Other Vikings sailed west and discovered Iceland. In about 980, Erik the Red sailed farther west with about 300 settlers to begin a settlement on ice-covered land he called Greenland. The Vikings remained for more than four hundred years until Greenland’s climate turned colder. The land could no longer produce food, so the Vikings abandoned their settlements and returned home.
Viking legends indicate that Erik’s son, Leif Eriksson, sailed west to reach North America. The Vikings called their North American settlement Vinland, or “land of the grapes.” Archeological evidence from a site in Newfoundland, Canada, known as L’Anse aux Meadows indicates traces of a Scandinavian settlement. Evidence indicates the Vikings abandoned Vinland after about 35 years. Many historians suggest that Christopher Columbus heard the legends of the Vikings and knew of the possibility of a “New World” when he set sail to find Asia in 1492.
Some Vikings enriched themselves by demanding that communities they threatened pay a bribe to be spared an attack. The English and the Franks raised taxes called the Danegeld (Dane Gold) to pay tribute to the Viking raiders and save their land from ravaging.
In time, Vikings transformed from fierce marauders to settled people who turned their attention to domestic pursuits such as farming. Over time, various Viking groups gave up their polytheistic religion and adopted Christianity. One group of Vikings, called the Normans, settled in northwest France. In 1066, the Normans invasion of England became a turning point in European history.
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Mr. Donn has an excellent website that includes a section on the Middle Ages.