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Did The Vikings Reach Ancient Mexico?


 We know that the Vikings were accomplished sailors who explored Iceland, Greenland, and Canada, but they made it even further to the New World. It is possible, some researchers argue, that they carried their powerful ships to the Yucatan Peninsula, where they encountered the ancient Maya people.

Ari Marson

Ancient ruins in Newfoundland are certainly tied to Vikings, so we know they reached at least North America, and the Norse sagas about the long journey of a man named Eri Marsan are very similar to Maya legends. According to these stories, Marsan sailed from Ireland for Greenland in 965, but a violent storm blew up his ship. When he finally reached the land, he encountered a population of friendly natives, who nonetheless engaged in certain practices Marsan found suspicious, particularly human sacrifice. It may have ended in a bloody ancient culture war, but Marsan found common ground with the natives, taught them some new skills and even found a new city in this strange land. Marsan stayed with the native people for some time but eventually went back to Ireland in his long boat.

Quetzalcoatl as depicted in the Post-Conquest Tovar Codex.

Maya Version

Maya lore is full of friendly, pale foreigners, which is why the natives met with little resistance when the Spanish Conquistadors landed in what is now Mexico in 1519, but the legend of Quetzalcoatl probably bears the most resemblance to Marson. Quetzalcoatl was said to be a fair-skinned deity who arrived in Yucatan on a raft made of serpents (Viking ships were often decorated to look like dragons). The Maya people banned human sacrifice when Quetzalcoatl expressed their displeasure at the practice, learned metalworking from them, and built the city of Tula together. Interestingly, tulle was the name of Scandinavia in the medieval era.

El Castillo (Pyramid of Kukulcán) in Chichen Itza.

Chichen Itza

A mural found in the ancient ruins of Chichen Itza in the Yucatán may also provide some evidence of Viking explorers traveling to Mexico. The mural, which dates to between 600 and 900 CE, shows people of Aztec, Maya and Scandinavian descent. Scandinavian men seem to be in bondage to the Aztecs, suggesting that they were defeated by them, so it seems likely that not every Viking encounter with these natives was so friendly. We may never know the truth about the Vikings in ancient Mexico, but it is possible that there is much more to America's history than we know.

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