For many decades, if not centuries, the whispers of Viking voyages to the New World were met with skepticism. Supposed finds were written off as misidentifications or hoaxes. The old Norse sagas and their documenting of the voyages were considered fanciful legends. Then the ruins were found in Canada that turned the legends into history. Yet there still has been a great reluctance to examine any potential Viking evidences. Why?
Perhaps it’s a response to those who have tried to turn possible pre-Columbus explorers into reasons to explain away any advanced native civilizations (like the mound builders). Or those who would weave tales to support their beliefs at the expense of the original inhabitants of these lands. So these extreme views produce the extreme view at the other end of no significant contact prior to 1492.
A more scholarly approach would be to realize that the likelihood of the people of the Americas remaining isolated for thousands of years is highly improbable. After all, they found their way here, didn’t they? Contact doesn’t mean they didn’t predominately build their societies on their own. However, no peoples of the world go many millennia without outside influence of any sort.
In Rhode Island there is a relic known as the Newport Tower that has stood for centuries. For much of this time Vikings were seen as probable builders. Historians have long tried to attribute the ruin to the first governor of the state, but he never claimed to have built it, only to have owned the land it sits on.
It is also interesting to note that Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano located a “Norman Villa” on a 1527 map drawn from his voyages in the region. This inconvenient problem is often overlooked by those hoping the tower doesn’t predate Columbus and has never been adequately explained away by opponents.
For a detailed review of the Newport Tower and its history, go here.