One hundred thousand years ago, our ancestors walked out of their African homeland to explore and settle the rest of the world. The paths they chose were to lead them to all corners of the earth. While some tribes turned left into Europe, others turned right into Asia. It was not long before the descendants of those who turned left ran into the uncrossable barrier of the Atlantic Ocean.

The descendants of those who turned right found a larger world at their feet. The path led them across Asia and to the narrow Bering Strait - the gateway to North America. When these people set foot on the island of Newfoundland 5,000 years ago, they could not have known that they stood on the other side of the Atlantic barrier.

It would be the Vikings who would close the circle. Driven by ambition and a need to find new lands, they ventured farther and farther from mainland Europe in sturdy, ocean going knarrs. Their journey brought them from Scandinavia first to the Orkneys and Faeroes, then Iceland, then Greenland...

In the early summer of the year 1000, Leif Ericson and his crew sailed from Greenland to explore a land hidden in the distant mists. What the Vikings discovered was a vast wilderness already inhabited by aboriginal people they called Skraelings . After one hundred thousand years, the descendants of the people who turned right were about to meet up with the descendants of the people who turned left.

Humanity had come full circle.

As the islands of the North Atlantic were uninhabited before the arrival of the Vikings, Newfoundland and Labrador presented the explorers with a new challenge. The Skraelings referred to by the Vikings c. A.D. 1000 were probably the Recent Indian peoples, which include Innu ancestors in Labrador, Beothuk ancestors in Newfoundland and the ancestors of the Mi’kmaq people in the St. Lawrence and Maritime provinces. Skraeling also refers to the Inuit in Greenland and the high Arctic in A.D. 1200-1400, and probably the Dorset Palaeo-Eskimos, c. A.D.1000 in the high Arctic. All of these people, from the high Arctic to the Maritime region, were hunter-gatherers and hunter-fishers.

The Viking Sagas describe the meetings between the two cultures as fleeting - sometimes peaceful and sometimes violent. Within two decades, the Vikings retreated from their L’Anse aux Meadows camp back to Greenland. The reasons behind the abandonment can only be speculated.
Canadian Heritage Information Network
Newfoundland Museum

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