The Vikings were the most powerful people in northwestern Europe for
nearly five centuries from about AD 800. Their longships were fast and
sleek. Powered by sail or oars, they were ideally suited for raiding because
their shallow draught meant that they could travel up estuaries and rivers.
The Vikings traveled from Norway east to the Black Sea and west to found
colonies in Iceland and Greenland. The Norse sagas tell us that the explorer
Leif Ericsson went farther, becoming the first European to set foot in North
America, when he reached New Foundland or “Vinland” around the year