GRONINGEN, Netherlands: Scientists from the University of Groningen recently used a new dating technique and and referenced a past solar storm to confirm that a Viking settlement existed in L'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland, Canada in AD1021.
It also confirmed that the Vikings reached the New World 471 years before Christopher Columbus crossed the Atlantic.
The Icelandic saga written hundreds of years later tell the story of a Viking leader named Leif Erikson and a settlement called Vinland, assumed to have been located on the coast of North America.
However, the exact period when the Vikings reached Canada to become the first Europeans to cross the Atlantic remained unknown.
The study, published in the journal Nature, utilized cosmic-ray induced upsurges in atmospheric radiocarbon concentrations during a known solar storm in AD993, which released radiation absorbed by trees at the time.
Ordinary radiocarbon dating, determining the age of organic materials by measuring their content of a particular radioactive isotope of carbon, had proven inaccurate.
Proof that trees were cut down by Vikings also existed. "They had all been modified by metal tools, evident from their characteristically clean, low-angle cuts. Such implements were not manufactured by the indigenous inhabitants of the area at the time," the study noted.
"We provided evidence that the Norse were active on the North American continent in the year AD1021. More importantly, this acts as a new point of reference for European cognizance of the Americas, and the earliest known year by which human migration had encircled the planet," it added.
The date corroborates two Icelandic stories, the Saga of the Greenlanders and the Saga of Erik the Red, which recorded attempts to establish a settlement in Vinland.