Westward to Vinland is a popular account of the author’s six archaeological expeditions to North America between 1961 and 1968. These investigations led to the discovery of a pre-Columbian Norse settlement on the northernmost tip of the island of Newfoundland.
The authenticity of Ingstad’s findings at L’Anse aux Meadows is indisputable and universally accepted by archaeologists today. Eight house sites and four boat sheds were excavated. He recovered artifacts of Viking origin, including a bronze ring-headed pin commonly used as a cloak fastening. One of the most exciting finds was a Norse spinning tool, the oldest household implement of European origin ever found in America. A smithy with a large quantity of iron was also unearthed and near it a charcoal kiln.
The western lands visited first by Bjarni Herjolfsson (who later furnished Leif Eiriksson the sailing directions he needed) were called Helluland, Markland, and Vinland. There can be no doubt that Leif followed Bjarni and saw the same three regions. Whether they were Baffin Island, Labrador, and the island of Newfoundland, as Ingstad claims, is another matter. The unquestioned proof of a Viking settlement at L’Anse aux Meadows does not necessarily prove that insular Newfoundland is Vinland, nor does it establish that this was the camp of Leif the Lucky. There may have been other Viking settlements.
Westward to Vinland is more than an archaeological report. It offers an excellent account of the Eskimos and Indians of northeastern Canada, and it is rich in geographical data. The author devotes a full half of the book to background material, such as an analysis of the principal Norse sagas, and an evaluation of early maps and manuscripts. Friis’ translation from the Norwegian is smooth, and the work is highly readable. Many superb maps and photographs compliment the text.
Was L ’Anse aux Meadows really Vinland? This book is required reading for anyone at all interested in the answer to that intriguing question.