Leif Erikson was an explorer, the son of Erik the Red and one of the first European explorers to land in North America (he made it to Newfoundland). You can find statues in his honor at both Reykjavik and Boston, and he has received multiple other honors in the United States, Canada, Denmark, and Norway. Yet there are plenty of facts about Leif Erikson that are less commonly known than his story of setting foot on America’s shores before Columbus did. Here are ten of them! Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Leif Erikson

Nobody knows his birth date

Depending on what historians you ask, there’s anywhere from a 60- to 400-year range of possible birth years for Leif Erikson. He’s thought to have been born in either Iceland or Greenland, though no one knows for sure.

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No one knows where he is buried

It’s said that sometime around 1,000 A.D., Leif was buried at a church built for him in Greenland. But his body vanished by 1261 when a different church was built on top of it, perhaps stolen and taken back to Norway. It’s a real shame too because people have been searching for his remains since 1970 when they started thinking maybe he wasn’t buried in Vinland after all. As far as anyone knows, it could still be out there waiting to be found.

He didn’t think his voyage was that great

Upon his return to Greenland, there was some question whether or not he’d made it to Vinland at all. His enemies claimed that he had only found a new land in Greenland (which was pretty cool, given its rugged landscape). After his father’s death, Leif sailed for Norway and visited King Olaf Tryggvason.

He settled in Iceland

While historians are fairly certain that Leif Erikson and his crew were not actually Vikings, it’s been proven that they did settle in Iceland for a few years before heading back to Greenland. He probably wasn’t an Anglo-Saxon: Though he was likely of Nordic ancestry, DNA evidence has suggested he may have had some Anglo-Saxon genes mixed in with his, indicating that—while all Vikings came from Scandinavia—they weren’t ethnically homogenous.

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His name may have been made up by Snorri Sturluson

Snorri Sturluson was a Norse historian, poet, and politician who wrote Iceland’s Prose Edda , its most famous compilation of mythology. He created numerous stories about how great figures in Norse mythology came to be—and that includes Leif Erikson, who he claimed sailed across The Atlantic to North America centuries before Columbus. Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Leif Erikson

Nobody really knows if he went to Vinland

The Norse sagas tell conflicting stories of whether or not he ever made it to Vinland, with some accounts saying that he died before reaching it. The problem is that different writers used different terms to describe Vinland (including Vinland and Wine Land), making it hard to determine what was intended by a given passage.

Ten Things You Didnt Know About Leif Erikson
Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Leif Erikson

He did something right because more people have sailed out of Greenland than Iceland

The Vikings who settled Greenland established a colony on its western shore in AD 985. Known as Erik’s Land, it was a successful settlement until medieval times, when it died out after Viking rule across Europe collapsed. In contrast, Iceland was discovered at around that time and has been populated ever since. So why did Greenland flourish while Erik’s Land failed?

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He was definitely tall

According to his 11th-century saga, he was at least a head taller than other men and so good-looking that it was said there were no women who didn’t fall in love with him. He was destined for greatness: Born at Iceland’s Tjornum, while his father (Erik) sat on a high seat fletching arrows, baby Leif had an omen of greatness attached to him even as a child.

He may have been the first European to set foot on America’s shores (maybe)

Although it is widely disputed, a good number of historians agree that Erikson led one of three boats to land in modern-day Newfoundland and Labrador around 1000 A.D. If proven true, his arrival would predate Christopher Columbus’ by over 500 years! While there isn’t much solid evidence surrounding his landing site, or even if he actually made it to North America at all (as many believe he only reached present-day Nova Scotia), his trip was still an amazing achievement for its time.

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