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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: American Viking Queen

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JAMPOL: Centuries ago,

a seafaring explorer set off for North America,

becoming the first European to touch down in the New World.

Most people believe that explorer

was Christopher Columbus.

Then new evidence surfaced, suggesting that Norse explorer

Leif Erikson was here first,

but now an ancient relic

could turn both of these theories upside down.

This is super cool.

What if everything we knew

about the discovery of America was wrong?

I'm on a mission to uncover the truth.

She's a warrior.

Was America actually discovered by a Viking woman?

♪♪

I'm Justin Jampol,

and I'm obsessed with discovering unusual objects,

especially when they hide mysteries.

My mission is to unlock the real stories

and bring to life their lost secrets.

♪♪

♪♪

Since I oversee a rare artifact museum,

I'm often called to check out unusual discoveries.

♪♪

So I'm traveling 3,000 miles to Sweden

to a top secret active dig at a Viking burial site.

♪♪

This is lead archaeologist Lena Jorpeland.

So what's going on?

Wow.

♪♪

Yeah, oh, wow.

The seafaring Vikings were buried alongside

their most treasured possessions.

Warriors would be buried with swords,

traders with scales,

but boat grave burials were linked to exploration

and reserved for only the most powerful Viking kings.

Okay.

Lena tells me they've unearthed an object here

that could rewrite what we know about the Vikings

and about their discovery of modern-day North America.

-A spindle whorl? -Yes.

That's amazing.

This is big.

Spindle whorls were used by Viking women to spin yarn,

so the discovery of a spindle whorl here

indicates that women were also buried in grave sites

celebrating exploration and power.

Could this mean that women were involved

in Viking expeditions?

That explodes everything that I've learned about the role

of women in Viking society, and you know that.

Exactly, yes.

JAMPOL: History tells us Viking men

were some of the most adventurous explorers

of all time.

One of the greatest was Leif Erikson,

who led an epic journey to a place

called L'anse Aux Meadows on the northeast coast of Canada,

but here's the thing.

They found a spindle whorl there, too,

so maybe Viking women were more involved

in New World exploration than we ever thought possible.

That blows my mind because everything that we've been

taught about the discovery of North America by Europeans

has been so masculine in some ways.

-It's guys on a ship -- -Yeah.

...but this is about women.

This is small in size but enormous impact.

-Yes. -That's incredible.

Yes, it's so exciting.

♪♪

JAMPOL: You never hear about Norse women

being among the first Europeans in the New World,

and yet the spindle whorl suggests they were there.

What if the hidden history of this domestic

Viking artifact reveals that women didn't just match

Leif Erikson but pushed beyond his achievements.

L'anse Aux Meadows isn't that far from current day

New Brunswick and Maine.

Could a Norse woman have been the first

European to set foot in the United States?

The potential for this is incredible.

I know that Viking women enjoyed a lot of freedom

compared to other women at the time,

but did women have enough power to be explorers

or even the captain of a ship?

I think I know the first place to look for answers, runestones.

♪♪

These stone monuments are time capsules,

part magical objects,

part code, part biography.

I've enlisted runestone expert Jonathan Olsson to help me

decipher these ancient inscriptions.

I'm hoping they'll tell me more about whether women

in Viking times were powerful enough to lead expeditions.

Wow. Look at that.

-Yeah. -Amazing.

JAMPOL: These monuments were typically

raised as memorials to dead men,

but I've managed to hunt down a few of them

that mention women.

So this is being dedicated to these women.

Yes, they are part of the monument. Yes.

Can we check out the next one?

Yes.

♪♪

Wow, looks amazing.

It's in incredible condition.

How old would something like this be?

That's amazing.

This runestone is around the same age

as the spindle whorl,

but the inscriptions on it are still incredibly intact.

It looks like a serpent with a crazy, vicious looking face.

This detail, the level of artistry,

makes me think that whoever commissioned it

was a person of status and power.

So what does this say?

So this was somebody of influence?

So it sounds like women could own land.

Well, that seems more advanced and sophisticated

than other societies not only of that time but even later.

This runestone tells me that widows in Viking culture

took over their dead husband's land

and power with equal rights.

That's a huge clue.

It means women might have had the power

to charter seafaring voyages, too, but when we think of

Viking explorers, we think of men.

The common belief is that

Norse women stayed behind in Scandanavia

while the men went out pillaging.

I think I've figured out how to put the stereotype to the test.

[ Bell dinging ]

I'm heading south to Stockholm University's

ancient DNA lab.

There's a type of DNA

that's only passed down from mother to child,

and it never changes, so for any one person,

this DNA is identical to their mother's and her mother's

and her mother's mother going back thousands of years.

So if we can make a genetic fingerprint for Viking women,

we can trace her descendants through history

to anywhere in the world,

and that will tell me whether Viking women stayed at home

or whether they explored the world.

♪♪

I've asked a world-renowned researcher

I know through my network to help me conduct my test.

-Hey. -Hello, welcome.

-So good to see you. -So nice to see you.

This place is awesome.

-Please follow me. -Yeah.

Okay.

Maya already has a genetic database of modern humans

across the North Atlantic.

All we're missing is a genetic fingerprint

for Viking women to compare it with,

so today we're extracting a DNA sample

from a medieval Scandinavian tooth.

♪♪

All right.

Wow.

It is.

Once we have the genetic fingerprint from the tooth,

we can hunt for matches in the genetic database.

Every hit we get will help us

to trace the travels of ancient Viking women.

So what you're after is the tooth dust?

Bone powder.

If I find matches to modern humans

all clustered around the Vikings' homeland

of Scandinavia, then I'll know Norse women

weren't venturing away from home,

but if I find enough hits in places outside Scandinavia,

I'll know they must have been traveling

to new lands alongside the men,

and I'll be a step closer to proving that a Viking woman

was the first European to set foot in America.

♪♪

There you go.

Okay, I'll follow you.

Yes.

♪♪

♪♪

JAMPOL: An ancient Viking artifact,

a spindle whorl...

This is small in size but enormous impact.

Yes.

JAMPOL: ...has called me 3,000 miles from home

to the heart of Viking country

to solve a history-changing mystery.

Maybe it wasn't Christopher Columbus

or even legendary Leif Erikson who discovered

modern-day North America,

but a Viking woman.

The spindle whorl is the first evidence

ever of a woman among early Viking explorers,

but the common belief

is that only Viking men explored new lands

and that Norse women wouldn't have ever left the homestead,

so I'm putting the theory to the test using a kind of DNA

that's only passed down through mothers.

My colleague has access to a genetic database of people

across the North Atlantic region.

All I needed was a genetic fingerprint of Viking women

to compare it with.

So what you're after is the tooth dust?

So we've extracted a DNA sample

from a medieval Scandinavian tooth.

♪♪

It takes time for the DNA to be sequenced,

so I return the next day.

I can't wait to see what we find.

Oh, yeah.

Now that our sample has been sequenced,

we can hunt for matches in the genetic database.

If I find matches to modern humans

all clustered near the Vikings' homeland of Scandinavia,

then I'll know Norse women

weren't venturing away from home,

but if I find enough hits in places outside Scandinavia,

I'll know that they must have been traveling

to new lands alongside the men.

Wow.

They look like they go all the way

to what we know of as Iceland.

So this is the first really scientific evidence

we have that women have traveled such distances along with men.

That's amazing.

This DNA test explodes the myth that Viking men were going off

on these expeditions on their own.

It proves that Viking women were there

from the very start side by side with the men.

That's cool.

I learned from the runestones that women in Viking society

had an unusual amount of power at home,

and now I know they were on voyages of exploration,

but to solve the mystery of the spindle whorl,

I need to find out if they played active roles

in Viking society

or were limited to domestic jobs,

so I'm turning to grave goods to see

if I can get a sense of what their lives were like.

♪♪

I'm in the very small town of Sigtuna in Sweden.

This is one of the most important collections

of Viking artifacts in the world.

I've called on Michael Neib,

who has amazing expertise in Viking objects,

to help me with my investigation here.

-Michael. -Justin.

-Hey, good to see you. -Welcome.

Let's have a look at the objects.

-Absolutely. -Follow me.

JAMPOL: I've asked Michael to bring out any artifacts

that would have belonged to Viking women

either at home or abroad.

♪♪

-So you know the drill. -I do.

If all I find is domestic objects,

then it's unlikely women played more than a passive role

in Viking exploration.

So by special request from you.

-Wow. -Spindle whorl, as you know.

What is it made out of?

It's made of wet sandstone, very precious.

All right. What else have you got in there?

So next item, an ironing board.

Oh, cool.

Ironing board for clothing ironing.

Exactly, but unfortunately the Vikings

didn't have hot irons.

Instead, they would have used something like this.

Cool.

A flattening stone made of glass.

It looks -- It looks cool.

So when my ironing board and iron doesn't work at home,

I can do it the Viking way.

-[ Speaks indistinctly ] -All right.

So we've got a spindle whorl here for textiles,

an ironing board and an iron.

So these are the kinds of domestic tools

that you might expect from gendered roles for women.

So we think, but then please tell me

what could this be?

Give me a guess.

-It's heavy. -Uh-huh.

And it looks like

it's got some little inscriptions on the top --

It does.

...and bottom.

I have no idea what this is.

It is a weight for a balance,

one of the most important tools when you're active in commerce.

And women would have used this?

Exactly.

We have Viking age graves with women in it,

and they also have weights and scales and balances,

which showed to us that women were active in business.

JAMPOL: This is a real surprise to me.

Balances were used in ancient times

as a way of determining the price of trade goods.

They were essential to all forms of business transactions,

so if these critical tools of business were buried

with Viking women, it tells me that their value

extended far beyond the household.

So this is not just domestic role.

They're involved in commerce.

Exactly, exactly.

That's amazing.

What I've discovered brings me a step closer

to proving that women played an active role

in Viking exploration.

Now I need to know if they made it all the way to North America.

I know a spindle whorl was unearthed

at L'anse Aux Meadows in Canada, but there's a chance

it could have been brought over by a Viking man.

Did women really make it all the way to our shores?

♪♪

I've headed back stateside to enlist

the help of Dr. Michèle Smith,

a world leading expert on ancient textiles

who's got access to a rare piece of actual Viking fabric.

♪♪

-Michèle? -Hey, Justin.

-Hi. -How are you?

Good to see you.

Welcome to the Circumpolar Laboratory.

JAMPOL: I want to take a deeper dive into Viking textiles

to determine if spinning was exclusively done by Norse women,

or if it might have been something men did

away from home.

So this is about 1,000 years old.

Wow. That's 1,000 years old.

That's 1,000 years old.

Wow. That's incredible. It's pretty elaborate.

It's remarkable that we have this level of preservation.

So we're gonna look at it now under the microscope.

-See that? -It really --

I mean, it is incredible to see how standardized that is.

Well, it is.

I mean, it looks almost like a machine did it.

And did they find anything like this,

any textiles in North America?

Well, there is one site actually, up in northern Canada,

up in the Arctic on the Ellesmere Island,

they found pieces of cloth

exactly like this piece of cloth --

-Wow, just like -- -...made exactly like this one,

but at the moment they don't really know

if it is in fact the result of a shipwreck or is it trade?

You know, that's really incredible because --

It is pretty incredible.

...we are not that far away from where that is.

Right.

JAMPOL: Finding remnants of 1,000-year-old cloth

in North America is huge.

It's further proof that Vikings were here.

I just need to know if those Vikings included women,

so I've asked Michèle to help me understand

how textile making worked in Viking culture

and whether it was something both men and women engaged in.

Textiles and weaving was very much

of a gendered activity in Norse society,

so it was really something that only women did,

and in fact men did not engage in it.

There were a lot of taboos around it.

Wow. What do you mean?

Terrible things could happen to them

if they got anywhere near the weaving tools.

Some weaving tools, even the spindle whorl sometimes,

have got magical formula on them,

so there's this kind of whole lore around it.

There was a lot of sort of mythological associations

with it, so spinning in itself

was associated with the goddess Freya,

and in fact, some people even see that the spindle itself

is almost a metaphor for the Norse world view.

They have nine worlds,

and they're often arranged in disks like this,

and there's a central tree,

and at the base of the tree are three Norns,

female spirits who were spinning the fates of men.

-That's amazing. -Yeah.

So a spindle is not just about textile and utilitarian part --

Well, it is, it is, but there's --

...but it's something much, much larger than that.

Yeah, there's a whole sort of magical kind of world around it,

and so it kind of gives you a sense also

of the importance of these activities.

So like I said, this is something that only women do.

They do together.

Men are not involved in this process in any form or way.

Men just didn't go near it.

Wow. That's really amazing,

and we got all that information from the spindle.

This is a big deal.

Absolutely.

JAMPOL: This is a huge piece of the puzzle.

Only women would have been allowed

to touch a spindle whorl,

so the one found in North America confirms

Viking women spent time on our continent,

so to prove that women were leaders of Viking exploration,

my next step is finding out what they were doing here.

My impression has always been

that Viking ships were vessels of war,

but is that really what these women were up to?

There's only one way to get to the truth.

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

JAMPOL: Was a Viking woman the first European

to set foot in America?

I'm in Mystic, Connecticut to try to find out.

I've arranged to bring an authentic replica

Viking ship called the Draken into dry dock

so I can examine it from tip to tiller.

♪♪

I'm on a Viking ship.

This is awesome.

Here in New England.

Legend depicts Viking ships as vessels of war,

carrying hoards of ferocious men

all over the globe to plunder new lands,

but this doesn't jive with what I've uncovered so far,

that women made up an equal number of the crew.

I'm hoping that taking a good look at this ship out of water

will help me figure out the true purpose of Viking voyages

to the New World

and what role women might have played on them.

This is awesome.

Up until recently, there were doubts that Viking longboats

were even capable of making the treacherous voyage

across the Atlantic,

but in 2016, Captain Bjorn Ahlander

sailed this authentic Viking ship,

a replica of the real thing,

all the way from Norway to North America,

nearly 2,500 nautical miles.

So knowing the journey was possible,

I need to find out more about why the Vikings came here,

which is key to unlocking

whether a woman was driving the journey.

I'm about to throw a rope on the dock.

I'm hoping I don't miss.

All right. You ready?

Yep.

-Yeah. -Sorry, a little too far, huh?

-Good job. -Well done.

Pretty swell at that.

Whoo. I made it.

Though my work isn't done.

To prepare the ship for winter,

I've been asked to help unload the ship's ballast...

I'm being put to work.

...a mountain of rocks carried here all the way from Norway.

Vikings pioneered the use of ballast in their ships,

a technology that's still in use today.

Thank you.

[ Laughs ]

Almost fell.

Once the rocks are removed,

the ship can be raised out of the sea and onto dry land.

Hundreds of years ago,

Vikings brought their ships into dry dock in winter

to do maintenance work while travel overseas was impossible.

Back then, they used sheer muscle

to hoist their ships ashore,

but we've got modern technology on our side.

Does it look okay to you?

Yeah. We're going to clean it first,

and then we're going to have a good inspection.

Okay.

Something that immediately jumps out at me

is the size of the hull,

the part of the ship below the waterline

where all those rocks were stored.

It's massive.

I wouldn't expect a ship of war

to be built to carry this much ballast.

So tell me about the ballast.

The reason why we have a ballast

is to get stability for when we hoist the sail,

the ship should not roll over too much.

That's why we have the ballast, and that's 21 tons.

-21 tons? -Yeah.

That's -- So they could carry quite a lot in these ships.

Yeah, yeah.

JAMPOL: 21 tons is the equivalent

of five adult elephants.

According to Bjorn, the Vikings would typically fill their holds

with goods and other cargo instead of rocks.

The cargo is actually the ballast.

The ballast.

So surprisingly, that means these ships were actually built

to carry massive amounts of goods and not just armies.

So in my mind, Viking ships were always war ships,

but that's not always the case.

No, no.

-Most it was trade. -Yeah.

So they trade all over Europe and towards Iceland,

Greenland and Newfoundland, North America.

Wow.

So these ships were going basically halfway,

at least halfway around the world to trade.

Yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah.

The Viking was amazing explorers and trademen.

Wow.

But that's really amazing that they were

trading all over the world.

Yeah, yeah. It was a lot of trading.

JAMPOL: The mystery of the spindle whorl

continues to blow up

all my preconceived notions about the Vikings.

Pop culture never portrays them

as traders and masters of commerce,

yet what I've uncovered today suggests

that's literally what many of their ships were designed for.

Add that to what I unearthed in Sweden

about the reach of Viking women's DNA

and that they were key players in business,

and it all points to the fact that women likely participated

in trading overseas,

but I still haven't uncovered anything

that suggests women were leading expeditions,

so I've tracked down someone who can hopefully help me

solve the next piece of the puzzle, Jesse Byock,

a Viking language specialist and expert

on their New World travel.

Let me show you some manuscript pictures.

JAMPOL: We're digging into some 13th century texts.

The Icelandic sagas chronicle hundreds of years of epic

Viking adventures.

These are long texts written down in Old Norse

and in the dialect Old Icelandic.

JAMPOL: I've asked him to pull excerpts from the sagas

that mention Viking voyages to the New World.

The two sagas that are connected with the North American

adventure, the Vinland sagas,

they deal essentially with Eric the Red's family.

I have heard of Eric the Red.

In 982 A.D., Norse explorer Eric the Red

uprooted his family from their home in Iceland,

becoming the first European to settle Greenland.

Two decades later, it was Eric's son,

Leif Erikson, who supposedly set sail from Greenland

to establish the first European outpost

at L'anse Aux Meadows in Newfoundland,

but the sagas reveal that there were other journeys

to the New World involving other important Norse explorers.

And the sagas talk especially about one woman,

Freydis, I'll show you her.

Yeah.

Right here we have Freydis right in the saga,

and it's talking about one of the expeditions

in which she was surrounded by Native Americans,

and she picked up a sword,

slapped her breast with the sword,

and the saga says the Native Americans ran.

-She's a warrior. -She knew what to do.

JAMPOL: Maybe because she was born into it,

turns out this legendary Viking woman

had quite the family connections.

Freydis is famous for numbers of things.

She was the daughter of Eric the Red.

Freydis... [ speaking foreign language ]

And she was a leader of an expedition.

What?

JAMPOL: On my mission to solve the mystery

posed by a Viking spindle whorl,

I'm digging through some ancient text

called the Icelandic sagas...

Freydis... [ speaking foreign language ]

JAMPOL: ...looking for proof that a Viking woman

may have discovered the current day United States of America.

The sagas talk especially about one woman, Freydis,

and she was a leader of an expedition.

JAMPOL: I've just unearthed a huge clue,

that Leif Erikson's sister, Freydis,

led a band of Vikings on an expedition

that supposedly led to a clash with Native Americans.

Now I just need to know where exactly she went.

Do we know where Freydis landed?

She ended up in Vinland somewhere in North America.

And do we know where Vinland was?

That's the great question.

The trouble is there have been no archaeological finds there,

but we do know Vin is wine,

so it's a land of vines and wine.

Wow.

What we're learning about the Vikings

is totally blowing my mind.

It wasn't just roving bands of men.

These were women warriors

leading the expeditions to these new lands.

That's an incredible story that changes the way

that I think about this history.

I'd always believed that Leif Erikson led the sole

Viking expedition to the New World,

but his sister Freydis sailed here, too.

Could she have been the first European

to set foot in the continental United States?

I've got an idea for how to find out.

Jesse said the Vikings who landed here encountered here

encountered wild grapes,

so if I can generate a list of plants the Vikings

came across in Vinland and determine where they grow,

it could help me figure out where Freydis landed,

so I've reached out to my friend Charlotte Taschen,

who has access to hundreds of detailed maps

illustrating the geographic ranges of different

North American plant species.

-Hey, Justin. -Hey. So good to see you.

JAMPOL: I'm hoping she can help me triangulate the area

where Freydis might have led her expedition.

Well, I'm so excited to see you here

and find out what you have.

Well, I hope I can be helpful.

Like you requested, I pulled up a couple of geographic maps --

Great.

...and they're overlaid so we can find out.

I love it.

Based on my research, there's three plants

I know the Vikings encountered,

self-sown wheat, grapevines,

and butternut trees.

♪♪

Well, first thing's first, can you pull up

where L'anse Aux Meadows is on the map?

Yes.

All right, so there's Newfoundland.

There we go.

So here we have L'anse Aux Meadows.

That's where the archaeological expedition was,

and they've confirmed that there were Vikings that were there.

One of the plants that they talk about in the Vinland sagas

is self-sown wheat.

Do you know where that grows?

Unfortunately, it's very common.

It actually grows kind of everywhere on the coast

of Europe and North America, as you will see.

Mm.

So all of the green here

is where self-sown wheat can be found.

Ah.

Wow, so that doesn't really help.

Not narrowing it down, no. [ Laughs ]

Doesn't really help us a lot

because that's a pretty wide ranging territory.

Now the Vinland sagas also talk a lot

about grapes and grapevines.

Where would grapes be found?

Can you pull that up on the map?

Yes.

So what you're seeing here, all of the red areas

is where wild grape species can be found.

Okay, so you've got grapes all over here in North America

except for one place, L'anse Aux Meadows.

Yes.

And I mean, that's really interesting

because you've got L'anse Aux Meadows,

where we know the archaeological expedition was,

but look, you've got it all the way up short of there.

So the sagas talk about this great big land

filled with grapes,

and the one place where there's not grapes,

L'anse Aux Meadows.

So the species range for grapevines proves

that the Vikings made it beyond the island of Newfoundland

to the North American mainland.

That's a big step.

With two plants already mapped,

I've got one more chance to prove

that Freydis made it to the current day

United States.

We know from archaeological excavations

at L'anse Aux Meadows

that they found evidence of butternut tree seeds.

Can you pull those up?

Well, this is where it's going to get interesting, Justin.

-Let me show you. -Whoa.

♪♪

JAMPOL: Could a Viking woman have been

the first European to discover America?

Ancient texts claim Freydis led one of the first expeditions

here around 1000 A.D.,

but I have yet to find out where she landed,

so I'm mapping out the plants the Vikings allegedly

came across on their journey here to try and find out.

The growth ranges of self-sown wheat and grapevines suggest

Freydis did make it beyond Newfoundland

to the North American mainland,

and I know the Vikings here encountered butternut trees,

so I've got one more shot to figure out

if Freydis could have made it all the way to the current day

United States.

We know from archaeological excavations

at L'anse Aux Meadows

that they found evidence of butternut tree seeds.

Can you pull those up?

Well, this is where it's going to get interesting, Justin.

Let me show you.

♪♪

-Whoa. -There we are.

-Wow. -There it is.

So all of the light blue areas

is where butternut trees can be found.

So they found the seeds up here in L'anse Aux Meadows,

but the trees are over here. -Mm-hmm.

This -- I mean,

this is in what's currently the United States.

Absolutely.

I mean, this is New England over here.

I mean, that suggests that the Vikings might have made it

all the way down to this area here,

which is now, you know, modern day United States.

That's where this territory is.

Maybe that's Vinland.

So when you put all of this together,

it could mean that Freydis led some of the first voyages

from Newfoundland to New England.

That's incredible.

JAMPOL: This is crazy.

I'm a big step closer to proving not only

that a woman may have been the first European

to reach the new world

but that she may have also been the first

to set foot in the continental United States.

I've got to follow through on this lead.

Contrary to all popular myths,

I've learned that Vikings were traders first

and warriors second and that Norse women

were actively involved in business and commerce,

so if I'm going to prove Freydis' exploratory voyage

really took her as far south as the current day U.S.A.,

then my best shot is following the breadcrumbs

of Viking trade.

♪♪

Man, we're a long way from Viking land.

We need a world-class collection of Viking coins.

Where do you go?

Here, a house in Burbank.

Thanks for meeting me here. Wow.

I've pulled a few favors in,

and I've actually pulled together

some stuff that is not in any museum.

-Cool. -It hasn't been seen before.

These are from private collections.

JAMPOL: To delve deeper into the reach of Viking trade,

I've enlisted Viking antiquities expert David Michaels.

With 30 years experience dealing in the very artifacts

that the Vikings traded,

he's my best shot at picking up Freydis' trail

and proving that a woman could have been the first European

to set foot in the United States of America.

So we've got pieces like these ingots here.

This is the raw material that the Vikings traded.

Today we use the term hacksilver because it literally --

Hacksilver.

...is hacked up little pieces of silver.

So these were tradable units?

Yes, that's exactly what it is.

This was the basis of their economy.

How does it -- How does that work?

Well, the perfect illustration of that is these ingots here.

You can see each of these little striations along the length.

Yeah.

It's actually a unit of measure.

The Vikings called it an ortuk.

An ortuk is just a little bit less than a gram,

so this is 100 ortuks of silver.

Hundred. Exactly.

On the nose. That's a coincidence, but...

Wow.

How extensive was this trade?

Goes all the ways to the very ends

of what they would have considered the civilized world.

I mean, we have evidence in the form of coinage.

Wow.

Uh-huh.

Here we have Cnut the Great, and he was Viking king.

So they were making their own coins.

They were.

You find Viking coins -- Well, you find them in England.

You find them in continental Europe.

You find them -- In fact, wherever they settled.

Are there any coins that are found in North America?

Well, there is the Maine penny.

They found a Viking coin in the state of Maine?

♪♪

They found a Viking coin in Maine?

Absolutely.

Maine, United States of America.

Wow.

On my mission to find out whether a woman

was the first European to ever set foot in North America,

I've made a shocking discovery that she may have even been

first to discover the current day United States.

The proof?

An ancient artifact discovered along the coast of Maine.

There was an excavation at a Native American midden,

a pile of rubbish basically, and they found a penny.

Let me see if I can find it -- Look it up here.

All right. Here's the Maine penny.

The coin is corroded.

It's definitely seen a lot of wear.

It's not something that was just found in a fresh hoarde.

Wow, but no, you can see the shapes up here,

and it looks like the head of an animal or something.

That's right. It's a dragon's head.

It's a dragon's head.

It's a penny of Olaf Keer, king of Norway.

And that is an identifiable Viking feature.

Identifiable Viking coin.

We do know that it was struck in Norway in the 11th century,

which is about the time of the great

Viking voyagers and exploration were happening.

We know they were at L'anse Aux Meadows.

This is incredible to me

because it means that if this coin was found in Maine,

the Vikings could have been in Maine.

That is possible.

JAMPOL: Finding a Viking penny

in modern-day Maine is incredible.

It's my biggest clue yet that Freydis,

a female Viking, may have been here leading

an expedition 500 years before Columbus

ever set foot on our shores.

I wonder what other archaeological discoveries

still lurk underground,

hidden treasures that could fill in the blanks

of this untold story.

♪♪

Imagine if the Vikings had stayed in North America.

We would have been speaking Icelandic.

We would have these super cool Viking cultural traditions,

and Christopher Columbus would have been greeted

by Viking women.

Now how cool is that?

I can't wait to report back to Lena with my findings.

The spindle whorl she shared with me

unlocks a possible origin story of America

that's never been told, one in which a Viking woman

was the first to set foot in modern-day United States,

and while the Norse explorers were long gone

by the time Columbus arrived,

artifacts like the spindle whorl remind us

there's a lot more to discover

about the people who came before.

The Description of American Viking Queen