Popular history has always framed Christopher Columbus as a hero of human civilization. Our culture worships the man: we’ve erected statues in his likeness and even carved out this Federal holiday in his name (an honor, otherwise only bestowed upon MLK, George Washington, and Jesus H. Christ himself). Because, after all, Columbus was that brave and most honorable Italian, who sailed the ocean blue, in 1492 and “discovered” a world, new.


Even ignoring the fact that Native Americans already lived here, Columbus wasn’t even the first European to traverse the Atlantic, land and establish settlements in the Americas. It was the Vikings (those sexy Nordic pagan badasses). They landed here some 500 years before Columbus was even born.

At least, that’s what Sarah Parcak, a space archeologist from Maine, may have discovered in southeastern Canada. By analyzing thousands of satellite images, looking for unnatural, man-made shapes on the ground, Parcack was able to pick out a structure on a remote island in Newfoundland. A structure, she says, that likely belonged to Viking settlers sometime around 1000 AD.

Parcack’s discovery was made in Canada, about 300 miles south of L’Anse aux Meadows, at a place called Point Rosee. In cooperation with Canadian experts and the science series NOVA, she employed satellites to scan sections of the Newfoundland coastline with high-res aerial photography. Lo and behold, in a spot that looked prime for a Viking settlement, Parcack found… a Viking settlement.

And, unfortunately for Chris Columbus, it could rewrite history as we know it.

“I am absolutely thrilled," Parcak told the BBC. “Typically in archaeology, you only ever get to write a footnote in the history books, but what we seem to have at Point Rosee may be the beginning of an entirely new chapter.”

When Parcak and her team moved into the remote site and started excavating, they discovered a turf wall (similar to those Vikings built in settlements across the North Atlantic). They also found a cracked and charred boulder, with piles of charcoal residue and bog iron beneath – clues indicative of iron smelting. Which was not something practiced by Native Americans, or other, later settlers of the region – but one that was common among Vikings.

“This new site could unravel more secrets about the Vikings,” she said, “And reveal that the Vikings dared to explore much further into the New World than we ever thought.”

And it will undoubtedly ignite an archeological gold rush along the Canadian coast, too. Where there is one settlement, there are sure to be signs of others. And if more such sites are uncovered, and they are proven beyond a shadow of a doubt to be Norse, it will open up a world of new research; new ideas and new questions: How far did the Vikings get? What were their interactions with the Natives like? And why weren’t their colonies successful? What happened to them?

As for the settlement at Point Rosee, fragments of broken pottery and torched buildings indicate that it was most likely raided, looted and destroyed. But by whom? There is no way of telling. Not yet at least.

Now, federal holidays are great and all. However, when they celebrate a genocidal, rapist, racist, greed monger like Columbus, well, maybe they could stand to be altered a bit. Especially in light of evidence that, the very reason the holiday was created in the first place is a total sham.

So, if you want to celebrate anything today, allow this recommendation: not Columbus. Celebrate Native Americans. Celebrate Sarah Parcack and her discovery at Point Rosee. Celebrate Vikings in all their badass glory.

Anything but that awful Italian.