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Space Archaeologists Used Infrared Imaging to Find New Viking Site

ByAllison EckNOVA NextNOVA Next

A dark stain in the ground may seem like nothing to the average viewer.

But to a space archaeologist—someone who uses aerial photography and satellite technology to hunt for physical remnants of the distant past—this particular feature is a gold mine.

One thousand years after the Vikings sojourned from Greenland to North America, infrared images gathered by the University of Alabama, Birmingham’s Sarah Parcak and a team of Canadian experts hint at another Norse settlement in the Americas—second only to L’Anse aux Meadows, which is 300 miles north and was discovered in 1960. L’Anse aux Meadows is so far the only confirmed Viking site in North America. But folklore suggests that there might have been more.

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A CGI representation of the alleged Viking site at Point Rosee.

Now, Parcak and her colleagues have detected potentially man-made shapes and discolored vegetation from a vantage point of 400 miles above the Earth. The site is called Point Rosee, and upon further investigation, it revealed higher-than-average iron readings, Viking-style turf walls, ash residue, and bog iron—all classic signs of a Viking footprint.

Image credit: WGBH Educational Foundation