A small stone container found by archaeologists a half-century ago has now been recognized as further evidence of a Viking or Medieval Norse presence in Arctic Canada during the centuries around 1000 A.D.
Researchers reporting in the journal Geoarchaeology discovered that the interior of the container, which was found at an archaeological site on southern Baffin Island, contains fragments of bronze as well as small spherules of glass that form when rock is heated to high temperatures. The object is a crucible for melting bronze, likely in order to cast it into small tools or ornaments. Indigenous peoples of northern North America did not practice high-temperature metalworking.
The Norse would likely have travelled to the area to obtain furs and walrus ivory. "The crucible adds an intriguing new element to this emerging chapter in the early history of northern Canada," said lead author Dr. Patricia Sutherland, who has recovered other specimens in Arctic Canada that resemble those used by Europeans of the Viking and Medieval periods. "It may be the earliest evidence of high-temperature nonferrous metalworking in North America to the north of what is now Mexico."
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Sutherland, P. D., Thompson, P. H. and Hunt, P. A. (2014), Evidence of Early Metalworking in Arctic Canada. Geoarchaeology. DOI: 10.1002/gea.21497