The Viking outfit worn by each Viking interpreter was very interesting to me when my family visited L’Anse aux Meadows in Northern Newfoundland, Canada a couple years ago. L’Anse aux Meadows is the first known evidence of Europeans in North America. Over 1000 years ago, a Norse expedition sailed from Greenland to Newfoundland and built a small encampment of timber and sod buildings. The archaeological remains of this Viking encampment is found in a beautiful coastline location with rugged cliffs and bogs. This internationally renowned archaeological find was made an United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site in 1978 because it is the first and only authenticated Norse site in North America.
When we arrived at the Viking Heritage Site, first we viewed the museum which had many of the Viking artifacts displayed as well as an interesting film to watch. Next a guide walked us to the Viking ruins which were discovered in 1968 by two Norwegian archaeologists Helge and Anne Stine Ingstad. The stories of adventure, discovery and history told by the guide were fascinating. After that, a short walk took us to the recreated Viking settlement where we could wonder through on our own and enjoy our own discoveries. Historic experts might say a lot of the reenactors leather items worn are not period correct when compared to actual archaeological finds from the period. However being a leather worker, I was still very interested in their Viking outfits which had leather accessories hand made by many of the costumed Viking interpreters.
Outside Viking Long House
As we came to the entrance of the Viking settlement, we could see the long house in the center of the compound.
Standing outside the door of this recreated sod covered Viking long house, this interpreter is clothed from head to foot in a Viking outfit. In the excavations, items for sewing and knitting were found which suggested there were women in the settlement. The largest dwelling unearthed had several rooms and measured 28.8 by 15.6 m (94 by 51 ft).
Her Viking outfit includes a leather pouch hung from a cloth belt. A small leather case shown just above the comb has significance which I will explain in a moment.
The leather Viking case which was previously mentioned, holds a needle. This Viking woman shows me her needle and asks us “Have you seen another needle around the encampment where you were walking because I have seemed to have lost one needle?” The actors play their parts in time as there was actually a bone needle that was discovered in the archaeological digs.
This Viking reenactor wears a long leather belt which threads through a metal piece. The belt is held taught by wrapping the leather end up under, over and through the loop. It hangs down in front of the tunic. From the belt on his left, hangs a light colored leather pouch and small knife case.
On his right side hangs a darker leather pouch and a deer antler handle knife in a case.
Hand sewn leather shoes protect his feet. Wood pieces are scattered over the dirt floor.
L’Anse aux Meadows Landscape
While walking back past the archaeology digs to the museum, we saw a couple moose wondering through the bog. Although there are about 150,000 moose on the Island of Newfoundland, they were not there when the Vikings landed. The moose were brought to Newfoundland in the early 1900’s.
Evidence suggest the Vikings would have fished and hunted animals that used to inhabit the area. These food sources would have included bear, marten, caribou, wolf, fox, lynx, birds, fish, seal, whale and walrus.
The encampment was near the coastal waters for transportation. This viking settlement was likely a seasonal camp for obtaining timber and game to be transported back to Greenland.
The Vikings did not remain at L’Anse aux Meadows long. According to sagas, there were clashes between the Norsemen and the indigenous people, who they called Skraelings. The Norse were vastly outnumbered and returned to Greenland after a few years.
This area has harsh winter conditions that cover the area in deep snow and ice. The harsh conditions results in hibernation of a lot of animals or movement south. These difficult winters and lack of food sources may have also caused the Norse to stay for only a short period of time.
Hanging on the stone wall of this iron smithy building is a leather work apron. The Viking worker wears a leather knife case and leather Viking footwear. The archaeologists uncovered the ruins of eight buildings, cooking pits and an iron forge.
Some estimate that 75 people, mostly sailors, carpenters, blacksmiths, hired hands and perhaps even serfs or slaves lived at L’Anse aux Meadows. Local bog iron was apparently smelted, purified and made into nails, rivets, and other iron work. The settlement probably was a base camp for repairing Norse ships and for expeditions further south, possibly to the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
The Viking outfit worn by this fellow has an interesting closure on his leather belt pouch. It looks like a bone, wooden pet or antler tip with a leather lace loop that secures over it to keep the flap closed.
A similar type of closure fastens the leather upper of his well worn Viking shoes.
Inside Viking Long House
Hanging in the center near the ceiling are a number of ducks ready for eating. Other supplies hang in bags on the wall. A rough bed on the left has some woollen blankets for warmth hanging above.
Another style of hand made shoe sits beside a hand sewn leather bag on the floor.
The long house is very large and has lots of interesting objects such as Viking shields, netting and wooden barrels. Some animal pelts are hanging in the center. It looks like they might be fox pelts. Another larger animal pelt lies on top of some supply bags.
A wooden box holds another small leather pouch and other needed articles. This leather pouch appears to have been hand sewn by wrapping the thread in an X pattern around the edge of the leather. A draw sting pulls the top tight.
Location of L’Anse aux Meadows
Move, enlarge and decrease the map to see where you are located in relation to this historic Viking settlement. See how far they had to travel from other viking settlements in Greenland and Iceland.
Make Viking Pouch
Should you want to make your own leather Viking pouch, you will need some leather craft tools and leather sewing tools. The leather can be cut with a utility knife or shears. Holes for hand thread can be made with leather punches or an awl.