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NOVA: Vikings Unearthed

Airs Wednesday, April 6, 2016 at 9 p.m. & Sunday, April 17 at 2:30 p.m. on KPBS TV

CGI 1 reconstruction graphics depicting skeletons of dead Vikings in a longship.

Credit: Courtesy of BBC

Above: CGI 1 reconstruction graphics depicting skeletons of dead Vikings in a longship.

PBS’s award-winning science series NOVA reveals what may be the first new Viking site discovered in North America in over 50 years. A groundbreaking co-production investigating the truth behind the legends of the Vikings and their epic journey to North America unveils the find and follows the search for evidence at what could be the furthest known point of the entire Viking expansion. NOVA’s two-hour special, "Vikings Unearthed," traces their dramatic exploits in Europe, their extraordinary voyages across the Atlantic and the incredible story of the new discovery.

Photo credit: Courtesy of BBC

Viking re-enactors take part in the annual Up Helly Aa festivities in Lerwick, Shetland.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Freddie Claire/BBC

Dr. Doug Bolender, Dr. Sarah Parcak and historian Dan Snow on site in Point Rosee, Newfoundland.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Compost Creative/BBC

CGI reconstruction depicting a Viking camp.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Compost Creative/BBC

The Vikings earned a reputation as ruthless raiders and murderers, slaughtering monks, setting fire to flourishing monasteries and making off with precious booty, as depicted in this CGI reconstruction.

Who Were the Vikings?

In this interview, Smithsonian archeologist William Fitzhugh reveals what drove the Vikings on their adventures to distant shores.

Write Your Name In Runes

See your name spelled in runes and learn the meaning of each of the letters in the Viking alphabet.

Delve into the history of the Norse writing system.

While infamous for their fearsome conquests, the Vikings were also expert seafarers, skilled traders, and courageous explorers who travelled far and wide from Scandinavia to Europe and into Asia. To date, we know of only one other Viking site in North America, found in the 1960s on the very northern tip of Newfoundland, at L’Anse aux Meadows. The discovery rewrote history; for centuries no one knew for sure if the Norse had actually made it to America, as suggested in the Vinland sagas. But are there more?

Using satellite technology, excavation and investigation of archaeological evidence, space archaeologist Dr. Sarah Parcak (National Geographic Fellow, University of Alabama at Birmingham, and winner of the TED 2016 prize), archaeologist Douglas Bolender (University of Massachusetts, Boston), historian Dan Snow and a team of leading experts from around the globe have discovered, excavated and examined a new archaeological site at Point Rosee, located in southern Newfoundland. The new site is the first found in 55 years that has merited closer examination and excavation. It could be the beginning of an exciting period of discovery revealing new insights into the remarkable journeys of the Vikings, who were the first Europeans to set foot in North America — 500 years before Columbus.

Dr. Parcak uses high-resolution imagery from satellites positioned approximately 478 miles above the earth to spot ruins as small as 11 inches buried beneath the surface — making objects that were once invisible, visible. Through stunning CGI recreations, satellite imagery analysis, and careful investigation of archaeological evidence, the film gives viewers an up close look as the team hunts for answers and sets out to unravel the secrets of these intrepid adventurers and examine just how far into the New World they dared to explore.

In addition to uncovering the new site, the production explores the rich cultural heritage of the Vikings, including their colorful historical and mythical tales. Led by historian Dan Snow, the team learns how Vikings voyaged thousands of miles on the rough open seas of the North Atlantic—during a time when most other ships never left the shoreline—by sailing and navigating on an exact replica of an 11th century Viking ship. Snow also tracks their expansion west—first as raiders, then as settlers and traders—throughout Britain and beyond to Iceland and Greenland. He uncovers evidence that the Vikings were not just rapacious raiders, but shrewd entrepreneurs whose trading empire stretched from the Caspian Sea in the East all the way to North America.

NOVA "Vikings Unearthed"—called "The Vikings Uncovered" on BBC One in the U.K.—is part of the multi-title co-production deal between PBS, BBC, and BBC Worldwide North America, which was announced in Jan. 2015. The partnership delivers a pipeline of inspiring content across the full range of factual genres, including natural history, science, history, religion and the arts. This is a BBC Production with PBS, NOVA/WGBH Boston and France Television. Executive Producer for BBC is Eamon Hardy. Vice President, Programming and Development for PBS is Bill Gardner. Senior Executive Producer for NOVA is Paula S. Apsell. Deputy Executive Producer for NOVA is Julia Cort.

Past episodes of NOVA are available for online viewing. NOVA is on Facebook, and you can follow @novapbs on Twitter.

Viking Unearthed Sneak Peek

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