Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

New doc aims to unravel an Arctic mystery

Archaeologist Patricia Sutherland spearheaded the Baffin Island dig profiled in The Norse: An Arctic Mystery.

Never mind Columbus. Never mind John Cabot. Chris- and Johnny-come-latelies. Forget about the Vikings at L'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland – basically a boatyard, abandoned in 10 years.

If you want to know the folks who really made the first, sustained North American contact with aboriginal peoples, let me introduce Patricia Sutherland. Until recently one of the Canadian Museum of Civilization's senior archaeologists, Sutherland has spent 30 years documenting her case – that Norse traders conducted a thriving trade in fur and walrus ivory with the native Dorset peoples on Baffin Island a millennium ago.

Her evidence is laid out persuasively in Andrew Gregg's new documentary The Norse: An Arctic Mystery, airing Thursday night on CBC TV's The Nature of Things. Norse cordage, Norse whetstones, Norse metals, the pellets of rats who accompanied the Norse on their ships – it's all here. It's not easy changing entrenched academic opinion, but Sutherland is on the road to doing it.

Story continues below advertisement

Report an error Licensing Options
About the Author

Based in Toronto, Michael Posner has been with the Globe and Mail since 1997, writing for arts, news and features.Before that, he worked for Maclean's Magazine and the Financial Times of Canada, and has freelanced for Toronto Llfe, Chatelaine, Walrus, and Queen's Quarterly magazines. More


The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

We’ve made some technical updates to our commenting software. If you are experiencing any issues posting comments, simply log out and log back in.

Discussion loading… ✨