29 January 2004

Crackpot: Vikings in Duncan

In yesterday's Cowichan News Leader there was a story (almost a full page, plus a half page farther on) titled "Vikings in the Valley":
Could the Cowichan Valley be the Vinland of Viking legend, or is it only a modern-day Wineland?

Apparently, "author and amateur researcher" John Harris believes that when the Norse left Greenland, they went through the Northwest Passage and discovered Vinland--aka Duncan, BC. His evidence?

  • The Greenland Norse "disappeared without a trace" around 1500.

    Funny, I was pretty sure historians and archaeologists had pretty conclusively demonstrated that the "Little Ice Age" that began around 1300 gradually made voyages between Greenland and the Old World more difficult so the colonies were eventually abandoned. Some people probably died, and others returned to Iceland and Scandinavia before it was too late.

  • The St Roche made it through the Northwest Passage four years ago.

    Which means the Norse could've done it five to seven hundred years ago? What about that Little Ice Age?

  • Recorded sightings of blond Eskimos.

    Er . . . that's Inuit, I think. Thule, actually, as the ancestors of the Inuit are usualy referred to by archaeologists (ick, is my grammar dissolving?). I'd like to know what the records were, and who made them, and what criteria was used to define "blond" (for example, "blond" means something different in Asia, where most people have very dark hair).

  • A lot of the details of the description of Vinland from the sagas seem to fit the Cowichan Valley.

    If you want something to fit, it's not all that hard to make it fit. Bet I could make the descriptions fit Africa or Australia if I wanted to.

  • We've got Oregon Grapes.

    I expect the Norse could tell the difference between grapes and berries, despite the fact that we call them grapes. Fact is, actual grapes are found on the east coast.

  • The Cowichan people have weaving, whereas other cultures around them do not. In Atlantic Canada, weaving is an indicator of Viking presence.

    What?! I don't believe I've ever heard that native weaving was introduced by the Norse. Hasn't this guy ever heard of independent invention?

  • Spindle whorls used by the natives have spiral patterns, just like Viking ones.

    Never mind that the spiral is one of the most basic decorative motifs and has been found in pretty much every part of the world.

In other words, there is no evidence. There are no artifacts, no liguistic evidence, nothing. A mass of really bad similarities is not evidence.

To be fair, though, I haven't read Harris's actual essay (only the reporter's interpretation of it), which is enormously long, but which I'll probably print out and read over the next few days. It's available at his web site, along with a whole bunch of other crackpot stuff. Watch this space for further debunking, plus links (if I can find them) to some of the evidence against that I mentioned in the above rant.

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