Died: c. 1020
Best known as: The Viking settler who found North America before Columbus
Leif Ericson was the son of Eric the Red and an explorer in his own right, credited with crossing the Atlantic and landing on the American continent 500 years before Christopher Columbus set sail. What little is known about "Leif the Lucky" comes mostly from the tales Saga of Eric and Tale of the Greenlanders, stories that appeared around 200 years after his voyages. Of Norwegian descent, Leif was raised in Iceland and Greenland, and sometime before 1000 sailed to North America and founded a settlement called Vinland (because of grapes found there). The translations of the stories from Norse into English, in the 1830s, spurred speculation about where precisely Vinland had been. Guesses ranged from Virginia to Labrador and Newfoundland; in the 1960s, evidence of a settlement was found at L'Anse aux Meadows, on the northern tip of Newfoundland, but it has not been conclusive that this was "Vinland." Leif was said to have been brave and magnanimous, and is thought to have died around 1020.
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