Painting by Carl Rasmussen: Summer in the Greenland coast circa year 1000

In the year 1000, the Vikings became the first Europeans to set foot in North America. A few years later, they began trading fur pelts with an Indigenous group, possibly the Ancestral Beothuk, in exchange for red cloth and other items.

This was one of the many trading networks that were being established simultaneously at that moment in history, around the year 1000. And by making it across the Atlantic and connecting East to West, the Vikings had “closed the global loop,” historian Valerie Hansen says, when they established trade with Indigenous peoples in North America.

It was the first time in history that hypothetically, an item that was traded almost anywhere in the world could have made it to almost any other part of the world.

Hansen is the author of The…

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