Leif Eriksson (Icelandic Leifur Eiríksson ['lɛiːvʏr 'ɛi:riksɔn], Old Norse Leifr Eiríksson; b. c. 970 in Iceland; † c. 1020) was an Icelandic explorer. His nickname is "the lucky one." He was the first European to set foot on the American mainland around the year 1000.
Leif Eriksson was born around 970 as son of Erik the Red and his wife Thjodhild (possibly before the baptism Thorhild). Since the land seizure in Greenland began around 986, the presumed date of birth assumes a birth in Iceland.
The discovery of America by Leif Eriksson is described differently in the two "Vinland sagas":
According to the Eiríks saga rauða, he sailed from Greenland to Norway around the year 1000 to be accepted at the royal court. After this was successful, he discovered unknown land on his return journey to Greenland, saved shipwrecked people and converted the Grænlendingar to Christianity after his arrival.
On another voyage to the newly discovered land, Leif and others explored other areas on the North American coast, including Helluland, Markland, and finally Vinland. The geographic assignment of these areas is disputed. Because of the findings at L'Anse aux Meadows, Vinland is often equated with Newfoundland.
According to the Grænlendinga saga (Greenland saga), Bjarni Herjólfsson discovered these areas when he was searching for Greenland, although the latter was also known to him only from descriptions.
However, he did not go ashore in the newly discovered areas. After Leif Eriksson learned of the areas, he undertook a voyage there and wintered there. Since he also entered and explored the land, unlike Bjarni Herjólfsson, he is considered the discoverer of these areas.
The discovery is also mentioned by Adam of Bremen in the Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum.
That that fertile land, which the Grænlendingar discovered in the west and called Vinland, was on the North American continent and the Scandinavians thus reached America, or more precisely Newfoundland, is now archaeologically certain.
The remains of a Scandinavian settlement on Newfoundland at L'Anse aux Meadows, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978, bear witness to this. The Vinland map, demonstrably recognized as a forgery, has no historical source value. The information it contains is already known from written sources.