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Helluland is the name given to one of the three lands, the others being Vinland and Markland, seen by Bjarni Herjólfsson, encountered by Leif Ericson and further explored by Þorfinnr "Karlsefni" Þórðarson around AD 1000 on the North Atlantic coast of North America.[1] As some writers refer to all land beyond Greenland as Vinland, Helluland is sometimes considered a part of Vinland.[citation needed]


The name Helluland was given by Leif Erikson during his voyage to Vinland according to the Greenland Saga and means "Land of Flat Rocks" or "Land of Flat Stones" in the Old Norse language.

According to the sagas[edit]

Helluland was said to be the first of three lands in North America visited by Eriksson. He decided against trying to settle there because he found the land inhospitable. He continued south to Markland (probably Labrador) and Vinland (possibly Newfoundland).[2]

According to the Saga of Erik the Red,

"They sailed away from land; then to the Western Settlement and to Bjarneyjar (the Bear Islands). Thence they sailed away from Bjarneyjar with northerly winds. They were out at sea two half-days. Then they came to land, and rowed along it in boats, and explored it, and found there flat stones, many and so great that two men might well lie on them stretched on their backs with heel to heel. Polar-foxes were there in abundance. This land they gave name to, and called it Helluland."[3] [the land of flat stones]

In the Saga of Halfdan Eysteinsson (Hálfdanar saga Eysteinssonar), written no earlier than the mid-14th century a fragment says:[4]

"Ragnar brought Helluland's obygdir under his sway and destroyed all the giants there..."

Written in the last half of the 13th century an anonymous Icelandic fornaldarsaga , describes the attempts of Örvar-Oddr and his son Vignor to track down an enemy named Ogmund:[5][6]

"I will tell you where Ogmund has gone. He has gone into the Skuggifjord (Hudson Strait), it is in Helluland's Obygdir (unihabited regions)... he has gone there because he wishes to escape you. But now you may track him to his house if you wish and see what comes of it."

"Thereupon he (and his son Vignor in separate ships) sailed until they came into the Greenland Sea (which lay between Iceland and Greenland) when they turned south and sailed around the land and to the west... They sailed then until they came to Helluland and laid their course into the Skuggifjord..."

"When they reached the land (which they were seeking in the Skuggifjord) father and son went ashore and walked until they saw a fortified structure very strongly built..."

In ancient Icelandic scholarship[edit]

According to a footnote in Arthur Middleton Reeves's The Norse Discovery of America (1906), "the whole of the northern coast of America, west of Greenland, was called by the ancient Icelandic geographers Helluland it Mikla, or Great Helluland; and the island of Newfoundland simply Helluland, or Litla Helluland."[7]

Current scholarly opinion[edit]

Coast of the Remote Peninsula in Sam Ford Fjord, northeast Baffin Island.

The Icelandic Saga of Erik the Red and the Greenland Saga characterized Helluland as a land of flat stones (Old Norse: hella). Most scholars agree that Helluland corresponds to Baffin Island in the present-day Canadian territory of Nunavut.[8]

From the testimony of the sagas, the Norse explorers probably made contact with the native Dorset culture of the region, people whom the sagas term skrælings.[citation needed] Historians[who?] suggest the contact had no major cultural ramifications for either side.

Patricia Sutherland of the Canadian Museum of Civilization originally found in the museum's collections yarn collected in archaeological digs on Baffin Island that corresponded to that found in Viking settlements in Greenland, which led her to explore in depth the potential that Vikings had settled on Baffin Island. Over a number of years searching in collections and digging at sites such as Tanfield Valley, she found numerous artifacts, such as tally sticks, signs of iron and bronze metallurgy and whetstones used for sharpening metal tools, and European-style masonry and turf construction, which indicated to her that the Vikings had been on Baffin for an extended period and likely had an established trading relationship with the Dorset natives in the area.

Sutherland's new findings further strengthen the case for a Viking camp on Baffin Island. "While her evidence was compelling before, I find it convincing now," said James Tuck, professor emeritus of archaeology, ... at Memorial University." [9]

Sutherland and the Helluland Archaeology Project among others have identified several potential pre-Columbian European archaeological sites including Tanfield Valley, Avayalik at the far north of the Labrador Peninsula, Willows Island at the southern part of Baffin Island, Pond Inlet (Nunguvik) in the far north of Baffin Island.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ National Museum of Natural History, Arctic Studies Center. Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga.
  2. ^ "Is L'Anse aux Meadows Vinland?". L'Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site of Canada. Parks Canada. 12 December 2003. Archived from the original on 22 May 2007. Retrieved 20 January 2008. 
  3. ^ "The Saga of Erik the Red". The Icelandic Saga Database. Sveinbjörn Þórðarson. Retrieved 18 July 2018. 
  4. ^ Hardman, George L. Hálfdanar saga Eysteinssonar. 
  5. ^ Reeves, Arthur Middleton (1890). The Finding of Wineland the Good: The History of the Icelandic Discovery of America. H. Frowde. p. 91. 
  6. ^ Hermann Palsson, Paul Edwards (1985). Seven Viking Romances. 10 Alcorn Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4V 3B2: Penguin Books Canada Ltd. p. 86. ISBN 978-0-14-044474-2. 
  7. ^ http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/nda/nda20.htm
  8. ^ Jónas Kristjánsson et al. (2012) "Falling into Vínland", Acta Archaeologica 83, pp. 145-177
  9. ^ Pringle, Heather (October 19, 2012). "Evidence of Viking Outpost Found in Canada". National Geographic. 
  10. ^ "Helluland Archaeology Project". Canadian Museum of History. Retrieved 18 July 2018. 

External links[edit]