Friday, April 08, 2016

Nova on Point Rosee -- just a maybe on Norse presence?

Wednesday night the American science show "Nova" ran "Vikings Unearthed," a two-hour documentary on Norse exploration, featuring the satellite photography-based archaeology of Sarah Parcak.  (Website here, film itself not online unavailable in Canada, it seems.) With the help of Brit telly-historian Dan Snow, the show moved slowly through the history of the Norse (always calling them 'Vikings" --this is television!), before spending most of its last hour at Point Rosee, the site near the south-west tip of Newfoundland, where Parcak's ground-sensing telemetry had produced what she called the most promising lead anywhere in Atlantic Canada.

That's interesting in itself. The sat data is v. cool and seems able to find even very faint evidence, but it has not turned up promising sites on every cove and headland on the eastern seaboard, to say the least.

In the end the film's conclusion was... inconclusive.  Actual trenching on the site at Point Rosee revealed likely signs of turf buildings right where the telemetry pointed -- the technology worked -- but the iron was not iron, and the organics all carbon-dated to much later. A well informed sceptic could probably argue it's as likely to be an eighteenth-century outpost of the fishery as a Norse encampment.The film's evidence turned out a lot more sketchy -- and its claims more hedged -- than recent press reports indicated.  Much work remains to be done.
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