Source
Scholastic News Online

Scholastic News Online is a free resource with breaking news and highlights from the print magazine.

Available for grades 1-6, Scholastic News magazine brings high-interest current events and nonfiction to millions of classrooms each week.

Additionally, our subscribers have FREE access to Scholastic News Interactive, an exclusive online learning tool featuring digital editions, videos, interactive features, differentiated articles, and much more.


Vikings were once known as the best sailors in Europe and navigated to the Americas even before Christopher Columbus. (Ted Spiegel / National Geographic / Getty Images)

Viking Mystery Solved

Archaeologists uncover the secret stone that Vikings used to navigate the seas

By Zach Jones | March 22 , 2013
<p>PHOTO: When a sunstone is held toward the sky, a yellowish line of light points to the sun. (Guy Ropars / AP Images)</p><p> MAP: Archaeologists found the shipwreck with the sunstone near the Channel Islands. (Jim McMahon)</p>

PHOTO: When a sunstone is held toward the sky, a yellowish line of light points to the sun. (Guy Ropars / AP Images)

MAP: Archaeologists found the shipwreck with the sunstone near the Channel Islands. (Jim McMahon)

Centuries before Christopher Columbus sailed toward North America, Vikings had already made the voyage. From the 8th to the 13th centuries, these seafaring explorers sailed from northern Europe to Russia, North Africa, and the Middle East. Vikings were once known as the best sailors in Europe, and now scientists may have found out why.

Legends from the time say that Viking sailors used a magical rock called a sunstone to help navigate (plan a path across) oceans and seas. But for hundreds of years, no one knew whether or not these rocks were real—until now.

A gem thought to be a sunstone was recently found in a British ship that sank near the Channel Islands in 1592 after a battle with a Spanish warship. What archaeologists found might not be magical, but it was certainly high-tech science for its time.

A GUIDING LIGHT

Long before Google Maps, GPS, or even compasses, ancient sailors used the sun and stars to determine their whereabouts while on open water. If stormy waters turned a ship around, the captain could guess where the ship should be pointing, based on where the sun was rising or setting.

But how can you tell which way is north or south when it’s night, or when clouds blanket the sky? Use a sunstone!

Sunstones allowed sailors to determine the exact location of a light source at any time. The stones were made from a type of crystal called Iceland spar, which is translucent. Something that is translucent is mostly see-through, allowing light to travel through the object.

Because of the shape in which Vikings cut the crystal, a yellowish line of light is visible when the stone is held toward the sky. Even when the sun has set or is hidden behind clouds, the yellow line will point to the sun’s exact location. This would allow sailors to tell which direction is north, south, east, or west and point their ship in the right direction.

“You don’t have to understand how it works,” says French researcher Albert Le Floch. “Using it is basically easy.”

The recently discovered sunstone was being used on the British ship even though the magnetic compass had been invented hundreds of years earlier. Le Floch believes sunstones were still being used throughout Europe long after the Viking age, because compasses often did not work correctly.

A recent study proved that people using a sunstone today could correctly predict where the sun was on a cloudy day. Le Floch now plans to combine a sunstone and a compass into a single gadget to help modern-day sailors navigate the seas without modern-day technology.

  • Teacher Store
  • The Teacher Store  
    Bones, Bones, Dinosaur Bones

    Bones, Bones, Dinosaur Bones

    by Byron Barton and Byron Barton

    There's something spectacular about Big Book versions of great children's stories. Both kids and adults love to touch and hold these oversized classics and savor the detail of the illustrations.

    Six young paleontologists diligently dig up bones, wrap and pack them, and reassemble the skeleton of Tyrannosaurus Rex in the natural history museum!

    $21.95 You save: 25%
    Big Book | Grades PreK-K
    Add To Cart
    Educators Only
    Bones, Bones, Dinosaur Bones
    Grades PreK-K $21.95
    Add To Cart
  • Scholastic Store
  • The Scholastic Store  
    Roman Town Computer Game

    Roman Town Computer Game

    by Dig-It Games

    An innovative educational computer game that lets players act as real archaeologists while immersing them in ancient history. Players excavate, analyze, explore and learn in this fun, interactive game.


    Bring History to life with the award-winning Roman Town. The only game that lets you be an archaeologist. This truly unique and innovative educational computer game turns players into real archaeologists while immersing them in ancient history. Created by a professional archaeologist and teacher, Roman Town brings history to life in a way no book or board game can. Real archaeology on your computer. 3D-rendered graphics submerge players in an authentic archaeological dig site and let players explore historically accurate ancient Roman buildings in the town of Fossura, (a Roman town destroyed in 79 AD by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius).

    Players excavate, analyze, explore and learn in this fun, interactive game. Roman Town lets you experience the thrill of uncovering ancient objects while learning real archaeological techniques. The dig is just the beginning. Fun puzzles and mini-games exercise puzzle skills as players study valuable artifacts. Along the way players interact with ancient Roman characters to solve mysterious secrets and learn what life was like for kids centuries ago.
    Requirements:
    OS: Windows 7, Vista, XP, Vista or 2000 (MAC version not currently available.)
    CPU: 800 Mhz
    RAM: 512 MB RAM
    Graphics: Open GL
    Hard Drive: 350 MB


    $9.97 You save: 67%
    audio, video and software;cd-rom;cd-rom | Ages 8 and Up
    Add To Cart
    Roman Town Computer Game
    Ages 8 and Up $9.97
Privacy Policy
EMAIL THIS

* YOUR FIRST NAME ONLY

* FRIEND'S FIRST NAME ONLY

* FRIEND'S EMAIL ADDRESS

MESSAGE
Here's something interesting from Scholastic.com