There is one event described in all three versions of the Vinland story—the battle with the natives. According to the Flat Island Book, this battle took place in Vinland; according to the other two Sagas, Vinland was supposed to be north of Keel Cape. But in these Sagas it is said that this battle took place south of Keel Cape, where Karsefni had found a river flowing through a lake into the sea.
It was this word south which led the Danish archæologist Carl Christian Rafn to think that Vinland was in Rhode Island. Although there is no land south of Cape Cod (with the exception of Nantucket Island) between Cape Cod and Santo Domingo, it is only fair to look once more at Mount Hope Bay (Rafn's Vinland) to see whether it really corresponds to the description before us. The Taunton River flows through Mount Hope Bay to the sea, but there are no shallows here, and the mouth of the river looks directly out, southward and not eastward, to the open ocean. In Boston Harbor, moreover, are great tongues of land and islands such as are described in Eric the Red's Saga. There is perhaps cause for comment in the use of the word "fjöll," fells or mountains (according to Vigfusson), applied to the hills about Boston, of which the highest, "Blue Hill," is seven hundred and ten feet high. If "fells" is a correct translation, it would be unobjectionable.
One morning Karlsefni saw the natives in their skin boats rowing toward his house, from the south, past a promontory. It is not difficult to find the only promontory past which canoes could have come from the south between the mouth of the river and Watertown, the head of navigation. Here, then, Leif Erikson and Thorfinn Karlsefni should have built their houses, if this history be true, because this place corresponds with the description of Vinland, and also because we can find no other place on the coast like it.
Having found what appears to be the site of Thorfinn Karlsefni's houses, it is well to inquire next what the characteristic features of the Norse houses of the Saga-time were, and what traces one might hope to find after nearly nine hundred years.
Icelandic homesteads of that period usually consisted of a main house, composed of three or four apartments and one or two outhouses, built on the surface of the ground.
The walls were one and a half metres thick, and from one to one and a half metres high, built of alternate layers of turf and stones on the inside and on the outside, the space between being
- United States Coast and Geodetic Survey Chart, No. 13. Cuttyhunk to Block Island.
- Icelandic-English Dictionary. R. Cleasby. Enlarged and completed by Gudbrand Vigfusson.