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Iron Smelting in Vinland
Forward Into the Past, March 27 (2010)
The excavations at L’Anse aux Meadows Newfoundland uncovered remains interpreted by the original excavation team as a ‘Furnace Hut’ containing an iron smelting furnace. The remains are fragmentary, and at best only represent the last stages of a complex physical sequence. What might this furnace have looked like, and exactly how might the smelting process have been undertaken by the Norse, 1000 years ago? As well as considering furnace remains from Norway and Iceland, practical experience derived from a long series of experimental iron smelts will be considered.
L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site of Canada (LAM) lies at the very top tip of Newfoundland’s Great Northern Peninsula. From the site, the coast of Labrador is visible across the Straight of Belle Isle. Labrador itself then leans from there back to the north west, reaching as far north as the southern tip of Greenland. Helge and Anna Stine Ingstad came to the then isolated fishing village in 1960, guided by clues from the Sagas. Local head man George Decker would take them over to what the locals called “the Indian Mounds”. The long speculated about site of ‘Leif’s Houses’ had been found. Over the following decades, from 1961 to 1968 under Anna Stine Ingstad and in 1973 – 1976 under Dr Birgitta Wallace, the full extent of the Norse presence at this outpost in Vinland was uncovered.