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Thread: The Norse Settlements in Greenland

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    Quote Originally Posted by Æmeric View Post
    I'm sure some of them left the Greenland colony but where would they go? Conditions were also bad in Iceland & Norway which suffered steep populaton declines during the Little Ice Age. Would newcomers have been welcomed there? It's possible some of them went to North America & were obsorbed by Indian tribes.
    It will be always a mystery because we lack source, but whats finally the most important conclusion which can be drawn of it, is the general consensus, that neither Nordoids nor their Germanic-European way of life they had at that time, including their plants and domestic animals, were made for the cold

    When they arrived, the climate was friendlier and warmer, so they could survive there, even though they never really flourished and some authors argued, they should have tried to go to America with all ressources, using Greenland as a secondary base from the beginning. What they didnt actually. Greenland was in no way a good habitat for Europids - especially not when the "Little Ice Age" began, which hit all progressive Europid racial strains and higher cultural groups in all of Europe hard and lead to negative racial developments, furthered Alpinisation and Baltisation f.e.

    From what we know from Iceland and Greenland as well is, that on both islands the people shrunk, became more often sick and many died off - even on Iceland there was a bottleneck and on Greenland this bottleneck was too small for the population to survive at all. Probably single individuals went to the Inuits - but I doubt even that. From the historical record we know that the area was abandoned and the situation of those who died, their skeletal remains make it clear too, namely that they were done.
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    What Happened to the Greenland Norse?





    Located west of Iceland, Greenland is a vast ice-capped continent 1700 miles long and 700 miles wide, fringed by a thin strip of mountainous terrain. Most of this land is frigid arctic tundra, but around A.D.985, Erik the Red discovered two areas of southwest Greenland which were suitable for farming, with grasslands and small stands of alder and birch. He named this land Greenland "so that people would be encouraged to go there," and indeed many followed him to this new land. The colonies flourished for three hundred years. Farms proliferated; animal and human populations grew quickly. Its peak population reached nearly 5000 Norse, who lived in two colonies in southwestern Greenland, called the Eastern and Western Settlements. Then, environmental, economic, and social conditions began to worsen until, only a few decades before Columbus arrived in America, they disappeared.
    The disappearance of the Norse colonies in Greenland is the outstanding unsolved mystery of the Viking's North Atlantic saga. After more than two hundred and fifty years of study by historians, archeologists, and natural scientists, there are clues but no firm answers. What happened to the Greenland Norse? A range of factors-cooling climate, declining trade relations, over-grazing of soil, cultural taboos against eating certain foods, competition with Inuit, emigration, taxation by the crown and church-all contributed to the decline. No single event seems to have spelled the end, but rather the complex web in which the Greenlanders were caught.

    http://www.mnh.si.edu/vikings/voyage...greenland.html


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    It's quite possible that the Inuit natives (who btw, only reached Greenland after the Vikings had already settled it) slaughtered the lot of them.

    Here's what Jared Diamond (from a general conversation on how societies collapse) has the say on the matter, and whether you agree with him or not, his theories make interesting reading;

    My next to last example involves Norse Greenland. As the Vikings began to expand over and terrorise Europe in their raids. The Vikings also settled six islands in the North Atlantic. So we have to compare not 80 islands as in the Pacific, but 6 islands. Viking settlements survived on Orkney, Shetland, Faeroe and Iceland, albeit it with severe problems due to environmental damage on Iceland. The Vikings arrived in Greenland, settled Greenland AD 984, where they established a Norwegian pastoral economy, based particularly on sheep, goats and cattle for producing dairy products, and then they also hunted caribou and seal. Trade was important. The Vikings in Greenland hunted walruses to trade walrus ivory to Norway because walrus ivory was in demand in Europe for carving, since at that time with the Arab conquest, elephant ivory was no longer available in Europe. Vikings vanished in the 1400s. There were two settlements; one of them disappeared around 1360 and the other sometime probably a little after 1440. Everybody ended up dead.

    The vanishing of Viking Greenland is instructive because it involves all five of the factors that I mentioned, and also because there’s a detailed, written record from Norway, a bit from Iceland and just a few fragments from Greenland: a written record describing what people were doing and describing what they were thinking. So we know something about their motivation, which we don’t know for the Anasazi and the Easter Islanders.

    Of the five factors, first of all there was ecological damage due to deforestation in this cold climate with a short growing season, cutting turf, soil erosion. The deforestation was especially expensive to the Norse Greenlanders because they required charcoal in order to smelt iron to extract iron from bogs. Without iron, except for what they could import in small quantities from Norway, there were problems in getting iron tools like sickles. It got to be a big problem when the Inuit, who had initially been absent in Greenland, colonised Greenland and came into conflict with the Norse. The Norse then had no military advantage over the Inuit. It was not guns, germs and steel. The Norse of Greenland had no guns, very little steel, and they didn’t have the nasty germs. They were fighting with the Inuit on terms of equality, one people with stone and wooden weapons against another.

    So problem No.1, ecological damage, problem No.2, climate change. The climate in Greenland got colder in the late 1300s and early 1400s as part of what’s called the Little Ice Age, cooling of the North Atlantic. Hay production was a problem. Greenland was already marginal because it’s high latitude short growing season, and as it got colder, the growing season got even shorter, hay production got less, and hay was the basis of Norse sustenance. Thirdly, the Norse had military problems with their neighbours the Inuit. For example, the only detailed example we have of an Inuit attack on the Norse is that the Icelandic annals of the years 1379 say ‘In this year the scralings (which is an old Norse word meaning wretches, the Norse did not have a good attitude towards the Inuit), the wretches attacked the Greenlanders and killed 18 men and captured a couple of young men and women as slaves.’ Eighteen men doesn’t seem like a big deal in this century of body counts of tens of millions of people, but when you consider the population of Norse Greenland at the time, probably about 4,000 people, 18 adult men stands in the same proportion to the Norse population then as if some outsiders were to come into the United States today and in one raid kill 1,700,000 adult male Americans. So that single raid by the Inuit did make a big deal to the Norse, and that’s just the only raid that we know about.

    Fourthly, there was the cut-off of trade with Europe because of increasing sea-ice, with a cold climate in the North Atlantic. The ships from Norway gradually stopped coming. Also as the Mediterranean reopened Europeans got access again to elephant ivory, and they became less interested in the walrus ivory, so fewer ships came to Greenland. And then finally cultural factors, the Norse were derived from a Norwegian society that was identified with pastoralism, and particularly valued calves. In Greenland it’s easier to feed and take care of sheep and goats than calves, but calves were prized in Greenland, so the Norse chiefs and bishops were heavily invested in the status symbol of calves. The Norse, because of their bad attitude towards the Inuit did not adopt useful Inuit technology, so the Norse never adopted harpoons, hence they couldn’t eat whales like the Inuit. They didn’t fish, incredibly, while the Inuit were fishing. They didn’t have dog sleighs, they didn’t have skin boats, they didn’t learn from the Inuit how to kill seals at breeding holes in the winter. So the Norse were conservative, had a bad attitude towards the Inuit, they built churches and cathedrals, the remains of the Greenland cathedral is still standing today at Gardar. It’s as big as the cathedral of Iceland, and the stone churches, some of the three-stone churches in Greenland are still standing. So this was a society that invested heavily in their churches, in importing stained-glass windows and bronze bells for the churches, when they could have been importing more iron to trade to the Inuit, to get seals and whale meat in exchange for the iron.

    "Greenland then is particularly instructive in showing us that collapse due to environmental reasons isn’t inevitable. It depends upon what you do."

    So there were cultural factors also while the Norse refused to learn from the Inuit and refused to modify their own economy in a way that would have permitted them to survive. And the result then was that after 1440 the Norse were all dead, and the Inuit survived. Greenland then is particularly instructive in showing us that collapse due to environmental reasons isn’t inevitable. It depends upon what you do. Here are two peoples and one did things that let them survive, and the other things did not permit them to survive.

    There are a series of factors that make people more or less likely to perceive environmental problems growing up around them. One is misreading previous experience. The Greenlanders came from Norway where there’s a relatively long growing season, so the Greenlanders didn’t realise, based on their previous experience, how fragile Greenland woodlands were going to be. The Greenlanders had the difficulty of extracting a trend from noisy fluctuations; yes we now know that there was a long-term cooling trend, but climate fluctuates wildly up and down n Greenland from year to year; cold, cold, warm, cold. So it was difficult for a long time perceive that there was any long-term trend. That’s similar to the problems we have today with recognising global warming. It’s only within the last few years that even scientists have been able to convince themselves that there is a global long-term warming trend. And while scientists are convinced, the evidence is not yet enough to convince many of our politicians.

    Problem No. 3, short time scale of experience. In the Anasazi area, droughts come back every 50 years, in Greenland it gets cold every 500 years or so; those rare events are impossible to perceive for humans with a life span of 40, 50, 70 years. They’re perceptible today but we may not internalise them. For example, my friends in the Tucson area. There was a big drought in Tucson about 40 years ago. The city of Tucson almost over-draughted its water aquifers and Tucson went briefly into a period of water conservation, but now Tucson is back to building big developments and golf courses and so Tucson will have trouble with the next drought.

    Fourthly the Norse were disadvantaged by inappropriate cultural values. They valued cows too highly just as modern Australians value cows and sheep to a degree appropriate to Scotland but inappropriate to modern Australia. And Australians now are seriously considering whether to abandon sheep farming completely as inappropriate to the Australian environment.

    Finally, why would people perceive problems but still not solve their own problems?
    A theme that emerges from Norse Greenland as well as from other places, is insulation of the decision making elite from the consequences of their actions. That is to say, in societies where the elites do not suffer from the consequences of their decisions, but can insulate themselves, the elite are more likely to pursue their short-term interests, even though that may be bad for the long-term interests of the society, including the children of the elite themselves.

    In the case of Norse Greenland, the chiefs and bishops were eating beef from cows and venison and the lower classes were left to eating seals and the elite were heavily invested in the walrus ivory trade because of let them get their communion gear and their Rhineland pottery and the other stuff that they wanted. Even though in the long run, what was good for the chiefs in the short run was bad for society. We can see those differing insulations of the elite in the modern world today.
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    I don't think that there is any doubt that it was a number of factors that contributed to the fall of Greenland's Viking descendents. The Fate of Greenland's Vikings by Dale Mackenzie Brown covers many of the same things that others have said. Everything winds up overlapping when discussing their downfall, including conditions on the continent.

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    I would certainly take issue with Jared Diamonds account though he makes a good case.
    A chronology of events in Greenland during its decline are as follows.
    1342, Chronicles record the Greenlanders had gone over to the heathens?
    1347, A ship was recorded as blown off course to Ireland loaded with timber bound from Markland (Canada) to Greenland.
    1349 Plague is recorded in Norway.
    1350 The Western settlement was abandoned.
    1363 Directions to Greenland were published.
    1369 a Greenland ship is recorded as sinking
    1377 A bishop visited Greenland.
    1379 18 Norse are recorded as killed by eskimos.
    1385 some traders were stuck for two years.
    1386 The middle settlement was abandoned.
    1406 some Icelanders drifted ashore in Greenland and were stuck for four years.
    1410 Greenland still managed to trade with Norway.
    1418 English slavers are recorded as raiding Greenland for slaves.
    1450 Trade goods were still recorded as getting through between Norway and Greenland.
    1458 Maps show Greenland as a land of Heathens.
    1476 Penning and Pothorst visited Greenland
    1478 English slavers are driven out of Iceland.
    1490 English fishermen and traders are recorded in "New Foundland"
    1492 America discovered by Columbus.

    I have a good book "England and the discovery of America" by David Beers Quinn. George Allen Unwin. London 1974.
    This postulates that the Bristol traders of England and their fishing fleet had secret knowledge about the existence of the Grand banks fishing grounds and New foundland from an early date. There are accounts of both Icelanders in Bristol prior to columbus along with slaves from Greenland.
    It is speculated commercial knowledge would almost certainly be a closely gaurded secret but it is very likely Columbus got his knowledge by hearing rumours of trade networks in the North Atlantic.
    The above Chronology shows that as late as 1347 there were lumber camps being run in North America by the Greenlanders and that for over 60 years English slavers were operating in the North Atlantic.

    What happened to the Greenlanders?
    Analysis of middens shows a decline in diet including dog, horse etc showing evidence of starvation. There was little evidence of sea food being eaten showing skills had been lost. The hypothesis being that the church was prohibiting the hunting and eating of wild animals. This is in contrast to the eskimo middens of the same date that have an abundance of game, fish and etc.
    Analysis of fly remains in old abandoned Norse settlements shows a change from debris eating species to carrion eating species. Some at least of the Norse Greenlanders died in their beds.
    Analysis of Norse skeletal remains towards the end shows a decrease in stature to below 5ft tall, along with an increase in inner ear disease.

    A sad end but its not impossible that many got out. Some may have moved to North America. Tales of blue-eyed Indians were common early on in th English colonisation. Some of the blue eyed "Indians" indicated that once they too had books. The presumption that the Greenlnaders were a literate people as were the Icelanders.
    Eskimo tales of the period tell of Pirates carrying off the Greenlanders and leaving the odd Norse woman and child behind. Perhaps he Greenlanders ended up in England.
    Perhaps some perished trying to get back to Iceland. Perhaps some did but were never recorded. Then there are the tales of the Knights Templars that they too disappeared somewhere into the North Atlantic in 1312 with a vast treasure and naval fleet. a great subject.



    Analysis of

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    First of all I'm a skeptic on the subject of the paranormal and dreams. However I'm also a spiritual lady and follow the Odinic path. I also like interprating dreams but they are always my guessing games. Sometimes I have instuition about a particular subject and I don't rely on it for cold hard facts but I do listen to it. I've had a vision of the Greenland Norse peoples. They went there for the same reasons they travelled to other places. They did so for a variety of reasons, mainly to settle and trade. How many times have these people suffered pnuemonia or influenza? A number of times. This didn't kill them off but something else did and it was a small plague that only affected them and not the other people living on the same island (the Inuit). There wasn't a big population of Greenland Norse but a scattering of small groups otherwise some would've survived.

    There are other mysteries on the planet regarding missing people such as the original Easter Islanders but should they also matter to us or not? I feel that was a different mystery to the tragic Greenland Norse. There isn't much evidence to go by except theories and Inuit stories.

    Here is a site on the Archeology of the Fated Greenlanders:
    http://www.archaeology.org/online/features/greenland/

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    Did Elephants doom the Norse in Greenland?

    A new article is examining the theory that Greenland's medieval Norse settlements were ruined by the collapse of the trade in walrus tusks, after ivory from elephants became more easily accessible for artisans in Europe.

    In her article, "Desirable teeth: the medieval trade in Arctic and African ivory," Kirsten Seaver criticizes that idea, and puts forward her own theory about why the Norse settlers mysteriously vanished from Greenland sometime during the 15th century.

    In 1998, Danish archaeologist Else wrote an article which suggested that in the beginning of the fourteenth century, a surplus of reasonably priced elephant ivory from Africa caused ivory from walrus tusks to lose its market share, which were so catastrophic that it eventually led to the collapse of the entire Norse Greenland colony.

    Ivory has been a prized commodity in Europe and Asia since antiquity, with ports along the north African coast controlling much of the trade. When Norse settlers arrived in Greenland during in the 10th century, they soon found that walrus ivory could be a profitable trade.

    Roesdahl believes that this trade went through Norway and would have been a cheaper alternative to elephant ivory. Several carved tusks have been found among the treasures of European rulers, particularly Scandinavian kings.

    But this trade floundered by the fourteenth century, according to Roesdahl, as trade between Africa and Europe grew, allowing for more elephant ivory to be exported to the continent. Seaver disputes the notion that this would have undermined the Greenland walrus trade.

    She writes, "Prior to 1500, it is highly unlikely that there was a drop in the price of elephant ivory capable of displacing walrus tusks in the market, even in periods when more African ivory appears to have been reaching European workshops. It is far more likely that, during periods of increased supply in response to European demand, the price of African ivory would have risen in step with the available quantities, because the transportation costs arising from Africa’s immense distances."

    Seaver adds in her own theory about the fall of the Norse colony, linking it to the increased activities of English fishermen in the North Atlantic. During the 15th century, the English were particularly interested in catching fish for food, in particularly cod, and were sailing out further outwards to find stocks. Seaver believes that the Norse in Greenland may have been attracted to this trade, and shifted their settlements to be closer to better fishing grounds.

    Seaver believes that large numbers of Greenlanders may have even tried to develop settlements in Labrador, with English support, which proved to be disastrous, as the climate in that portion of northern Canada was much more hostile than even in Greenland.

    "If the Norse Greenlanders migrated west to a stretch of Labrador chosen by others," Seaver writes, "as it appears likely that they did, they may have ended up on the bottom of the Davis Strait before even reaching the other shore, or they may have perished during their first winter in the new land from new diseases, from starvation, or simply from the bitter cold."
    http://medievalnews.blogspot.com/200...greenland.html

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