Columbus may have sailed the ocean blue in 1492, getting to the continent that we now call north America. Up until now it has been thought that Columbus “discovered” the Americas, but it has been shown that in actual fact the Vikings beat him by about 400 years, and were living in what is now known as Canada 1000 years ago, in 1021.
Who got there first? Evidence shows that the Vikings beat Columbus to Canada by 400 years!
Evidence comes from the timber that was used for building the Viking settlement at L’Anse aux Meadows. Radiocarbon dating and analysis of the rings found in the wood has provided a more exact date for the trees being felled. The trees have evidence of cosmic radiocarbon from a cosmic ray event which happened in 993. These extremely rare events, (only 3 or 4 have been evidence in the last 10,000 years), occur as a result of huge solar storms. The radiocarbon released was absorbed into the tree during photosynthesis and made into wood. Because the bark of some of the trees was present, it was possible to tell the exact year the trees had been felled.
Tree rings are useful for aging a piece of timber, especially when combined with information from radiocarbon dating
Radiocarbon dating works by establishing the amount of undecayed radioactive carbon atoms still present in a sample, and extrapolating back in time using a known rate of decay (which is constant) to work out the time that the tree was alive. The half life for a sample of radiocarbon is 5,730 years, this means that half of all of the radioactive carbon nuclei present in a sample will have emitted their radiation after this time.
The half-life graph for the decay of radioactive carbon
So it seems, once again, that Science has overturned what we thought History had taught us!
Until next time, Keep calm and apply some Science!