Patricia Sutherland is an archaeologist who makes judgements based upon the “evidence offered”.
In temperate North America numerous finds have been proposed as evidence of a Norse presence, but none aside from L’Anse aux Meadows has achieved general scholarly acceptance.
The purported evidence includes a mix of clear misattribution such as the colonial-period Newport Tower, obvious forgeries of which the Kensington Stone is the prime example, and a wide array of simple frauds and naive misidentifications (Linderoth Wallace and Fitzhugh 2000; Wahlgren 1986).
As a result, the archaeological community has become wary of claims relating to precolumbian European activity in the New World and responds vigorously in questioning such assertions.
This stance has been a justifiable reaction to patently false evidence in areas that are geographically distant from the known Norse sphere of activities.
However, a similar response was precipitated when Thomas E. Lee (1968 and numerous later publications) reported a complex of puzzling evidence from the southern coast of Hudson Strait.
Some of Lee’s finds were apparently associated with Dorset-culture occupations, and the location in Nunavik (the Ungava region of northern Quebec) provided a geographical context that might plausibly relate to Norse activity.
Although the indications presented may have been inadequate (McGhee 1984:20), the vigorous rejection of Lee’s claims by eminent Americanist archaeologists appears to have been largely based on prejudgement rather than on consideration of the evidence offered (McKusick 1980).
It is perhaps not surprising, therefore, that several decades later preliminary presentations of evidence suggesting Dorset-Norse contact on Baffin Island and in Labrador (Sutherland 2000b, 2002) have again met with dismissive reactions (Odess and Alix 2004; Park 2004).
The first public response (Park 2004) associated this evidence with Lee’s widely discredited Nunavik finds, the Kensington Stone, and the “Farfarers” created by novelist Farley Mowat.
The current chapter attempts to address this response by outlining the historical and geographical factors that indicate that the eastern coasts of Baffin Island and northern Labrador, as well as Hudson Strait, might be expected to have been within the sphere of activities undertaken by Norse hunters or traders.
The Question of Contact Between Dorset Paleo-Eskimos and Early Europeans
Patricia D. Sutherland
The Northern World AD 900–1400 – H Maschner, O Mason, R McGhee – 2009
Patricia Sutherland is also an Arctic archaeologist with a very keen eye for evidence that [amongst many other things] includes “signs of iron and bronze metallurgy” and Old World artefacts that predate “the Vikings by several hundred years”.
Patricia Sutherland (born 1948 or 1949) is a Canadian archaeologist, specialising in the Arctic.
Much of her recent research has focussed on evidence of a long-time Norse presence on Baffin Island in the 11th to 13th centuries CE and trade between them and the now-extinct Dorset people of the region.
In 1977, surveying what was to become Quttinirpaaq National Park, on Ellesmere Island, for Parks Canada, she found a piece of bronze that turned out to be half of a Norse silver weighing balance.
In 1979, on Axel Heiberg Island, she found a piece of antler on which two different faces were carved: one with round-faced Dorset features, the other thin-faced and with heavy eyebrows.
In 1999 she discovered among finds from a Dorset site near Pond Inlet, on northern Baffin Island, a piece of spun yarn that did not conform with the twine made of animal sinews used by the Inuit but did correspond to that used in the 14th century in Viking settlements in Greenland; however, it was spun from hair of the Arctic hare.
Baffin Island, in the Canadian territory of Nunavut, is the largest island in Canada and the fifth largest island in the world.
In September 2008, Nunatsiaq News reported that a team led by Dr. Patricia Sutherland of the Canadian Museum of Civilization had found archaeological remains of yarn, Eurasian rats, tally sticks, a carved wooden Dorset culture face mask depicting Caucasian features, and possible architectural remains, which indicated that European traders and possibly settlers had been on Baffin Island not later than AD 1000.
What the source of this Old World contact may have been is unclear; the report states:
“Dating of some yarn and other artifacts, presumed to be left by Vikings on Baffin Island, have produced an age that predates the Vikings by several hundred years.
So […] you have to consider the possibility that as remote as it may seem, these finds may represent evidence of contact with Europeans prior to the Vikings’ arrival in Greenland“.
Dr Sutherland’s research eventually led to a 2012 announcement that whetstones had been found with remnants of alloys indicative of Viking presence.
The archaeological site at Tanfield Valley is thought to have been a trading post, and thus Baffin Island would be Helluland.
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.
Strands of Culture Contact: Dorset-Norse Interactions in The Canadian Eastern Arctic
Patricia D. Sutherland – Canadian Museum of Civilization
However, being an archaeologist with a keen eye for evidence isn’t always appreciated.
In the spring of 2012, Dr. Patricia Sutherland was dismissed from her position with the Museum.
Simultaneously, Museum officials stripped her husband, prominent Canadian archaeologist Robert McGhee, of the emeritus status he’d enjoyed since his retirement from the Museum in 2008.
No one involved will say why this happened.
Two off-the-record sources told the Ottawa Citizen that the firings followed a year-long external investigation into allegations of “bullying and harassment,” although who was allegedly bullied and harassed, or who did the bullying, was not reported.
The Medieval Norse on Baffin Island
Andrew Hamilton – 8 Feb 2013 – Counter-Currents Publishing
The museum itself stated in December 2014 that the reason was harassment of former colleagues.
When Sutherland was fired, her access to her research materials was cut off and many were dispersed.
The international Helluland Project, organised by Sutherland, was to have published a book on her findings; this has been suspended as a result of her loss of access to her materials.
Tanfield Valley, also referred to as Nanook, is an archaeological site located on the southernmost projection of Baffin Island in the Canadian territory of Nunavut.
It is now on hiatus following Sutherland’s ouster from the museum in 2012.
Especially when the evidence includes “traces of copper–tin alloy (bronze)” from Baffin island.
This paper examines new evidence related to an early (pre-Columbian) European presence in Arctic Canada.
Artifacts from archaeological sites that had been assumed to relate to pre-Inuit indigenous occupations of the region in the centuries around A.D. 1000 have recently been recognized as having been manufactured using European technologies.
We report here on the SEM-EDS analysis of a small stone vessel recovered from a site on Baffin Island.
The interior of the vessel contains abundant traces of copper–tin alloy (bronze) as well as glass spherules similar to those associated with high-temperature processes.
These results indicate that it had been used as a crucible.
This artifact may represent the earliest evidence of high-temperature nonferrous metalworking in the New World north of Mesoamerica.
The Nanook site was first investigated in the 1960s by Moreau Maxwell of Michigan State University (Maxwell, 1973, 1976).
Maxwell identified Nanook as a Dorset Paleo-Eskimo site although he noted anomalies in the architectural remains, and obtained a series of radiocarbon dates ranging from 2460 ± 80 to 580 ± 80 14C yr B.P. (calibrated 1σ range 754 B.C. to 1367 A.D., using CALIB14C data set).
Radiocarbon dates falling in the first millennium B.C. and early first millennium A.D. relate to early Paleo-Eskimo occupations, and many of the samples were compromised by the inclusion of materials from the marine reservoir or by problems of contamination related to a saturated permafrost milieu (McGhee, 2000).
Further investigations were undertaken more recently by Sutherland (2009), revealing additional information on the structure, cultural remains, and complex stratigraphy indicating intermittent use over a considerable period of time.
Notably, there is no evidence of use of the site by the Inuit who moved into the area during the 13th or 14th centuries and who remained the dominant occupants of the region to the present day.
Among the specimens recovered by Maxwell in association with the unusual architectural remains was a small broken vessel carved from gray mafic metamorphic rock (catalog number: KdDq-9–3:2129, Canadian Museum of Civilization; Figure2).
The object is 48 mm tall and has a straight sloping base meeting the slightly convex lateral wall at an angle of approximately 140°.
The base of the complete object may have been keel-shaped.
The artifact appears to have been roughly circular in plan, with diameter expanding from >35 mm at the base to >48 mm at the rim.
The base is 15 mm thick, with the walls tapering to a thickness of 6 mm at the rim.
The exterior is smoothly finished, but portions of the interior are scarred by scratching or scraping.
An irregular break cuts across roughly the center of the vessel, indicating that approximately half is missing.
Copper–tin alloy occurs in crevices between mineral grains, on angular corners of relatively hard albite, within as well as on top of patches of organic-rich matrix, and on both the interior surface and broken edge of the vessel.
Evidence of Early Metalworking in Arctic Canada
Patricia D. Sutherland, Peter H. Thompson, Patricia A. Hunt
Geoarchaeology – 1 Dec 2014
Hopefully, readers will form their own opinion based upon the “evidence offered”…
It’s usually best to swallow radiocarbon dates with a pinch of salt – especially in Greenland.
Iron Blooms – Kodlunarn Island in Frobisher Bay off Baffin Island
The curious case of the Frobisher Blooms has given rise to speculation that the Vikings may have smelted iron on Kodlunarn Island.
A 19th century expedition to Frobisher’s base on Kodlunarn Island in Frobisher Bay off Baffin Island came back with several iron blooms, one of which was subsequently 14C dated by Sayre et al. (1982) by gas counting using miniature counters.
This gave a date of 679 ∀ 133 BP, calibrated to AD 1240–1400 at 1σ, using the calibration curve of Stuiver and Pearson 1986 (this and the following dates are taken from Harbottle et al. 1993:Table 10.1).
The 1981 Smithsonian Expedition to Kodlunarn Island found 3 more blooms in association with a smithy.
Suggestions had been put forward many years ago that the blooms discovered in the 19th century could have been made by the Vikings who were in the area centuries before Frobisher. However, the discovery of mineral coal at the smithy in association with the blooms raised other possibilities, and further complicated the matter.
In 1991, Cresswell reported a date of 1340 ∀ 70 BP, (calibrated to 640–760 AD at 1σ) for a sample taken from the outside of Bloom 2, and a date of 920 ∀ 60 (calibrated to 1006–1150 AD at 1σ) for a small inclusion of charcoal found beneath when the section was cut.
These could be osmondes brought out on the previous expeditions, or the Frobisher expedition could have stumbled across an old Viking iron-making site, where unsuccessful blooms had been abandoned, which was common practice.
The Radiocarbon Dating And Authentication Of Iron Artifacts
P T Craddock, M L Wayman, A J T Jull
Radiocarbon, Vol 44, Nr 3, 2002, p 717–732
Which [coincidentally] echoes “slag from reworked crude iron blooms” in Norse Greenland and a hearth pit furnace at L’Anse aux Meadows.
Sandnæs, often anglicized as Sandnes, was the largest Norse farmstead in the Western Settlement of medieval Greenland.
An arrowhead likely from the Point Revenge culture of native Americans in Labrador has been found in the graveyard at Sandnæs.
There is also evidence of iron extraction at the site.
… but the Danish scientists Niels Nielsen queried this interpretation.
He found evidence in Norse Greenland smithies of slag from reworked crude iron blooms and concluded that it made no sense for the Greenland farmers to import crude blooms, rather than ready-to-forge iron, all the way from Norway.
He therefore concluded that the Norse Greenlanders must have smelted their own bog ore in hearth pits.
The problems with that scenario are that no hearth pits used for smelting bog iron have turned up on any Norse Greenland farm, and that local bogs contain no iron ore – that is, small quantities of iron oxide mixed with organic and other matter.
All the same, there is no doubt that the Greenland Norse mastered the medieval Norwegian and Icelandic method of roasting bog iron with charcoal made from fresh, green wood to produce crude iron blooms.
We know that they brought this skill with them to North America at the beginning of the eleventh century, because archaeologists have found a Norse hearth pit furnace at the L’Anse aux Meadows site in northern Newfoundland.
Today the area mostly consists of open, grassy lands, but 1000 years ago, there were forests that were convenient for boat-building, house-building and iron extraction.
Workshops were identified as an iron smithy (building J) containing a forge and iron slag, a carpentry workshop (building D), which generated wood debris and a specialized boat repair area containing worn rivets.
The Norse Discovery Of America – Iver A. Langmoen
Neurosurgery – Volume 57 – Number 6 – December 2005
Iceland: Tin-Bronze artefact with 2% Lead and 2% Silver
When the Scandinavian settlers arrived in Iceland in the 9th century they found no useful metal deposits [except for bog iron] and a scarcity of wood due to deforestation.
Nevertheless, archaeologists have recovered bronze [aka copper alloy] objects from a Viking Age chieftain’s farmstead at Hrísbrú in the Mosfell valley [near Reykjavik].
The excavated bronze objects were well crafted [using similar technology employed in Scandinavia] and displayed clear evidence of re-use.
The archaeologists were surprised to discover these items were “tin-bronze alloys” because Scandinavia has no tin deposits.
This led researchers to speculate the tin may have originated in the British Isles.
However, X-ray fluorescence analysis revealed that the four finds consist of tin-bronze alloys.
This constitutes a deviation from the standard composition of Scandinavian Viking Age copper alloys, which typically contain zinc, often lead, and less frequently tin (Arrhenius, 1989c; Craddock, 1990; Oldeberg, 1966; Söderberg,2010).
As there are no tin deposits in Scandinavia, geographic proximity suggests that the tin might originate from the British Isles where tin has been mined since at least 1000 BC (Barton,1957;Varyl et al., 2004), even though other regions of origin are possible also.
Metallurgical Findings From A Viking Age Chieftain’s Farm In Iceland
Sebastian K.T.S. Wärmländer, Davide Zori, Jesse Byock, David A. Scott
Journal of Archaeological Science 37 – 2010
One particular tin-bronze item [2006-27-16] also contained “small amounts (around 2% each) of lead and silver” which led the researchers to speculate the object had been “recycled”.
For 2006-27-16, XRF analysis identified small amounts (around 2% each) of lead and silver in the material, in addition to the copper and tin.
While lead and tin are common additions to copper, silver is not, suggesting that the fragment was manufactured from a recycled bronze object with some silver decoration.
Metallurgical Findings From A Viking Age Chieftain’s Farm In Iceland
Sebastian K.T.S. Wärmländer, Davide Zori, Jesse Byock, David A. Scott
Journal of Archaeological Science 37 – 2010
A second possibility is that the tin-bronze formula was specifically adjusted for a bell casting.
The investigation also shows that the sound decay of the bell decreased with lowering the wt.% of tin and increasing the wt.% of lead and silver.
And last, but not least, is the possibility is that the ores used to create this tin-bronze alloy came from the Evigtok quarry in the Middle Settlement of Greenland which [amongst other things] contains: copper, tin and argentiferous galena [lead with some silver].
Evigtok (which signifies in the Esquimaux language “a place where there is plenty”) is distant about twelve miles from the Danish settlement of Arksut, and forms a small bay in the Fiord of Arksut ; irregular ground, surrounded by a ridge of mountains, rising abruptly to the height of about 2000 feet ; making the enclosed space appear the half of a deep basin about two miles in diameter.
This rock is traversed in several directions by small veins and masses of cryolite, isolated from the larger body of that mineral, in which, as well as in the rock, are to be found numerous crystals of a variety of tantalite, oxide of tin, blende, molybdenum, much galena, copper-pyrites, arsenical and iron-pyrites, and sparry iron-ore.
In the upper wall of gneiss, about 2 feet above its junction with the cryolite, runs a vein of sparry iron, with the same dip as the cryolite ; and a layer of opake quartz-crystals lines the under side of the gneiss, between the iron-ore and the cryolite : sometimes sinking several feet into the cryolite, but never rising into the gneiss, is a vein of argentiferous galena, containing 83½ per cent, of lead, and 45 ounces of silver in the ton of ore ; this was worked during the year 1854-5, and some good ore was extracted.
On the Cryolite of Evigtok, Greenland – J. W. Tayler
The Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London – Vol 12 – 1856