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Part of Abraham Ortelius atlas from 1570, showing "Norvmbega" among other more or less mythical names for various areas (as well as several phantom islands).

Norumbega (or Norumbègue, Nurumbega, etc) was a legendary settlement in northeastern North America, inextricably connected with attempts to demonstrate Viking incursions in New England.[1][2][3] Like Cathay, it was a semi-legendary place name used to fill a gap in existing geographical knowledge.

An early reference was that of the French pilot Jean Allefonsce (1542) who reported that he had coasted south from Newfoundland and had discovered a great river. "The river is more than 40 leagues wide at its entrance and retains its width some thirty or forty leagues. It is full of Islands, which stretch some ten or twelve leagues into the sea. ... Fifteen leagues within this river there is a town called Norombega, with clever inhabitants, who trade in furs of all sorts; the town folk are dressed in furs, wearing sable. ... The people use many words which sound like Latin. They worship the sun. They are tall and handsome in form. The land of Norombega lie high and is well situated." (DeCosta, 1890)" (pg. 99).

It often appeared on European maps of North America, lying south of Acadia somewhere in what is now New England. Norumbega was thought to be a large, rich Native city, and by extension the region surrounding it. The name connoted a romantic antiquity that New England appeared to lack: in 1886 Joseph Stearns, the inventor of the duplex telegraphy system, built his "Norumbega Castle", which still stands in Camden, Maine. In the late 19th century, Eben Norton Horsford made some attempts to link the name and legend of Norumbega to actual indigenous archaeological sites or even to alleged Viking settlements. Much literature was written concerning Norumbega but without conclusive results. The 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica identified Bangor, Maine as the site of Norumbega, citing "some antiquarians".

The word "Norumbega" was originally spelled Oranbega in Girolamo da Verrazzano's 1529 map of America, and the word is believed to derive from one of the Algonquian languages spoken in New England. It is often cited as meaning "quiet place between the rapids" or "quiet stretch of water".

References and notes

External links

Further reading

  • DeCosta, B.F. 1890. Ancient Norumbega, or the voyages of Simon Ferdinando and John Walker to the Penobscot River, 1579-1580. Joel Munsell's Sons, Albany, NY
  • R. H. Ramsay, 1972. No Longer on the Map'
  • Baker, Emerson W., Churchill, Edwin A., D'Abate, Richard S., Jones, Kristine L., Konrad, Victor A. and Prins, Harald E.L., editors, 1994. American beginnings: Exploration, culture, and cartography in the land of Norumbega (University of Nebraska Press)
  • Diamond, Sigmund. (April 1951). "Norumbega: New England xanadu" in The American Neptune vol. 11. pp. 95–107.
  • 1941 edition of the Columbia Encyclopedia


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