Switch on Netflix, and one of the top shows worldwide is "Ancient Apocalypse." 

Hot on the trail of discovering "lost" civilizations is British author and a "historian" of questionable repute (we believe, at the Viking Herald, if you can't say something nice about someone, then don't say anything at all) Graham Hancock. 

The fact that a show that is littered with every crazy, wacko, and misinformed pseudohistorical theory can be so wildly popular presents us with an opportunity. 

We donned our tinfoil hats and dove into the books to pick out some of our favorite Viking-related pseudohistorical theories.

Beam me up, Sven!

There is a popular theory, amongst some ufologists, that Valhalla is, in fact, an alien spaceship. Yes, you read that correctly. 

Valhalla (Old Norse for the "Hall of the Slain") was a mythical hall where Odin summoned (with a little help from the Valkyries) the best and bravest warriors who had died in battle. There, they would do what Vikings obviously loved most – feasting, drinking, and brawling until the end of times (Ragnarök).

Scour any chatroom or Reddit sub-feed (guilty as charged), and you'll discover one of the interesting (crazy) theories. 

Some people have pointed out the similarities between extraterrestrial aliens "beaming" up humans and the Valkyries' selection post-battle. 

Furthermore, Valhalla is said to be a huge hall "floating" in the sky, described as having an almost metallic shine, complete with plenty of lights, which, for some people, sounds suspiciously like your typical alien spaceship... sorry, "Unidentified Aerial Phenomena," as we are supposed to call them nowadays...

Hello, hollow Earth

There have been many theories as to why the Norse settlement in Greenland, which lasted from the late 10th to early 15th century CE, collapsed. 

Did climate change play a part as the "Great Medieval Warm Period" changed into the "Little Ice Age" from the 14th century onwards? Was it Viking stubbornness and refusal to adapt, improvise and overcome climatic conditions and learn lessons from the Thule people who had lived there for centuries? 

When Greenland was resettled again, by the Kingdom of Denmark, from the early 18th century CE, people began to scratch their heads at what exactly had happened to the Norse settlers.
 
Greenland, on the very periphery of the European mindset in the early to the late medieval period, had always been a place of mystery. Aside from its geographic distance from the Viking "homeland" around the Scandinavian peninsula and the Baltic Sea, the harsh and unique climatic conditions seemed to add a layer of mystery. 

When a 14th century CE armed expedition, led by a Norwegian priest, returned home to Norway, they spoke of happy days a plenty in the Eastern settlement (Greenland had two Norse settlements – an eastern and western). 

A little over a century later, a merchant blown off course from Iceland found no sign of human habitation on either of the settlements.

If there is one thing that our medieval ancestors LOVED, it was a good pseudohistorical theory. Of course, they didn't call it or even know what one was. They, however, had a great deal of speculation about what happened to those poor Norse settlers in Greenland. 

Some occultists believed that an entry to the earth's inner realms may be found in Greenland, paving the way for the foundation of the "Thule Society." Illustration: The Viking Herald

Letters between famed cartographer Geradus Mercator and English occultist John Dee spoke of the strange natural phenomenon around the northern climes of Greenland. 

When a contemporary English explorer had, in the 1360s CE, traveled to Greenland, he spoke of 

"...a Whirl-pool … into which there empty these four Indrawing Seas which divide the North. And the water rushes round and descends into the Earth just as if one were pouring it through a filter funnel. It is four degrees wide on every side of the Pole, that is to say, eight degrees altogether. Except that right under the Pole there lies a bare Rock in the midst of the Sea..."

So here was land that not only had bizarre climatic conditions (which is true) but also appeared to "gobble up" human populations without a trace. 

Let this theory stew a couple of centuries more, and by the 17th century CE, we have what would become the "Hollow Earth Theory." 

In 1692 CE, Edmund Halley (yes, he of the comet fame) scribbled down a theory about the earth being made of "concentric circles" with an inner layer fit for human habitation. 

This theory was later popularized by a 19th century CE American merchant John Cleves Symes that declared the "earth is hollow" and wrote to governments worldwide about this "fact," helping push this theory worldwide for the first time.

A wealth of books, written in the first half of the 20th century CE, built on this theory to suggest that the Norse settlers had, in fact, entered the inner layers of "Hollow Earth." 

An entry point was given as the North Pole – due to its harsh and unique climatic conditions. It should be noted that some Nazi occultists also pointed out that an entry to the earth's inner realms may be found in Greenland, paving the way for the foundation of the "Thule Society."

There is no widespread agreement on exactly why the Norse settlement on Greenland failed – with the most plausible explanations consisting of a combination of climate change, attacks from indigenous populations, and a lack of adaptation – but we here at The Viking Herald can categorically rule out they went to live in a hole in the ground.

The Norse discovered America

This theory is both crazy pseudohistory and historically and archaeologically accurate, to an extent. Hang on, isn't that a bit contradictory? 

Well, the story is long for this one, so strap yourselves in. First and foremost, what is "America"? 

There are two continents – North and South America of which the United States of America is but one country. So, which America did the Vikings supposedly discover? 

Well, that depends on who you ask. For those who love actual history and solid, scientific facts, it should be noted that if anyone "discovered" either of the Americas, it was the ancestors of the indigenous populations that thrived throughout the continents until the advent of European settlement from the late 15th century CE onwards.

Many, however, have claimed that since the Vikings made it as far as Greenland, they *technically* discovered an America. Which they did. Sort of. 

Furthermore, up until the 1960s, any talk of the Vikings reaching the North American mainland (Greenland is connected to the continent of North America but not the mainland itself) would have got you the cold shoulder from a historian. 

Yet it was in this decade that a Norwegian husband and wife archaeological team discovered the remains of a Viking settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows on the island of Newfoundland, Canada

This radically changed the traditional historical narrative about not only the scope of the Viking world but also conclusively pushed European exploration of the Americas back to the early medieval period.

Vikings were the first Europeans to set foot on the North American continent - but they did not discover it. Illustration: The Viking Herald

Hang on – so- if they were constructing a settlement in Northeastern America during the Viking Age (c. 793 – 1066 CE), then surely they did "discover" North America? 

Well, this theory tends to ignore the fact that the local indigenous population (who are descended from the Thule people, a proto-Inuit population that inhabited areas of Northeast America for centuries and had reached Greenland by the 13th century CE) were already living there. 

People have been flooding into the Americas ever since the Behring Strait was last frozen over, oh, sometime between 26,000 - 19,000 years ago. 

However, the Vikings can lay claim to beating Christopher Columbus and other European "voyages of discovery" by more than five centuries as recent radiocarbon dating of the Norse settlement on Newfoundland has found a mean date of many buildings in the settlement constructed in approximately 1000 CE.

Finally, with huge swathes of Scandinavians emigrating to the United States and Canada during the 19th century CE, the "Norse discovery of America" was just another way for an immigrant group to cling onto to historical and cultural traditions whilst homesick. 

So, did the Vikings discover America? 

No, but they were the first Europeans to set foot on the North American continent...that we know of today...

For the sake of balance, however, let us leave the last word to that famous American author, Mark Twain, who once quipped that "Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't."

Science Magazine has recently published an article on the role that climate change played in the disappearance of a Norse settlement on Greenland, available to read here

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