ANCIENT cannabis pollen has been discovered near a Viking settlement in Canada, leading archaeologists to question whether the seafaring warriors were making use of marijuana while they explored North America.
The L’Anse aux Meadows archaeological site is the only confirmed Viking settlement in Newfoundland and the researchers have found evidence that it was occupied by them for over a century.
This new evidence could change what we know about the spread of cannabis across the globe.
Until now, archaeologists thought that the Newfoundland site, which was founded by Vikings in around 1000AD, was only occupied for a brief period of time. However, the new research suggests that they were living there well into the 12th or even 13th century.
This study has just been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The archaeologists excavated a peat bog near the Newfoundland site in 2018 and found environmental remains that may have been brought there by humans.
These remains were radiocarbon dated to the 12th or 13th century and included cannabis pollen from a plant that doesn’t naturally grow at L’Anse aux Meadows.
Remains of other plant pollen and two non native beetles were also found, suggested that the Vikings had been collecting these things on their travels across the globe.
Paul Ledger, the lead author of the paper and a postdoctoral fellow at Memorial University of Newfoundland has urged that people should be cautious when trying to draw conclusions from the cannabis find as this pollen can be easily carried in the wind.
If the Vikings at the site were using cannabis it is almost impossible to say what they were using it for, as it could have been for anything from medicinal and recreational purposes to making hemp clothes.
It is also possible that other native people in Newfoundland at the time took the materials to the peat bog.
The researchers wrote: “The results presented here pose more questions than answers.”
Some experts are sceptical about the finds and the theory that the Vikings were at the site for a long period of time, although the researchers have suggested that they might have kept returning to the site and not stayed for the whole time.
Patricia Sutherland, a visiting scientist at the Canadian Museum of Nature, told Live Science: “It seems premature to suggest such a scenario on the basis of the ‘ecofacts’ listed in the paper.”
She went on to suggest that some of the plants and insects could have been brought to the site by the Vikings in 1000AD and continued to flourish there after they left.
Research will continue at the Viking site in August.