
-Yeah, you are just halfway, so...
It's getting heavier.
The advent of the square sail at the start of the Viking era
meant these people were no longer confined to the shoreline.
They were now masters of the open oceans.
I've sailed my whole life
and I've even sailed through these waters before,
but I've never been on a Viking ship -
and this kind of ship is so iconic.
This is where the whole history
of European maritime exploration begins.
It is absolutely beautiful.
With a 15-strong crew,
ships like this would carry 20 tonnes of cargo,
including goats and cows, up to 2,000 miles.
It's a lot more responsive than you'd think, looking at it.
There's wind in the sail, it's responding to the tiller here,
it's responding to the sea, it's great!
And you realise it might be over 1,000-year-old technology,
but it's still fit for purpose today.
To get a flavour of how the Vikings survived long voyages
without fresh food,
Captain Esben Jessen is introducing me to the medieval equivalent
of astronaut grub.
We have a variety here of smoked lamb, it's actually smoked
over reindeer droppings, so it has a little tang to it.
OK, here we go.
That reindeer droppings are really cutting through there, very nice.
-And then we a have dried cod.
-That, I can smell -
-even in a big wind on this foredeck, I can smell it.
-Yes, it's amazing.
-it's just fantastic.
-It's a little chewy.
Oh, yeah! It's like gnawing on a bit of canvas.
But then when you smoke it, or you dry it,
or as these two pickled herrings, here, then this would actually,
it could last for weeks, or months, even.
But the Vikings didn't just design ships to ply the open seas.
They also built them to attack
when and where they wanted.
So, the interesting thing about this
is that it's a really flexible construction.
At Denmark's Viking Ship Museum, boat builder Martin Rodevad Dael
shows me what made the longship the ultimate attack weapon.
-So, if you sort of move it, you can see that it's really...
..move it a little bit, you can tell how...
-..the whole thing is...
-The whole thing is just twisting like this.
You can just see the ripples going down the hull there.
Fast and flexible to ride the rollers of the North Atlantic,
with a shallow keel to penetrate any waterway and land on any beach,
this was the Panzer tank of the Dark Ages...
..and at the end of the 8th century, it began to wreak havoc
as the Vikings swept west out of their homeland
into the turbulent Atlantic in search of riches.
The first place ripe for plunder was the unsuspecting British Isles.
After the Romans withdrew in the 5th century AD,
England was settled by Germanic cousins of the Vikings -
the Angles and the Saxons.
According to the Anglo-Saxons, their peace was then shattered
by Viking smash-and-grab raiders.
This is the familiar story, but is it true?
If you say a Viking to somebody,
of course, they immediately conjure up an image
of bloodthirsty maniacs storming ashore
in a brutal raid in search of booty -
but, actually, there's precious little archaeological evidence
to support that view of how they acted.
But there is one place, right up here in the north of Scotland,
that takes us back to Viking shock and awe.
In the 8th century, Portmahomack was a stronghold for the Picts,
the Celtic peoples of Scotland.
When Professor Martin Carver dug here,
he discovered the first Pictish monastery underneath this church.
We've got some reconstructions here, on here.
So, if you move that around,
-you've got your monastery...
-OK, that's good.
Right, so, you've - church on the hill...
The buildings on either side...
-It's quite a substantial settlement, this.
-It's very substantial.
They're very busy, very wealthy.
It's almost like a town, it's thriving.
It's in contact with monasteries in Ireland, with Northumbria,
across the Channel and so on, a really important place.
However, the Vikings...are coming.
And they were coming for the treasure.
Church silver inlaid with precious stones made by the monks.
For the Vikings, this was a jewellery shop ripe for a ram raid.
They were making chalices.
This is a precious replica -
but what we did find was little studs,
-you see the little studs there?
-These kinds of things here?
Yeah, we found some of those.
This was the kind of thing being made?
-The kind of thing they were making.
I think it's difficult to exaggerate the amount of wealth involved
and the amount of enthusiasm that was involved.
..a monk's skull.
It was violent.
-You see the cut mark of the sword there?
-That is a sword cutting somebody's head?
-That is a sword cut mark.
The cuts are being made on the top of the head and behind the head.
He must have been, not only attacked from behind, but kneeling.
Bang, bang, bang. Three cuts.
For the first time, it looks like you've been able to prove
that the Vikings came here, slaughtered the monks
and wiped out a flourishing, wealthy monastic site.
SOUNDS OF BATTLE
The sea had brought this settlement wealth and importance...
..but not that day.
That day it brought fire and death.
That day it brought the Vikings.
Soon, the raiders would return as conquerors.
This time they would come to stay - another staging post
on their journey west across the Atlantic.
On the other side of that ocean, Sarah is making plans.
Before she can dig the potential new site in south-west Newfoundland,
she still needs to convince the authorities to grant permission.
Step one is non-invasive surveys.
We have to go out on the ground and use a magnetometer to measure
what might be buried beneath the ground.
What we do is called ground truthing.
It literally means, we are confirming whether or not
what we've seen from space is actually on the ground
and it's an essential thing you have to do
before you start excavation.
As Sarah awaits the results,
she sets out to learn what a typical Viking site in America looked like.
As there's only one, she's on her way to L'Anse aux Meadows,
the Viking camp discovered on the northern tip of Newfoundland
in the 1960s.
I can't even imagine being a Viking in a boat
and sailing by icebergs the size of a mountain.
It gives you a sense of just how intrepid and brave they were,
of seeking new worlds.
One of the pioneering excavators of the historic site,
Birgitta Wallace, is there to meet Sarah.
There are eight buildings on the site
and they are divided into four complexes.
Up to 90 people lived here.
Each building had a different function.
This is one.
It consists of a smelting furnace for iron.
Metalworking was crucial evidence that this was a Viking camp.
No-one else living in this region at the time produced metal.
The reconstructed buildings made of cut turf are critical clues
for when Sarah gets to dig her site further to the south-west.
This is fantastic.
This is the first time I've seen turf houses in person.
So, I'm just looking at the layout of the turf
on each of the houses and sheds.
These thick walls
would have been absolutely perfect natural insulation -
and the nice thing about turf
is you can get any piece of turf to fit together.
It's like all-natural Lego.
And there's one other major clue from L'Anse aux Meadows.
It reinforces the account of Leif's voyage in the saga of Erik the Red.
The most exciting was the finding of three butternuts.
Butternuts - a kind of walnut -
only grow as far north as New Brunswick on the mainland,
hundreds of miles away.
It suggests the Vikings were exploring much further
into North America.
They grow in exactly the same areas as wild grapes in New Brunswick.
And to us that proves that, yes,
they had really observed wild grapes
and named their country after them - Vinland.
L'Anse aux Meadows has given Sarah vital clues about what to look for -
turf buildings and metalworking at her site
400 miles to the south-west.
Could it really be one of the lost settlements of the mythical Vinland?
Well, we'll have to see what we find when we dig!
In Britain, I'm exploring the Viking transformation
from small-scale raiders to full-scale conquerors,
in their quest for new lands.
In 865, the Christian peace of Anglo-Saxon England was shattered
by a pagan Viking invasion, whose leaders included warriors
with names as vivid as Ivar the Boneless.
For the next 13 years, what became known as the Great Heathen Army
rampaged across the country causing chaos and destruction.
Each winter, they would huddle together, building big camps
containing thousands of warriors, where they'd lick their wounds
and prepare for the next season's campaign.
According to the Anglo-Saxons, one of the most important camps
was on the River Trent in the winter of 873...
..at Repton in Derbyshire.
It was the religious epicentre of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Mercia.
-It's a tight stair, Dan...
..and it's probably pretty ropey.
Archaeologist Professor Martin Biddle
started out looking for Anglo-Saxon remains.
It is about 30 years since I've been up here.
He had little idea he'd soon uncover one of the most important sites
in the history of the Vikings in Britain.
Right, now these are quite a long pull,
and I hope I don't go flat on my face. No. We've done it.
Out into safety in the bright sun.
-What a great view!
-The great valley of the Trent.
-And we are as far from the sea as you can get in the UK?
Just about. Yeah.
The Viking camp was lost until Martin started to dig
in the grounds of Repton School.
Just over there, beyond the headmaster's house,
as it is today, of the school,
the ditch started there
and it curved right back under the school building
and came back and stopped against the east end of the church.
Martin's excavations suggested a defensive ditch
closed off by the river.
-So, that's just...
-Oh, my gosh.
-Let's see what we can see.
Something modern on the top of the tower.
So that is a serious camp.
The ditch is about four metres deep, about five metres wide at the top.
And so these are not Vikings raiding the coast,
these are Vikings with huge armies marching right in. Nowhere is safe.
Nowhere is safe.
The threat wasn't just a military one.
The camps were becoming hubs of trade and industry,
just like mobile towns...
..but the invaders didn't have it all their own way.
Do we know anything about what the English were able to do in return?
Yeah, we do. Quite a lot, actually -
because of a marvellous grave we found just down there.
We couldn't understand it, cos it seemed to have three legs.
It didn't have three legs.
It had two legs, plus an iron sword down his left side in its scabbard,
and we found that there was a huge cut
in the underside of the left part of the top of the femur -
and you can imagine somebody going down like that,
and it must have castrated him because between his legs
we found a wild boar's tusk, which is laid out quite obviously as...
And round his neck, he had a necklace with some glass beads
-and a silver hammer of the god Thor.
-That's a Viking.
The Vikings left their pagan mark all over this holy Christian centre.
In the vicarage garden, Martin discovered a mass heathen burial.
We took photographs at every single stage of this operation.
-Yes, look at that.
-What? Are those bones?!
-Those are the bones in the eastern compartment.
A layer of bones about that thick
and they are the big bones,
and they've been brought from somewhere -
that's why the small bones aren't there -
and they were stacked beautifully.
What we call charnel-wise,
like a medieval charnel house - a bone house.
A bit like that.
The most likely explanation is that these are the bodies of Viking dead
carried back to be honoured in secure Viking territory.
Over 260 people, 80% male.
They're mainly young adults, no children.
It's a very highly-selected population.
They have been reburied here around somebody.
Martin has built up a picture of what happened here
from a 17th century account by a gardener who'd disturbed the burial.
-He found "the skeleton of a humane man nine feet long."
And around that "there were the bodies of an hundred others
"with their feet pointing towards the central grave."
Martin thinks the giant was a war leader.
We think it's the burial of Ivar Beinlausi.
So, this is Ivar the Boneless,
who is one of the most famous Viking commanders.
And one of the leaders of the Great Army that arrived in Essex in 865
and which was here in the winter of 873-4
after ten years of campaigning, for the last time.
Burying their leaders in the heart of the English countryside
suggests these Vikings were putting down roots -
just like Viking pioneers had already done
on the Atlantic fringes of Scotland.
And that's where Sarah and her team are testing out her methods
on the ground, before she's allowed to dig in America.
She is focusing on a potential site
on the tiny Orkney island of Auskerry.
Can she prove the technology will work in the new conditions
of the North Atlantic?
So, Dan, we've just had some news back about Scotland
from our team on the ground.
Now, the experts were convinced
that this was a potential long house.
-Unfortunately, it turns out this is modern peat cutting.
I mean, Sarah, it's not your best work, I've got to say. But...
Yeah - you know, all is not lost.
But Sarah may have better luck in nearby Shetland,
in a place already known for artefacts from the late Viking era.
And something very cool has just come up.
This is a place called North House in Shetland.
Here we have a modern farmstead, but take a look at that!
That is very interesting there. Is this the modern settlement?
So, it's right on the edge of the modern settlement...
But you cannot see this at all, visually.
That is very interesting... Is this the coast here?
-Yeah, this is the coastline.
-So, again, right on the coast.
And, you know, I'm really excited by this potential find,
especially since they're finding
Viking material culture there already.
Now, we are going to go excavate
to find out what's there, or what isn't.
Sarah is joining her team, who've already been digging for a week.
I'm hopeful that we could potentially find something Norse.
I guess we'll just have to wait and see.
I can't wait to get my hands dirty.
-Welcome to North House.
-Thank you! How's it all going?
It's going quite well. I think we've...
Archaeologist Rick Barton has started the dig.
After mistaking a peat cutting for a Viking site,
there is a lot riding on this for Sarah.
It looks like a wall.
-We've got walls.
That is a big wall.
-Yeah, yeah. OK, are you ready?
-OK, yeah. Ready, one, two, three...
As the excavation progresses,
it's clear that the wall they're following
matches the satellite imagery.
That's that curvy bit, so the edge is right here.
The technology once used to find pyramids
has proved itself on Sarah's greatest challenge.
It has found something as small as buried walls.
But is this a Viking site?
I've heard rumours. Oh!
-It's a bead. Faceted.
And if you hold it up to the light,
-you can see where the thread hole goes through it.
-Oh, yeah, yeah.
It's not just any old bead -
it's made of the semiprecious stone carnelian, possibly from India.
These people weren't just expanding west. They were trading east, too.
Look at that - beautiful!
-Well done, Tom!
-Thank you, cheers.
-I think there's a pint in store.
I was uncertain when we went to Scotland what we'd find,
but now that we've actually found this incredible stone structure,
that gives me a lot more optimism
about what we may find in Iceland and in Newfoundland.
While Sarah sets up her final test,
waiting for permission to dig in Newfoundland,
I'm exploring what the Vikings did next in mainland Britain.
In 876, they made their capital in Jorvik,
the Viking name for York.
It became the centre of a Viking state in England,
later known as the Danelaw.
In York, the raiders and settlers became successful urban traders
and manufacturers in the first industrial revolution.
The extent of their trading is revealed
in their most prized possessions.
Look at this!
-It's fantastic, isn't it?
That looks like it's brand-new!
Dr Andy Woods is curator of a unique Viking treasure trove -
the Vale of York Hoard.
It's just mesmerising, isn't it?
Some of the hoard is typical raiders' booty,
but it also reveals what else made the Vikings tick.
If they couldn't steal it, they'd trade it.
We have coins that come all the way from Uzbekistan.
-They're struck in Samarkand in Uzbekistan.
What?! Arabic writing found in a hoard...
-In northern England.
-..in northern England.
And if you look in Scandinavia we find vast quantities of these,
what are known as dirhams - and, so, that's just amongst the coinage.
More widely, here, we have this piece of ring,
probably made in Russia,
and this fragment of brooch here, which is likely of Irish design.
So, what we can see is, you get this network
stretching right across Europe.
-Yes, all on one tray.
It's quite fantastic, isn't it?
We talk about globalisation today,
but clearly it was going on back then.
People and things were travelling over huge distances.
And this isn't Viking York's only buried treasure.
What excites Dr Andrew Jones isn't silver or gold,
it's a rather more base material found beneath its streets.
I would say that where we are sitting now,
there is probably ten metres of archaeological deposits
below our feet,
and probably at least three metres of that is human excrement.
-I believe so.
Wow. And what can excrement tell us?
It tells you about diet, what people were eating.
Andrew is a scatologist. He studies poo.
And he's brought along a model
of his favourite specimen to the tea shop.
-The best thing is to show you this object here...
-Oh, my God!
This is the best-preserved piece of ancient mineralised excrement.
It's the largest individual stool we have ever found in Europe.
Some people call it the crown jewels of British excrement.
The poo reveals the rich and diverse diet enjoyed by York's citizens.
It's mainly cereal bran,
but we've even found some samples which have whole grains in them
-that have been cooked, a bit like a rice pudding.
So, we're moving into understanding about cooking methods,
not just ingredients, so that's fantastic.
The Vikings of York were living off the fat of the land.
Loads of fish, very large numbers of birds.
Now, the big things on diet, of course... Moo!
-..cattle bones. There's a lot of beef.
And so most of the farmers in the area were providing animals
that were brought into the market for slaughter here.
So, that suggests there was a lot of food around.
The poo also lifts the lid on the perils of living in thriving,
But it also had many thousands of parasite eggs.
The ascaris worms, they bore through the gut wall
and sometimes have been known to emerge
from every orifice of the human body,
including the corner of your eye.
They're a fact of Viking life.
Why, if you were a Viking, why would you want to come to York,
if it's going to make you a bit sick and it's covered in poo?
Well, York was a really important place to the Viking world -
it was the capital of Viking England.
It was where all the bright craftspeople,
all the bright money-making people,
all the adventurers would come to cluster
and where the powerful people were.
What the things that have been found
beneath our feet here in York tell us
is that the Vikings thrived, they got rich, they traded,
they made stuff and they pioneered a new way of urban living here
that sent ripples out across the rest of the British Isles.
Viking York became one of the most important urban centres
in Western Europe.
It was part of a trading and raiding empire
that stretched as far east as the Caspian Sea
and as far south as Africa,
and at the height of their powers, the Vikings pushed further west
across the North Atlantic in their search for new worlds.
Their next major port of call was Iceland,
and it provides the final test for Sarah's technology.
Any new site in America could be made out of turf,
just like those buildings at L'Anse aux Meadows
and most Viking dwellings in Iceland.
Spotting turf, buried beneath turf,
from space will be tough.
One man who may be able to help Sarah
is Viking expert Dr Doug Bolender.
He will be the first Viking specialist that has seen the work
that we've done in Iceland. So, I'm quite apprehensive.
Doug has spent 15 years searching for Viking sites
in the North Atlantic...
but he's sceptical about what Sarah might be seeing in North America.
I mean, it could be a small raised section of rock or sand.
As human beings, we are basically made
to recognise patterns
and not only are we really good at recognising patterns,
we're really good at making them up.
You can certainly look and say, you know,
that looks like a rectangle, it looks like a structure.
But many of the things that look like buildings in this image
do seem to match the geology -
and, about those, I'm extremely suspicious.
For Sarah, this is her biggest test.
If she can spot buried turf walls in Iceland,
she may have a chance in America.
We focused in on one area in particular.
So, yeah, we've got a series of fields.
You've got a couple of different shades of green,
but it looks completely homogenous.
Then when we started processing the data using the near infrared,
all of a sudden some really interesting shapes started popping.
Well, the first thing that pops out of this
is that it looks like there is something here.
The size looks about right.
It is at least suggestive of something like a farmstead.
Which is exciting.
If there was one potential site that I wanted to pop up,
this would be the place that I would want to see something to go after.
I'm just excited that it actually is showing -
something is showing up there.
It's the first time an expert has seen the work that I've done
in Iceland and confirmed it, so I couldn't have been more thrilled.
Sarah will now head to Iceland to check out
if the buried turf structures she spotted from space
are actually there.
It would have taken the Vikings more than a week in good weather
to sail to Iceland, so I want to explore how they made it.
Very tiring. Got to sleep when you can when you're at sea.
Keep you going through the night.
Voyaging across the North Atlantic is fraught with uncertainty.
According to Captain Esben, the Vikings were experts
at guessing where land was, using subtle clues.
That could be everything from the smell of the grass,
or the pine trees you can smell before you see the land.
It could be forming clouds over land, it could be sea birds
that are nesting on land, so they fly back every night
when they've been out fishing,
it could be reflecting wave from the shoreline.
So, actually, the Vikings didn't have to hit the nail on the head,
they could get to within 50 or 60 miles of an island
and then they would get clues that would allow them to re-set
-and actually hit the landfall they wanted.
But in the middle of the vast ocean
they needed different navigation techniques -
some of them way ahead of their time.
There was an artefact found in Greenland
on a Viking settlement there,
it's a sundial compass.
This is a replica of the compass found on the island
of Uunartoq in Greenland.
When the noonday sun casts a shadow onto the line, it gives a bearing.
So, I just spin the disk until the shadow touches the line
-and now I know where north and south is.
-So, that's north, there?
-And that's accurate?
We actually used this very instrument to sail
from Denmark to Edinburgh in Scotland
and we were three degrees off when we got there.
-You found Edinburgh?
-That's good going.
Do you know are there any other tools that they would have used?
There's a description in some of the sagas about a sunstone -
a sort of an almost magical sunstone -
that even though it was overcast you could find the directions of the sun
and we've tried out different natural stones
and one of them that we've tried is Icelandic feldspar.
The crystal allows you to see the sun
even when it's hidden behind a cloud.
And if you look straight up through it, you see that the marker
actually makes two shadows.
Then when they have the same grey shadow, then that's...
Then you're pointing right at the sun.
..then you're pointing this side straight to the sun.
Spending time on this replica Viking ship has opened my eyes.
It has taught me a huge amount.
They were masters, not just of sailing,
but of navigation, as well.
I'm not surprised they could find these islands
in the middle of the North Atlantic.
By the end of the 9th century, the Vikings had voyaged as far west
as any European.
Just as they were settling in York,
other Viking pioneers were arriving in a new land.
And it's where Sarah and I are meeting up again
for the next stage of the quest.
SAGA SPOKEN IN OLD NORSE
According to the Old Norse sagas,
the most famous settler, Erik the Red,
arrived here after he was banished from Norway for murder.
But most of the immigrants came for another reason -
This astonishing story of frontier pioneers
has a surprising British twist.
Recently, geneticist Dr Kari Stefansson
looked into the origins of the Icelandic settlers.
There is a book written about 1,000 years ago
called the Book of Settlement
and it says that Iceland was settled by Norwegian Vikings
who stopped by in the British Isles,
picked up slaves and went up to Iceland.
So, we decided to examine that story.
He traced inherited DNA
to show that three-quarters of men were of Norwegian origin,
but that two-thirds of women were from the British Isles.
So, it looks like Iceland was settled by Norwegian boys
who stopped by in British Isles,
picked up women and went up to Iceland and settled down.
Last time, when I went to England,
it looked to me like they took all the pretty women with them.
-So, most of the men who came here were Norwegian.
What about the other men? Who were they?
They were probably slaves that were caught in Britain.
So, even more British and Irish.
So, there are important ties of kinship
-between modern British and Irish people and Icelanders.
As much as I hate to admit it,
we are probably the same species as the British.
Lucky you! Intrepid, maritime,
So, if the sagas are right, are the satellites, too?
It's time to test out whether the tiny turf structures
Sarah thinks she spotted from space are really there.
But you're pretty sure there will be something here?
We've found what look like a number of potential features,
one possible farm.
Is it Norse? Is it something else? Is it ANYTHING?
If this doesn't work...
well, we're not going to find anything in North America, are we?
We're not going to have a leg to stand on.
You have to deliver North America.
Come on, that's why we're here. That would be so exciting.
We're joining Doug Bolender and his colleague Gudny Zoega
at their site in Hegranes, North Iceland.
This is the spot Sarah identified in the satellite imagery.
Does this field really hide a settlement?
-Would you like the honours?
-I would love to.
We are taking core samples to look for turf building blocks
under the surface.
I got it, Dan.
The Once and Future King!
The turf blocks often contain telltale layers of volcanic ash.
I'm seeing some white there.
Yeah, you are seeing some white here.
So, we have more tephra in this.
-So, this is volcanic ash here?
Each of these thin layers gives an accurate age.
Every Icelandic volcanic eruption can be precisely dated.
So, what we're seeing here
is that we have a little bit of the white tephra from 1104 AD,
and then underneath of it,
we have this darker grey or blackish tephra,
-which in all likelihood is from 1300 AD.
But you can see immediately those are in the wrong order.
Here we have 1104 on top of 1300.
So, this is one of those certain signs that what we are seeing
is some piece of turf that somebody flipped over
when they were building the building.
So, even though you can't see this on the surface at all here,
-the turf itself is just under the surface about ten centimetres.
So, it's definitely affecting the plants that are on the surface.
So, this little layer of turf down here is affecting the plants
on the surface and that's visible from space?
400 miles in space.
-That's really crazy.
To show Sarah what one of the buried turf walls actually looks like,
the team has already started digging one up.
What is going on here?
Here, in the middle of it, we actually have a wall feature,
which you indicated on your satellite.
So, she is completely right.
The satellites are right. They delivered.
Yes. On this one, they sure did.
A section cut within the wall offers further clues.
You can see the striations of the turf in here.
It will be a useful guide for Sarah to look for in North America.
So, this is Sarah's wall? Is that exciting, Sarah?
It's cool to learn that satellites can be used in a completely new area
to find things much smaller -
and here, too, we're dealing with about 15 centimetres.
But this wall is dense enough to affect the overlying vegetation,
so it can be detected from space.
So, that's a really cool thing to learn.
But it's not just this trench
that has come up with evidence of human activity.
Every flag shows a turf structure that Sarah spotted from space...
and every blob shows a buried building beneath the surface.
Here, at this site, in this vast landscape, we've had a big win.
We know satellite imagery works here and that makes me wonder
what's left to find in North America.
The other key to unlocking the secrets of Sarah's new site
is evidence of metalworking, just like at L'Anse aux Meadows,
the most westerly settlement discovered so far.
So, we're both going to take a crash course in what to look for.
Master blacksmith Jonas Bigler is going to show me how the Vikings
made nails to repair their boats.
Do you think I can try and make a nail?
I'm sure you can.
OK, let's try it.
Wherever the Vikings went they needed nails
to make repairs to their ships.
Without them, their expansion would never have been possible.
-Bit more charcoal on?
OK, here we go.
-OK, how's this?
-OK, here we go.
An ocean-going ship needed 4,000 nails,
and that required ten tonnes of iron ore
from a source known to the Vikings as bog iron.
While I grapple with hot metal, Sarah is exploring
the kind of evidence for Viking metalworking
that she might find in America.
-So, here we have a bucket of the actual iron ore.
It's really crumbly.
It's full of impurities, basically.
And this is then roasted to extract any impurities
to get better iron from the ore.
Once roasted, the purified ore would be placed in a furnace
to drive off even more impurities, producing refined iron
and the waste product, slag.
So, here you have the type of slag you get
at the bottom of the furnace.
If you have a smithy at the site,
this is actually what you might find from the hearth.
I don't know if we'll get that lucky this season - but one can hope.
One can hope. Well...
-This here is the hammer scale...
..and this is what you would find around a blacksmith's anvil,
where they actually work the iron.
And you can test it to see the iron content of it.
-Oh, yeah. Look, it just jumps right on.
But even at these home-smelting sites for a single farm,
you get a large amount of slag and by-products.
Oh, I can really feel it in the old shoulder already.
A master blacksmith could make a nail in under a minute.
-How are we looking?
I'm ten minutes in.
There we go, look at that!
Now, the all-important head of the nail.
It's not the best nail I've ever seen in my life.
You've just started.
Compare it here.
That's what supposed to look like!
It has been so incredibly helpful,
because I've gotten to see all the materials
that would go into iron production.
That may help me in my search
for a possible Norse site in North America.
SAGA IS SPOKEN IN OLD NORSE
Before we leave Iceland, I need to find out what prompted
the next step in the Vikings' epic journey west.
OLD NORSE CONTINUES
This amazing gorge is the site of Thingvellir,
Iceland's open-air Viking parliament.
I'm meeting up again with saga expert Dr Emily Lethbridge.
This is the site of oldest parliament in the world.
Would they meet in this ravine
because it's like a parliament chamber, almost?
The sound bounces off the sides.
It is an extraordinary natural amphitheatre.
And there's great acoustics.
OLD NORSE IS SPOKEN
It isn't just the acoustics that make this place special.
This is a natural fault line. We are on the point where the two plates -
-the North American and the Eurasian tectonic plates meet.
-So, this is the fault between the two of them?
-This is the fault line.
So, you and I are standing in between Eurasia and North America
-at the moment.
-We are. One foot on two continents.
Isn't that amazing, that the Vikings who were the first Eurasians
to explore North America, ended up having one of their parliaments
on the actual divide between the two?
Each year in June, chieftains from across Iceland would gather here.
I guess people think of the Vikings as a bit violent, a bit chaotic -
-in fact, this is very sophisticated.
What kind of things would be discussed and debated
at these parliaments?
Sentences of outlawry would be imposed on members of society
-who had broken all of the rules.
-You were sent away from Iceland?
You could go anywhere else, but you couldn't set foot on Iceland
for the period that the outlawry stood.
And it was exile that launched the most astonishing chapter
in Viking exploration.
According to the sagas, in 982 AD,
the murderer Erik the Red was banished again.
Erik the Red was the first Icelander to discover Greenland
and then make a permanent settlement there.
So, because he had been thrown out of everywhere else,
he decided to start his own colony somewhere.
They were people who took chances
and were prepared to undergo huge physical trials,
such as sailing in open boats across the Atlantic,
to see what they could find.
It was the adventurous,
entrepreneurial spirit of these people that drove them on.
Erik the Red turned the shattering blow of exile into an opportunity.
It's time for me to head to Greenland
in the footsteps, once again, of Erik the Red
and for Sarah to finally join her team in North America.
I am walking to Point Rosee for the first time
after many, many months of looking at satellite imagery.
At last, the news finally arrives.
Sarah has permission to dig for just two weeks
at the site in Newfoundland.
I really had no idea it would be this dramatic.
Absolutely no idea, at all.
The search for the Vikings is about to reach its climax.
Will all the effort, the hunting along thousands of miles of coast,
the surveying at the new site
and the successes in Scotland and Iceland,
bear fruit at Point Rosee?
Will the faint lines on an image taken from 383 miles above the Earth
prove to be the most westerly Viking settlement ever discovered?
SAGA SPOKEN IN OLD NORSE
Could this be where Leif Erikson beached his ships 1,000 years ago?
OLD NORSE CONTINUES
This is going to be fun.
Here we go.
After three days of digging, they have yet to find anything.
They're focusing on a spot within the L-shaped structure
on the satellite image.
Sarah thinks it looks similar to one of the buildings
at L'Anse aux Meadows...
Oh, yeah. Looks like there's a whole layer of it down below.
..but a few centimetres below the surface,
they think they've found something.
It's very sandy, it's yellowish grey.
It's not a man-made deposit.
It's painstaking and frustrating work,
with only two weeks to dig.
SAGA SPOKEN IN OLD NORSE
While Sarah searches for the most westerly Viking expansion,
I'm tracking pioneer bad boy Erik the Red in the most remote
of all the Viking colonies.
Greenland - the last stop before North America -
was a Viking homeland for 500 years.
Erik is supposed to have named it Greenland
to make it attractive to colonists,
even though it's covered in ice.
These icebergs look beautiful but they are a major danger to shipping,
just as they were back in Viking times -
and they're a very obvious reminder
that this water is absolutely icy cold.
If I fell in there without this suit on,
my life expectancy would be... a few minutes, at best.
I'm joining Christian Madsen and his team
searching for the most remote lost Viking sites
in the Uunartoq Fjord of South Greenland.
-Turn off the engine.
This valley was noted as a potential Viking site 80 years ago.
No-one has been back since -
but today we're stepping out again.
Look, there. There you have the first ruin.
-That's a ruin there?
-Yes, so now we know we are on the right side,
at least. That's a good thing.
-Is this it? You think this a site?
-Yes, this is a site.
Now we just need to find the farmhouse.
We've discovered a Viking settlement site! That's very exciting.
It's in a very dramatic place, as well.
-It's an amazing setting, isn't it?
You can imagine that huge cliff face staring down...
-You see all the stones sticking up at the surface?
That is building stones for the rooms,
so I think we have a farmhouse.
It looks massive.
It's the most fantastic thing,
coming to a new site, finding all the ruins.
You never know what you're going to find,
so it's always a big surprise for us.
Well, there's some darker soil here, now.
In order to date when the Vikings were actually here,
I'm gathering tiny flecks of charcoal,
from perhaps 1,000 years ago, with soil scientist Ian Simpson.
Funny life you lead, Ian. Because you spend a few months of the year
in the world's most remote and harshest landscapes
and the rest of the time in a lab back in Stirling
examining the results.
Yeah, I mean, it's great.
You've actually got a small piece of Viking history here in this tin -
-and that's what keeps you going through the winter!
I'm getting into this, despite midges the size of Viking longships.
Hold on - a big piece.
Oh, yeah. Where did that come from?!
-Look what he has found, this guy is good.
Brilliant - and that's easily datable.
-The carbon lab will be very pleased with that.
-Oh good, I'm glad.
-We can work with that.
-That's very exciting.
According to these guys, it is one of the most remote
Viking settlement sites
that have ever been found anywhere in Greenland
and to be here with them is so exciting,
as they are able to confirm this was a Viking site.
Just in the last few minutes, we - this small team -
has been able to add something
to the world's understanding of the Vikings.
We retire to our camp on Uunartoq Island,
the very place where the sundial compass was found
that might have led the Vikings here.
The northern lights are one of the treasures of the Arctic
but it was another highly prized treasure - walrus ivory -
that drew the Viking pioneers to settle in such a remote place.
Almost had an inexhaustible population of walrus,
so, maybe this colonisation was spearheaded by this sort of industry
that was aimed at European markets to begin with.
We are perhaps seeing quite determined hunters
and exploiters of natural resources.
So, they weren't just desperate men on the fringes of civilisation?
They were definitely entrepreneurs.
They knew exactly what they were doing and what they were going for,
and they settled all the best places from the beginning, it seems.
These Viking adventurers weren't impoverished farmers
at the edge of the world,
more like the pioneers of the American West,
constantly pushing the frontier forward.
It's eight days into the dig
for Sarah and HER pioneers over in America -
and they may finally have made a breakthrough.
Oh, that's a good sign.
Her colleague, Fred Schwarz, thinks he's found signs of human activity
inside the feature Sarah spotted from space.
Well, it's interesting.
We have quite a large boulder. It's cracked.
It's quite possible that it's fire cracked,
and it takes a pretty serious amount of heat
to crack a boulder this size.
Could it be evidence for metalworking?
Then Sarah finds what looks like a man-made fragment.
So, this looks like metalworking by-product - the head of a nail.
Hopefully, the first of many, many things we find.
This looks like typical Norse nails...
..and we've found this just now.
That's classic slag
and what slag is, is a by-product of metal production...
..and there's dense amounts of metal and evidence of fire that's there.
indigenous peoples here did not produce metal,
and now we have metal production.
This is a very good day indeed!
Day nine, and the ground keeps giving.
which looks like an object as it was coming out of the ground,
is actually copper slag.
You've got copper pieces and little bits of iron inside it.
So, this is very, very heavy.
Within a few days, they have up to eight kilos
of what they think is metalworking by-product -
slag or bog iron.
It needs to be confirmed by experts
and it's not the only potential evidence turning up.
They're even finding organic material.
It's a good sign that it's floating.
It's hard on the outside -
looks like a seed.
So, if this is a seed,
it's our first thing that we could do radiocarbon dating.
It looks charred.
The seed might just provide an all-important date for the site
that matches the Viking era.
With the emergence of these finds, Sarah is calling in reinforcements.
SAGA SPOKEN IN OLD NORSE
I'm still stalking Erik the Red's son Leif.
According to the sagas, around 1000 AD,
he blazed a trail through America.
But where did he go?
I'm joining Sarah in Newfoundland hopefully to find out.
It's so exciting.
Traversing hundreds of miles of this beautiful wilderness,
getting ever closer to Sarah and her site -
the excitement's really building.
No turf walls have turned up yet,
but the metalworking finds keep coming.
If it's what Sarah thinks it is
and there is evidence of Viking occupation,
well, I think it'll be one of the most important
archaeological discoveries this century -
and it is amazing, it's wonderful just to be playing a very small part
in this story. I feel really lucky.
Is the evidence enough to prove that Sarah's dig
is the most westerly Viking site ever to be discovered?
Sarah isn't a Viking expert,
so Dr Doug Bolender is also on his way to assess the finds.
It's that weird mix of being extremely excited
about the possibility and extremely sceptical
about actually finding something
that's going to change the way that we understand
what the Norse were doing in North America.
You know, you don't get that moment very often -
to walk out into a place that has the potential to change history.
Space archaeologist Sarah has discovered pyramids
where no-one else spotted them.
If she can convince Doug she's found a Viking site,
then she may be on the verge of another world-beating discovery.
First we hit this rock -
we didn't know that it was fire cracked, at first -
just cos it was so covered in muck.
And we started finding slag up here.
Dense, dense concentration of slag here.
Well, it looks like a spot where, you know,
you would be doing iron smelting -
and so the question really comes down to, who is doing it here?
And it doesn't look totally unfamiliar.
In the sense that, you know, these are the kinds of features
that you often see for ironworking within Norse contexts.
I want to see what's around this,
because when you have a dug-in feature full of slag
with pretty obviously fire-altered rock,
you've got evidence of somebody doing something on this spot.
What would be really interesting is to open this up more
and it would make it much more clear.
Sarah excavated inside the L-shaped feature
she first spotted from space.
Doug now wants to open up the feature itself.
Meanwhile, I'm hard on Doug's heels
making the hour-long trek to Sarah's site at Point Rosee.
If Leif Erikson came here, he did so just after the first millennium.
Around the same time that a Viking, Cnut, became king of England.
It marked the peak of Viking expansion in Europe and America.
Am I now on a path once trod by the Vikings?
-Hey, Dan. Welcome! Good to see you, man
-How are you? What have you found?
-This has been a very exciting couple of weeks.
It's a good time to turn up.
Astonishingly, the feature Sarah saw from space
may be emerging from the ground.
Do you think it's telling us anything, this surface?
Yeah, indeed. It looks like there is a great deal of structure.
-Yeah, these bands,
what are these black bands here?
Well, what this looks like is it looks like turf blocks
that have been put and cut and placed here.
There are actually sheets of turf that are here.
So, someone's made a wall using turf?
That is what it looks like.
Who would do a thing like that?!
So, you've dug turf walls all over the North Atlantic, right?
Do they look like this?
Actually, they look similar to this, and that is what
we need to do a little bit more digging to figure out.
So, it's amazing that turf in amongst some other turf
shows up from space.
-Whatever it is you picked up on the remote sensing...
..you picked up something that's actually here.
Doug arrived a sceptic, but he's converted to the cause.
Right now, the simplest answer
is that it looks like a small activity area,
maybe connected to a larger farm...
You sort of have to explain that away.
If we were in Iceland,
I wouldn't think twice about what was happening here.
The thing that really makes you pause,
the thing that really makes you want to check
every last little bit of it,
is that it's in Newfoundland.
I'm feeling very excited, I'm feeling very good.
They have dug exactly where Sarah told them to dig
and they found what looks like a furnace and the wall of a building.
Now, as far as I'm concerned, that's a Viking settlement.
I am just thrilled having the Norse specialist here
say that the turf wall that we found,
just in the area where the satellite images showed it should be,
was there, and he said it looks like Norse turf.
Turf suggests the settlement might just be Viking -
but proof will come from the metalwork and from ageing the site.
So, the seeds are sent off for radiocarbon dating.
We're hoping for anything around 1000 AD.
The metalwork is also on its way.
It's the start of an excruciating two-week wait
for the results to come through.
For me, it's remarkable to think Vikings and Brits
could have sailed the 2,000 miles all the way
to what is now North America.
It would be astonishing to finally have the dating proof.
Two weeks later, the dates have come through.
You know, we've been working almost a year on processing all this data
and we've spent a month in the field,
so I've actually been having trouble sleeping the last couple of nights,
cos I know the radiocarbon results are in
and I'm about to find out one way or the other.
What's going on?
HE SIGHS HEAVILY
Just waiting. The waiting game. It's like D-Day.
I'm feeling a little nervous. How are you doing?
I'm very nervous.
It's funny, like...
if the dates are good, I'll be happy.
You know, and if they're really off,
there are more questions than answers.
Yeah, if they are bang on, it would be amazing.
It would just be really good to have the dates work out.
-So, are you ready?
OK, let's do it!
Here we go.
It's a lot more recent.
Yeah, it says 1600s.
Which makes no sense, given what we have.
I mean, there's no way that this is a modern site.
You saw the conditions at that site.
You know, lots of mixing.
Lots of potential later intrusions,
especially with the amount of water that was there.
That berry... Those berries were not from a particularly strong context.
So, the seeds could have just drifted down
through the layers over the years?
Yeah, or you know, things could have been exposed.
But the reality is, those dates
don't match the archaeology, at all.
And so, you know, given what we have with the turf walls
-and the smelting and everything else...
-I still believe in you.
Don't worry. I agree. Everything else screams "Viking".
It needs a lot more work.
After all the effort over the last 12 months,
are these dates the full story?
I trust Sarah's science.
In the past, I've worked with her to discover iconic monuments.
In the more challenging terrain of the North Atlantic,
she has found buried structures in Scotland and Iceland.
The evidence on the satellite image of Point Rosee looked convincing.
The exact same size as the long houses
-at L'Anse aux Meadows.
All this evidence, plus the eight kilos of possible metalwork,
just doesn't tally with the dates from the seeds.
Doug doesn't see it as a setback.
I've actually always been very sceptical
about the potential for radiocarbon on the site.
The preservation is very poor for any organics,
and the samples that were available
are not very closely associated with the actual activity.
So, the seeds - it's not even clear that they were charred
and they're coming out of material
that's at the upper levels of this feature.
So, it's down to the metalwork,
and we'll now double-check every other finding.
When we set out to do this project work,
our basic hypothesis was that we wouldn't find anything
and I think we've proven ourselves wrong -
but now I really want the site to be Norse,
because I don't know what else it could be!
So, Sarah assembles a crack team.
It's our last chance to prove that Point Rosee is a Viking site.
Dr Tom Birch, a specialist in Viking metallurgy,
will analyse the metalworking debris.
-It looks like they're mostly quartz.
He'll work with a world-renowned laboratory at Aberdeen University.
Doug Bolender will review all Sarah's findings...
..and we'll explore if anyone else
could have forged metal at Point Rosee.
No indigenous group ever produced it,
so we turn to Newfoundland historian, Dr Olaf Janzen,
to ask about more recent settlers.
When did the first settlers arrive?
There were probably Basque fishermen
passing through the area and fishing seasonally,
but the first settlers came in the early 18th century.
So, would these settlers have been making their own metal tools?
I came across no evidence of that.
I have a document here that was published in 1763
and it describes the account of an officer on the Lark frigate.
He mentions furs, he mentions the fish, he mentions timber.
There isn't any mention here of mineral resources.
So, if it wasn't the European settlers,
it wasn't the Basque fishermen,
how can we explain the evidence of metalwork?
You would have to go back to the site at L'Anse aux Meadows,
which is the only confirmed site of that vintage.
There we do have examples of bog iron being smelted -
worked into nails -
and that site is now perceived as a repair station for boats
going further on into the Gulf of St Lawrence -
and your site is in the Gulf of St Lawrence.
So, it's entirely plausible.
Judgment day has finally arrived
for the Newfoundland Point Rosee site.
After three weeks,
the emergency team has sifted through all the evidence.
Sarah and I have been summoned by Viking metal expert Tom Birch
for the results.
It's yet another nail-biting moment.
Well, some of the leads we had didn't turn out like we hoped.
We still... I don't think we still have the evidence that we need
to go to the world and say
there were Vikings on Point Rosee in Newfoundland.
So, a lot of it has come down to today.
This is a high pressure situation!
We're going to talk to Tom.
If Tom can come up with the evidence we need,
we can still save this project.
We analysed this item, which you suspected to be a metal object,
and then we also analysed some hammer scale, these small fragments
and then the last thing we analysed were these lumps of slag.
Now, I took this to the geologists
and when we cut a sample from it
there were some very bright, shiny inclusions,
which I thought were remnants of metal,
but actually this is a stone.
-Welcome to archaeology!
-But this isn't any old stone,
-this is over a billion years old, basically.
-So, hang on.
-This - one of our prized objects...
-..is a stone.
-It's a billion years old, that's nice...
..but it doesn't tell us anything.
-What else have you got?
-The hammer scale isn't hammer scale.
These are little bits of iron oxide.
-So, our second vital clue...
-..turns out to be nothing, as well.
-I was fooled.
-OK. So, we are zero for two, at the moment.
-You feeling nervous, Sarah?
-No, I'm not.
-OK. Well, I am!
That only leaves what Sarah thought to be slag,
the waste product from the metal refining process.
If this isn't evidence for Viking metalwork,
then we're well and truly stuffed.
-The smithying slag isn't smithying slag.
But it is bog ore. Bog iron ore. OK.
-And there are some very interesting things about it.
This has been collected and this has been roasted
to drive off the impurities.
The point is, this is being processed for something.
So, this is evidence for metalworking?
This is evidence for metallurgy.
Now, the only reason you roast ore is to later extract iron from it.
Sarah, this is pretty exciting right?
Because we've talked to historians who said nobody else
-was making metals on this coast ever in the whole of history...
..apart from the Vikings. That sounds good to me.
So, it's got to be Viking!
-All right! It's good!
We got there!
This fragment of bog iron ore is the proof we've been waiting for.
Hundreds of years before Columbus,
Viking pioneers like Leif Erikson came to Point Rosee.
They smelted metal here to service their ships
in workshops just like those
we've seen on our journey across the Atlantic.
It looks like this was another Viking refuelling station
beyond L'Anse aux Meadows.
It reinforces the idea that Vinland,
the mythical place in the Viking sagas,
is still out there to be discovered even further to the west.
Finally, we can all celebrate a breakthrough!
-Without whom we would never have embarked
on this journey of discovery.
Viking Age explorers - they didn't leave much behind,
but they left just enough for Sarah to see it from space. So...
-I'll drink to that! Cheers.
Without my incredible team, I wouldn't have been able to do this.
I'm right here, Sarah. I'm right here.
Dan, it goes without saying,
-that you will be with me on every adventure.
-Sure thing. Sure thing.
Hey, and here's to more Viking sites.
Let's make Doug's life a misery over the next few years.
-Let's keep him busy.
-Yes, yes, yes!
-Let's keep him busy.
I am so excited about this!
The thing that is amazing here
is to actually be in a moment of discovery -
and something that's brought people together.
It's extremely surprising
that an Egyptologist is the person who's finding this,
but, you know, it's actually always the person you least expect.
Well, it's been a long journey,
but today it feels like we've reached a point
in which we can be certain.
We can actually tell the world now, there were Vikings further west
than we've ever found them before
and that Sarah's research...
well, it might just have sparked a revolution
in our understanding of the Vikings.
I am absolutely thrilled.
Typically, in archaeology, you only ever get to write a footnote
in the history books -
but what we seem to have at Point Rosee,
may be the beginning of an entirely new chapter.
Dan Snow uncovers the lost Vikings in America with space archaeologist Dr Sarah Parcak. Sarah uses satellites 383 miles above the earth to spot ruins as small as 30cm buried beneath the surface. As Sarah searches for Viking sites from Britain to America, Dan explores how they voyaged thousands of miles when most ships never left the shoreline. He also tracks their expansion west, first as raiders and then as settlers and traders throughout Britain and beyond to Iceland and Greenland. In North America they excavate what could be the most westerly Viking settlement ever discovered.