Did The Vikings Reach Ancient Mexico?

Steering oar at stern of Skidbladner, full size replica of the Gokstad ship at Brookpoint, Unst, Shetland Islands, Scotland, U.K. (Arterra/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

We know the Vikings were accomplished sailors who explored Iceland, Greenland, and Canada, but they may have made it even farther into the New World. It's possible, some researchers contend, that they sailed their mighty ships all the way to the Yucatan Peninsula, where they encountered the Ancient Mayan people.

Ari Marson

Ancient ruins in Newfoundland have been definitively tied to the Vikings, so we know they at least reached North America, and Norse sagas about the long voyage of a man named Ari Marson are eerily similar to Mayan legends. According to these tales, Marson set sail from what is now Ireland in 965 for Greenland, but a violent storm blew his ship off course. When he finally reached land, he encountered a population of friendly natives who nevertheless engaged in some practices Marson found questionable, specifically human sacrifice. This could have ended in a bloody ancient culture war, but Marson found common ground with the natives, teaching them some new skills and even founding a new city in this strange land. Marson lived with the native people for some time but eventually sailed his longboat back to Ireland.