Part of the evidence for the location of Vinland comes from studies of natural history and environmental evidence found in archeological sites. Combining these data with evidence from the sagas enables scientists to reconstruct the climate and environment and determine where one might expect to find sites, if the saga descriptions are accurate. The sagas contain a number of believable observations of environmental indicators, such as types of trees, species of fish, length of day, temperature in winter, etc. That the Norse were intent on exploring these resources is shown in the saga statement that "they took specimens of all of them." Environmental scientists and others familiar with climatic zones have been able to piece together the probable location of Vinland from these saga descriptions. However, there are complications in that the Old Norse words in the sagas can be translated a number of different ways, making this method for locating Vinland problematic at best. Also, statements describing "fields of self-sown wheat," "there was no snow at all that winter," and "the livestock needed no fodder during the winter" may have pertained to some but not all locations in Vinland. Descriptions of the animals encountered point towards more northern regions, while plant desciptions fit better with southern locations.
Of Salmon and
Additionally, descriptions of places where a headland was thick with dır and where "the point looked like a large dunghill, as the dır gathered there at night to sleep" aptly describes the dense summer migrations of caribou on the central and northern Labrador coast. Woodland caribou, and deer or moose (alternative translations for the Old Norse word dır) do not congregate in large numbers. This would indicate that most of Vinland was located in northern areas, in the Canadian maritime provinces.
Of Grass and
The presence of butternuts also helps explain the saga references to grapes, which were supposed to have been found near all of the saga settlements but have never grown in Newfoundland. L'Anse aux Meadows should probably be seen as being in the "northern" Vinland and probably functioned as a "gateway" - a site not too far from Greenland, but also within reach of more productive southern regions where such useful products as nuts, grapes, and other fruits could be obtained.
Some scholars, however, have argued that Vinland meant "grass-land" to signify its suitability for farming and cattle-raising. This hypothesis rests on the fact that the word 'vin' has two possible meanings. Vin (long I) means grapes or wine in Old Norse, whereas 'vin' (short i) means grass or pasture lands in Old German, the European language most closely associated with the Vikings' Old Norse language. The theory that Vinland meant grassy fields found support when L'Anse aux Meadows was discovered in a grassy location far north of lands where grapes could grow. Modern scholars are included to read 'Vinland' as grape land not only because grapes are found in southern portions of this regions but because some saga reference, like Flateyarbók, spell Vinland with a double i (Viinland), whereas pasture land in the Greenlanders' Old Norse would have been vinjaland or vinjarland. In fact, either 'wine land or pasture land' would have conveyed Vinland's bounty. Just as Erik the Red was able to recruit Icelanders to follow him to the 'green' land, Leif's naming of Markland and Vinland "for what they had to offer" would have encouraged others to explore and settle these new lands.
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