1000, United States

There is no end to the accounts of alleged discoveries of America before Columbus. Most of these are fables. It is, indeed, nearly certain that hardy Basque, Breton, and Norman fishermen, adventuring first far north, then west, had sighted Greenland and Labrador and become well acquainted with the rich fishing-grounds about Newfoundland and the Saint Lawrence Gulf. Many early charts of these regions, without dates and hitherto referred to Portuguese navigators of a time so late as 1500, are now thought to be the work of these earlier voyagers. They found the New World, but considered it a part of the Old.

Important, too, is the story of supposed Norse sea-rovers hither, derived from certain Icelandic manuscripts of the fourteenth century. It is a pleasing narrative, that of Lief Ericson's sail in 1000-1001 to Helluland, Markland, and at last to Vineland, and of the subsequent tours by Thorwald Ericson in 1002, Thorfinn Karlsefne, 1007-1009, and of Helge and Finnborge in 1011, to points still farther away. Such voyages probably occurred. As is well known, Helluland has been interpreted to be Newfoundland; Markland, Nova Scotia; and Vineland, the country bordering Mount Hope Bay in Bristol, R. I. These identifications are possibly correct, and even if they are mistaken, Vineland may still have been somewhere upon the coast of what is now the United States.

In the present condition of the evidence, however, we have to doubt this. No scholar longer believes that the writing on Dighton Rock is Norse, or that the celebrated Skeleton in Armor found at Fall River was a Northman's, or that the old Stone Mill at Newport was constructed by men from Iceland. Even if the manuscripts, composed between three and four hundred years after the events which they are alleged to narrate, are genuine, and if the statements contained in them are true, the latter are far too indefinite to let us be sure that they are applicable to United States localities.


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