On the Vikings and Greenland

Discussions on the Viking settlements on Greenland are seen from time to time on WUWT, and its is often in the context of the Medieval Warm Period. While this article from the University of Alberta is a few years old, I thought I’d provide it for our readers interest.

The Viking farm under the sand in Greenland

by Terese Brasen

in Greenlandin Greenland


April 23, 2001 – In 1991, two caribou hunters stumbled over a log on a snowy Greenland riverbank, an unusual event because Greenland is above the tree line. Closer investigation uncovered rock-hard sheep droppings. The hunters had stumbled on a 500-year-old Viking farm that lay hidden beneath the sand, gift-wrapped and preserved by nature for future archaeologists.

Gården under Sandet or GUS, Danish for ‘the farm under the sand,’ would become the first major Viking find in Greenland since the 1920s.

“GUS is beautifully preserved because, once it was buried, it was frozen,” explained University of Alberta anthropologist Dr. Charles Schweger. “Things that are perishable and normally disappear are found at GUS.”

A specialist in Arctic paleo-ecology and geo-archeology, Schweger joined the international archaeological team that would spend the next seven years sifting through sand at GUS.

The famous Viking, Eric the Red, probably didn’t know where he was headed when, adrift on the North Atlantic in AD 981, he bumped into the southern coast of Greenland. Eric returned to Iceland three years later and enticed about 500 fellow Vikings to follow him and settle the new country.

“The Norse arrived in Greenland 1,000 years ago and became very well established,” said Schweger, describing the Viking farms and settlements that crowded the southeast and southwest coasts of Greenland for almost 400 years.

“The Greenland settlements were the most distant of all European medieval sites in the world,” said Schweger. “Then the Norse disappear, and the question has always been: what happened?”

Time was not on the archaeological team’s side. Earlier digs had explored the southern tip of Greenland, the most settled area of the country where Eric the Red first landed. These early digs merely scratched the surface because the archaeologists were interested in the buildings and architecture, not what lay beneath. The GUS site was up the West Coast, deep inside a fjord. The river was advancing, swallowing the site, so it was important to act quickly.

The University of Alberta, Greenland and the Danish government combined resources and pushed ahead on the first Greenland excavation since the 1930s. The team would excavate the complete site, looking at the entire history and development of the farm, not just the surface buildings.

Schweger recalls vividly the day the team uncovered GUS. Smells frozen in permafrost for 500 years exploded into the air. “It stunk to high heavens,” said Schweger. “There was no question about this being a farm.”

The Viking ships that had brought Icelandic adventurers to Greenland may have been mini versions of Noah’s Ark with sheep, goats, horses and Vikings sharing the crowded space. The Greenland Vikings raised sheep and fabricated woollen garments. The centre of the farm was a typical Viking longhouse, the communal building where Vikings gathered around the fire. The settlement flourished. In the North Atlantic, walrus, seal and whale were abundant and the Greenlanders made rope from walrus hide and controlled the European walrus tusk market.

Every summer, the team raced against the river. In 1998, when researchers finally abandoned GUS to the river, 90 per cent of the site had been excavated. Artifacts packaged and taken to the lab include pieces of cloth and sheep combs used to remove wool without shearing the animal. The site gave up metal hinges, locks, keys and wooden barrels. The Vikings appear to have traded their northern wares for metal and wooden products unavailable in Greenland. For them, a trip to Iceland or Norway was like a shopping spree at Home Hardware.

We know about Eric the Red and the Greenland settlement because years after the Vikings had given up their pagan ways, Snorri Sturluson collected Viking stories and penned the Icelandic sagas. “The Icelanders wrote everything down,” said Schweger, puzzled that the literature says nothing about what happened to the Norse in Greenland.

What did happen? Theories abound. In his 1963 book, Early Voyages and Northern Approaches, Tryggvi Oleson proposed a theory that still has some credibility. He believed the Vikings and northern aboriginal people intermarried to produce the unique Thule people, ancestors of the modern Eskimo.

One reigning expert on Norse extinction in Greenland is Dr. Thomas McGovern from City University of New York. McGovern is also chair of the North Atlantic Biocultural Organization, an international research association interested in the relationship between changing climate and people in the North Atlantic. He believes the Norse did not adapt completely to Greenland because they never adopted Inuit ring-seal hunting techniques. The Inuit used buoys or floats and hunted ring seal from kayaks or through the ice. These techniques do not appear in Norse culture. McGovern and other paleo-ecologists also believe the Norse were poor farmers.

But Schweger says the evidence comes from the southern or eastern settlement where the excavations only looked at the surface. “There is a lot of sediment thrown around, and it suggests to these researchers that the Norse were poor farmers. The theory is poor agricultural practices caused the sod to break up, and the winds eroded this and blew sand all over the landscape.”

While Danish and Greenland researchers look at GUS buildings and artifacts, the U of A’s role is to study organic material. Cross-sections of the GUS soil contain evidence that challenge McGovern’s theories and offer brand-new understanding of the Vikings in Greenland.

“The ring seal is only one species of seal. The Norse hunted everything else–walrus, whales, harbour seals,” Schweger said, moving quickly to part two of his McGovern challenge. The argument that the Vikings were poor farmers doesn’t make sense upon close examination of the GUS organic material. “There is no evidence that they were destroying their fields. Quite the opposite. They were improving upon them.”

It is not surprising that the Greenland Vikings chose to farm at the mouth of a fjord. The Vikings who settled Iceland and later moved to Greenland were originally from Norway, where farming technology grew up around fjords. The centre of a fjord farm is a meadow where animals graze during winter months.

Cross-sections of the GUS soil show the Vikings began their settlement by burning off birch brush to form a meadow. Over the next 300 to 400 years, the meadow soil steadily improved its nutritional qualities, showing that the Greenland Vikings weren’t poor farmers, as McGovern and others have suggested. “At GUS, the amount of organic matter and the quality of soil increased and sustained farming for 400 years,” said Schweger. “If they were poor farmers, then virtually all the farming in North America is poor farming.”

Schweger believes the sand that packaged and preserved GUS also ruined the site, polluting the river the Vikings relied on for fresh water. The soil was healthy and nutritious. Then, suddenly, farming stopped and the soil was encapsulated in sand.

A massive ice sheet covers about 85 per cent of Greenland, about 2,600,000 cubic kilometres of ice–enough to raise sea levels by 6.4 metres if it were to melt. Sheets of ice sliding down the mountain toward GUS may have pushed sand over the eastern coast of Greenland, burying the Viking settlements. The sand slide was probably a major catastrophic event, comparable to an earthquake.

The Danish Antiquity Society will publish the GUS findings once the international lab results have been tabulated and debated. The team that sifted through sand summer after summer may tell the world new stories about the Vikings who farmed and traded in the North Atlantic then suddenly, and inexplicably, disappeared.

Related story:

Related link – internal

Address of this ExpressNews article:

http://www.expressnews.ualberta.ca/article.cfm?id=776

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71 thoughts on “On the Vikings and Greenland

  1. Could there be a hint early in the story, where it says that hunters stumbled over a log, which was strange because Greenland is above the treeline? Wouldn’t the same changes that put Greenland above the treeline make it difficult to farm? After mentioning this, the story departs in other directions, missing the simplest explanation.

  2. It’s easy to lose sight of how long the Vikings were on Greenland. To put the Viking presence on Greenland into perspective, their tenure there was about the same length as Anglo-Saxon settlement in North America from Jamestown to the present.

  3. “Cross-sections of the GUS soil show the Vikings began their settlement by burning off birch brush to form a meadow.”

    Birch no longer grows in Greenland. None. Zip zero. However it even grew in East Greenland (where Vikings didn’t settle, that we know of,) during the MWP, and recent melting of glaciers in East Greenland has revealed crushed birches.

    It was the talk of the current warming in Greenland being “unprecedented” that originally woke me from my slumber, and made me doubt the “science” of some Alarmists.

    What irked me most was that the hard work of a lot of archeologists was just plain thrown under the bus, because it got in the way of the attempt to make the MWP disappear.

    I can’t help chuckle when politicians go up to Greenland and look about with round eyes. What dunces! However it is good for the local economy. Guiding politicians about sure beats freezing your toes off, hunting caribou. Unfortunately the caribou herds are now not culled enough, and overpopulation and winter-starvation is a problem.

  4. ‘Covered in sand’ sounds like glacial outwash/terminal moraine material.

    If so, its likely the site was abandoned well before the sand was deposited, and the scenario would have been climate cools and too cold for farming, glacier advances over an extended period (centuries?), site covered in sand when the glacier advances close to site.

    Also, the preservation indicates very rapid cooling and the area becoming permafrost within a single or a few years. Farming on permafrost land wouldn’t be possible. When permafrost melts on the surface it becomes a bog.

    The views of a glaciologist who has seen the site would be interesting.

  5. Remember when the settlement dissappeared. Some time around 1350. What happened then?

    Many settlements became devasted at that time due to bubonic plague – The Black Death.

    Maybe the settlers all died. Noone might have survived to tell their story.

    This site is about climate so it is easy to forget microbiology but Black Death may have a connection to that after all. It originated in China after crop failure due to bad climate after volcanism in the area.

  6. Obviously Greenland was much farther south a few centuries ago. No other explanation is possible, a least none that I can imagine.

  7. Here is a 2007 article about Charles Schweger and GUS. The Little Ice Age caused abandonment, combined with failure to adapt.

    http://www.uaf.edu/sunstar/archives/20070227/vikings.html

    On page 51 of the pdf referred to by Nofreewind, above, the assertion is made that settlement occurred while Greenland temperatures were 1-3 degrees C higher than today. The paleoHockeySticks must have had crooked shafts. :)

  8. Hostile natives, bubonic plague, political dissension, catastrophic landslides from climate change and slander concerning their farming skills. It must have sucked to be a Viking in Greenland.

    If only they knew about cap and trade and cultivated a higher shared awareness…

  9. In the new AP story (seth borenstein again) regarding global temp trends, he quotes someone regarding the present period being hotter than anytime in the past THOUSANDS of years. The vikings in greenland was the first thought that came to mind.

  10. What did happen? Theories abound. In his 1963 book, Early Voyages and Northern Approaches, Tryggvi Oleson proposed a theory that still has some credibility. He believed the Vikings and northern aboriginal people intermarried to produce the unique Thule people, ancestors of the modern Eskimo.

    Not very likely, the mitochondrial and Y chromosome haplotypes that I’ve seen from the modern greenland eskimo show N American ancestry not European.

    http://www.scs.uiuc.edu/~mcdonald/WorldHaplogroupsMaps.pdf

  11. Terese Brasen
    In his 1963 book, Early Voyages and Northern Approaches, Tryggvi Oleson proposed a theory that still has some credibility. He believed the Vikings and northern aboriginal people intermarried to produce the unique Thule people, ancestors of the modern Eskimo.

    I understood the Thule to have come from the East during the same warm period that the Vikings established themselves on Greenland. The Wiki excerpt below of the Dorset culture, which the Thule replaced, is of interest.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorset_culture

    Dorset culture and history is broken up into four periods, the Early (which began around 500 BC), Middle, Late (starting around AD 800), and Terminal (AD 1000 to 1500) phases. The Terminal phase was already in progress occurred when the Thule were entering the Canadian Arctic as they migrated east from Alaska, and is most probably closely related to the onset of the medieval warm period, which started to warm the Arctic considerably around AD 800. With the warmer climates, the sea ice became less predictable and was isolated from the High Arctic. Since the Dorset were highly adapted to living in a very cold climate, and much of their food came from hunting sea mammals through holes in the ice, the massive decline in sea-ice which the Medieval Warm Period produced would have had a devastating impact upon their way of life, and they seem to have great difficulty adapting to this change. They apparently followed the ice north, and concentrated their settlements in the High Arctic during the Late and Terminal periods.[citation needed] As mentioned below, an isolated remnant of the Dorset may have survived on a few small Hudson Bay islands until 1902, but by 1500 they had essentially disappeared.

  12. Back in the ’60’s when I studied Scandinavian literature, the whole first semester was spent on Icelandic sagas, not just Snorri Sturluson’s masterful “Njal’s Saga,” but on others like the sagas of “Eric the Red” and “Leif the Lucky.” It is in these that we find Vikings visiting North America proper and meeting with a hostile reception from the “Skraelings,” surely Amerinds. These are great ‘reads.’

    Lest anyone think these are mere myths, recall that in the year 1000, Iceland was, by far, the most literate and democratic country in the world, hardly fertile ground for growing fairy tales. The Icelandic “Althing” (935?) is the oldest parliament on Earth.

    Anyway, back then there was no question about the loss of Greenland. Very simply, climate change. As the colder climate crept southward, agriculture had to be abandoned. At the same time, increased sea ice cut off contact with Iceland and the project was finished. Whether most of the Greenlanders
    fled back to Iceland in time is an open question, but those who didn’t were thought to have been overwhelmed by Inuit, also fleeing the advancing cold.

    Some of the Norse may have been absorbed by the incoming natives, some simply massacred. Back in the ’60’s the end was thought to have come in the late 15th Century, ironically just about the time Europeans were ‘discovering’ the Americas for what, they thought, was the first time.

    What’s of value is that the entire Greenland saga illustrates the undeniable fact of natural climate change of a major amplitude well within historic times and well before CO2 had even been invented. Nothing new under the Sun.

  13. “Remember when the settlement dissappeared. Some time around 1350. What happened then?”

    Oh, around that time Europe was having horrible weather (not in the 1350’s but certainly in the 1320’s). There were major volcanic eruptions in the Philippines and New Zealand around that time too.

  14. In contrast to the MWP, during the Little Ice Age it seems there is evidence of Eskimos turning up in Scotland and Ireland.

  15. Pfff, forget these historians and their anecdotes. I’ve got a tree here that tells me Greenland was frozen then.

  16. My last copy of National Review included a 10 minute DVD entitled “Unstoppable Solar Cycles – The Real Story of Greenland”. It was from the IdeaChannel, and it covered many of the points in the article above.

    I used to fly over Greenland coming home from Europe, and it’s hard to imagine that ice cube ever having been warm enough to support a farming community. The MWP must have been substantially warmer than this current warm cycle.

  17. “”” Philip T. Downman (11:26:50) :

    Remember when the settlement dissappeared. Some time around 1350. What happened then?

    Many settlements became devasted at that time due to bubonic plague – The Black Death.

    Maybe the settlers all died. Noone might have survived to tell their story.

    This site is about climate so it is easy to forget microbiology but Black Death may have a connection to that after all. It originated in China after crop failure due to bad climate after volcanism in the area. “””

    If my memory serves me (it often does), the “Black Death” actually originated in Mongolia. Nomadic Mongolian tribes used to hunt marmots for furs; and it was part of tribal folklore, that if a hunter discovered that the marmots were “going crazy”; the villagers would pile all their furs in the village square and burn them all; and then burn the whole village to the ground, and move over into another valley and start all over again. Nobody knew why; just that legend said all hell would rain down on the tribe if they failed to follow the ritual.

    So the Chinese invaded Mongolia, and enslaved the tribal marmot hunters, and put them to work trapping furs for shipment to China. When the marmots went crazy; nobody bothered to inform the Chinese masters, in case they got angry; so the Chinese shipped all the marmot furs back to China.

    As is well known, Bubonic plague requires a burrowing vector animal that can hibernate through the winter; so that the fleas don’t freeze to death; and survive till the next spring. The ancient fireside stories just said it was bad mojo to not burn the town down when the marmots were acting crazy. The Chinese never discovered that until the Bubonic plague, ran wild, and they exported it to the western world.

    Just one of those stories of how major pestilences have impacted world history. Didn’t have much to do with any shortage of food in China.

  18. Who knows…perhaps vikings were convinced by Gore’s predecessor, gathered in Copenhagen, and signed a treaty to abandon Greenland in order to save the polar bears..:-)

  19. Great, thanks Terese, or should I say takk? I’ve wanted such Greenland details for a while… now I can refer people to this post. By the way, exactly where in Greenland was this? And do you know the forest cover that used to be there, the species, dates, areas found?

    Black Death was climate-related, of course. Like the Volkerwanderungen (movement of peoples) from East to West, that mashed the Roman Empire and laid the ground for historical Europe.

  20. George E. Smith (13:14:59) : fascinating story about the marmots, will remember it.

    Still, I think there was a climate connection, I remember reading that hypothesis spelled out, something along the lines of weakened natural resistance due to crop failures etc.

  21. I studied Greenland at U of P in 1970 in a standard freshman course called Western Civilization. I seem to recall that there was even a church record regarding a wedding taking place in Greenland in about 1420. That was the last written record of the settlers. We were taught in this course that the plague and the cold weather probably caused the failure of the colony after 400 years of settlement and trade. The Vikings (Danes at this point) abandoned their North American colony only a half century before Columbus discovered North America.

    Evidently this information does not fit with current thinking. It must not be taught anymore.

  22. There’s some interesting forensic archaeology been done on this; it looks at the types of fossilised flies that are to be found at settlement sites and draws inferences as to what happened to the former inhabitants. Unfortunately, the only articles I’ve turned up are behind pay walls. I vaguely recall seeing something on TV about it also: the story went that the type of flies indicate that Greenlanders starved to death and got ate by a particular sort of maggot which was in its turn preserved by the henceforth cooling climate.

  23. MK Teatotal (13:57:36) :
    The Vikings (Danes at this point) abandoned their North American colony only a half century before Columbus discovered North America.

    I was under the impression that Columbus never discovered North America.

    He set foot on various islands in the Bahamas and lived in Hispaniola (Haiti/Dominican Republic now) but never set foot on the continent.
    During his time as governor in Santo Domingo he promoted exploration on the continent.

    He knew about a land mass we now call North America and was trying to find a route to the south of it to reach the East Indies.

  24. Here is en excerpt that records the fate of the last known Greenland Viking.
    dated from 1540. It seems the last of the settlement survived for quite some time after contact was lost.

    “… Around 1540 a German merchant ship, blown into these now inhospitable waters by gales, came cautiously up a Greenland fiord. Islands complicated it; on some, Eskimoes lived, and these the skipper, Jon, decided to ignore. He landed at last on an island heavy with the silence of solitude. Above the shore, however, he saw buildings, half-ruined but familiar, buildings like those he had seen often in Iceland: fish-sheds, drying houses for fish, dwellings for men. Before them, a man lay, the woollen hood on his head covering his features as he curled face-down in the dirt. Sealskin and woollen clothes covered him. A knife lay beside him, curved, the blade worn by years of use and sharpening. At the feet of these astonished sailors he rested there in the long inertia of the dead – they the last European visitors to Greenland’s Viking colony, he the last Greenland Viking anyone would ever see. (Peter Brent, THE VIKING SAGA, Tinling, Prescott, 1975: 213)”

    There is more at this website where I borrowed the above excerpt:

    http://www.spirasolaris.ca/sbb4g1bv2.html

  25. Here is a newspaper article (in Norwegian) with pictures of viking settlements in Greenland, including a picture of the church where the last wedding took place in 1408 after which there is a written record. The wedding took place 16. September 1408 between Sigrid Bjørnsdatter and Thorsteinn Olafsson. The wedding was “successful”. Then there was silence for 450 years.

    Etterlyst: Nordmenn. Sist sett: 1408 (Wanted: Norwegians. Last seen: 1408)

    http://www.dagbladet.no/art/arkeologi/historie/3485925/

    “En kombinasjon av klimaendringer og stahet er nok mer sannsynlig. Klimaet endret seg på 1400-tallet, og man fikk det mange forskere i dag omtaler som «den lille istid».”

    “A combination of climate change and stubbornness is more likely. The climate changed in the 1400’s, and we got what many scientists today refer to as «the little ice age».”

    —-

    “- Etter Svartedauden i Norge og på Island rundt 1400 var det nok masse plass, det var ikke noe problem å reise tilbake for disse bosetterne. Og de som reiste tilbake, var de unge. Dermed ble også barna med,”

    “- After the bubonic plague in Norway and Iceland around 1400 there was lots of space left over, it wasn’t a problem to go back for these settlers. Those who went back, were the young. The kids went with them”

  26. Nothing new here, but additional confirmation that the global warming/climate change hysteria is a waste of time and money. Except for those that believe government should “manage” economies.

  27. Can you help me with North American English? When you say “meadow”, do you mean what I mean – land used principally for a hay crop, perhaps with grazing on the aftermath – or do you mean what I’d call “pasture” i.e. land used principally for grazing?

  28. An interesting history of the Greenland climate from the Royal Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs: This was the original link but it has disappeared,

    http://www.um.dk/Publikationer/UM/English/Denmark/kap7/7-1-19.asp#7-1-19

    Repeating much of what is written elsewhere but this is from the Danish Foreign Ministry.

    “Until around 4500 BC, the remains of the mighty ice cap which had been left over from the last ice age covered parts of Arctic Canada and blocked the way to Greenland. The first people arrived in the northernmost part of Greenland in around 2500 BC, and in the course of a few hundred years the ice-free part of the island became home to an Arctic tribe of hunters known as the palaeo-Eskimos. The warmer climate which appeared once the ice had gone allowed the population to increase rapidly.

    Towards the end of the 10th century the climate became warmer, and the change affected all those living in the northern hemisphere. Much of the ice in the seas around the Canadian archipelago disappeared, and baleen whales moved into the area to search for food. Eskimo whalers from northern Alaska sailed east in their large, skin-covered boats and reached Greenland in the 12th century.”

    To see the massive significance, check out this map of the Arctic: http://www.athropolis.com/map2.htm
    These “large skin covered boats” were not ice-breakers, but they came from Northern Alaska to Greenland, a feat that would seem impossible today.

    “During the Viking Age, people from Northern Europe began to move west in the North Atlantic, and in 985 the Icelander Erik the Red began to colonise Greenland. The Norse community was based on agriculture and sealing and was economically dependent on contact with Europe. The society was organised as a free state controlled by the big farmers. There are signs of formal trade with the Eskimo population, and it is known that the ivory from walrus and narwhal tusks was highly valued, particularly when paying tithes to the church. The Catholic church appointed the first bishop of Greenland in 1124. In 1261, the Norse community became part of the kingdom of Norway.

    During the following centuries, conditions gradually deteriorated for the population of Greenland because of the island’s limited economic importance for Norway, the over-exploitation of the limited resources and the notable change in climate. “

  29. In Google Earth go to

    Lat 64.248354°

    Long -50.212049°

    Its not marked but is on the green area on the north side of the small fijord.

    Note the small glacier on the south side of the fijord. Which terminates in the middle of the fijord only a few hundred meters from the north shore.

    Small steep glaciers respond rapidly to climate changes as we have seen in recent years with glaciers of this type advancing in New Zealand.

    I suspect when the farm was established the glacier terminated some distance away.

  30. I saw a documentary awhile ago that showed that the Thule Inuit migrated from Siberia to Alaska at about 1,000 AD in whaling boats. Since they had already been exposed to modern-1000AD warfare in Asia and had modern-1000AD weapons and even armour from Asia, they easily took over from the earlier Dorset Inuit who were more passive.

    By the time the Thule reached Greenland about 1,300 AD, they had preserved their war-like tendencies and didn’t mix well with the Vikings and this did not help the Vikings success.

    Note, this migration would have been more difficult in the Arctic if there was not a Medieval Warm Period.

  31. In fact, I’m sure when the vikings established a farm there the glacier terminus was nowhere near its current position. The glacier in its current position will cause an almost continous cold katabatic wind on that north shore. Even in the middle of summer, it would be like living in an icebox with the temperature barely above zero.

  32. I believe McGovern has changed his views considerably since this article was published – more in support of climate shifts that made survival impossible – based on the excavations done at other sites since this was first published. You should check with him.

  33. Dearieme (16:23:57) :

    There are probably regional variations, but I consider meadow and pasture to be synonymous (although we didn’t refer to pastures as meadows on the family farm in Missouri, and I don’t think the word is in use much here in Texas). What you described would most likely be referred to simply as the hayfield.

  34. Caleb @10

    It was throwing the Vikings on Greenland and the MWP under the bus that woke a lot of us up on AGW alarmism. There are more historians (professional and lay) than climatologists by several orders of magnitude to say “Umm, hang on there. . .” on that one.

  35. Pasture can be used as a verb (which meadow can’t). Also, you can “put” something “out to pasture”.

    Thus, when used that way, grazing is involved.

  36. Also in the sagas are the routes taken to North America during a 300-year period to harvest lumber. They sailed north along the coast, crossed over in calmer waters and then headed south along the coast. The longer route was safer than the direct route with loaded cargo ships. That route would be very difficult today because of the ice. They could estimate latitude fairly well. Their description of the flora and fauna does not match estimated latitude in today’s terms. It was greener farther north 1,000 years ago.

  37. dearieme (16:23:57) :

    Can you help me with North American English? When you say “meadow”, do you mean what I mean – land used principally for a hay crop, perhaps with grazing on the aftermath – or do you mean what I’d call “pasture” i.e. land used principally for grazing?

    As an old north american stockman that utilized natural and created meadows.
    Meadows are created or increased by clearing brush land. The meadow generally is naturally seeded with local grasses and sedges and is irrigated to increase its size and production. Old hay and manure is spread in the very spring often as help in controlling spring irrigation water.( manure does not wash out as soil would.)
    Livestock is kept out of the meadows in the spring and early summer when the hay is gathered and then in the late summer or fall, when the upland is grazed off, the stock is turned into the meadows. This methoid has been followed by stockmen in cold snowy areas for thousands of years.

  38. Carsten Arnholm, Norway (15:42:32)
    “- After the bubonic plague in Norway and Iceland around 1400 there was lots of space left over, it wasn’t a problem to go back for these settlers. Those who went back, were the young. The kids went with them”

    Takk for notater.

  39. I got my location from wikipedia (first link). A paper from the 90s has a map which places the settlement 5 or so kilometers further south (second link page 48) alongside the broad white area running north/south. This is the braided river referred to. Still frozen in the Google Earth image. This map shows about 30 farms in the vicinity.

    My bad, I was wrong about the glacier. The current limit of glacial ice appears to be in the lake to the southwest, approximately 12 kilometers from the settlement. Although the route of glacial advance would be down the valley where the farm is.

    http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/obj/s4/f2/dsk2/ftp04/mq22551.pdf

  40. I have always doubted that a population which existed for 400 years, or roughly twenty generations, remained stable, and did not produce a surplus of hot-blooded young men who had the urge to go “a-Viking.”

    When I was young a silver penny, which eventually was traced to Norway, was the subject of a lot of talk in Maine. It was apparently worn around the neck, but the hole at the edge of the coin had crumbled away after its original discovery. It had been found in a huge heap of clam shells, which occurred because the Indians of New England, like modern people, liked to travel to the coast during the summer.

    The discussion basically downplayed the possibility that the coin could indicate Vikings had ever visited the coast of Maine, and suggested the coin had made its way south as a trade item. There was even some suggestions that the penny was a fake, and part of a fraud.

    I didn’t blame the scientists involved for being skeptical, for that is part of science. However hand in hand with their skepticism seemed to be a rather absurd idea that young Vikings were prone to living-with-Mommy, or being afraid to make waves because they might not get a grant from the university big-shots. Because many of the scientists and sociologists were themselves timid, they projected timidness onto Greenland Vikings.

    I was, and remain, very skeptical that this was what young Greenland farm-boys were like. My own experience of being young involves crazy deeds which I sometimes wake in a cold sweat, recalling. (Inland I drove cars well over a hundred miles an hour, and on the coast I went a-Viking.)

    If we are talking twenty generations of Greenland Vikings, and a population of several thousand, then we are likely talking at least fifteen generations which produced a surplus of young men and women, (as many as a thousand each generation,) with no land to inherit, and hot blood.

    Where did they go? I feel an answer to this question has never been satisfactorily given. I’m fairly certain they headed west, but until an actual Viking ship is discovered in Hudson Bay or Lake Superior, I don’t expect people who seldom budge from university armchairs will believe it was possible.

  41. Caleb (03:04:27) : “… Where did they go? I feel an answer to this question has never been satisfactorily given. I’m fairly certain they headed west, but until an actual Viking ship…

    Or perhaps a Fjord Mustang, Caleb?

  42. dearieme (16:23:57) :

    Can you help me with North American English? When you say “meadow”, do you mean what I mean – land used principally for a hay crop, perhaps with grazing on the aftermath – or do you mean what I’d call “pasture” i.e. land used principally for grazing?
    ______________________________

    Could well be either one, or could refer to a natural grassy area rhat is neither farmed nor grazed.

  43. dearieme (16:23:57) :

    Can you help me with North American English? When you say “meadow”, do you mean what I mean – land used principally for a hay crop, perhaps with grazing on the aftermath – or do you mean what I’d call “pasture” i.e. land used principally for grazing?

    I am sure local usage varies considerably across the country. Here in the Rocky Mountain west my experience is that the word meadow generally implies a naturally occurring open space in a wooded area or brush. Where a pasture would be a more formal area that is set aside for grazing of live stock and generally fenced (although in the mountain west there are large areas used as open grazing but they are not formally maintained and enclosed. That how ever in this part of the country is called “open range” rather than pasture.

    In context usage I have experienced would be something like the following:

    “As we hiked through the dense forest we suddenly found ourselves in a beautiful mountain meadow. We decided to stop there and eat lunch.”

    I would be likely to refer to both of these locations as a meadow

    “The old rancher gathered up his things and headed out to the pasture to check on the live stock.”

    These are pictures I would refer to as pasture:

    Larry

  44. I wish you could stop calling them “vikings”.

    Viking was something some young men were ON at some time. When they were ON viking they could and would be called a “viking”. If they where not ON viking they were NOT “vikings”! Got that?

    You don’t call the Spanish and Italians “wops” do you?
    Well, do you, punks!?

    The first European settlers in North America were Icelanders.

  45. Carsten Arnholm, Norway (15:42:32) :

    The wedding took place 16. September 1408 between Sigrid Bjørnsdatter and Thorsteinn Olafsson. The wedding was “successful”. Then there was silence for 450 years.

    Carsten, correlation is not causeation, I suggest that 450 years of silence made the marriage sucessful.

  46. Anthony,
    Thank you so much for posting this wonderful study. I have been fascinated by the Norse Sagas since I was a child but good information is hard to come by. The world of the Vineland and Greenland sagas is very different from what we see in these areas today but paleoclimatological reconstructions show Erick the Red to not be quite the huckster he is reputed to be.

  47. In the late 1970s and 1980s I played a small part in the production of the English-language versions of the series of books about mediaeval Iceland by Professor Kirsten Hastrup, the social anthropologist. That experience left me in no doubt at all of the existence, for Iceland at least, of the mediaeval warm period. It also left me in no doubt of the reality of the cooler period, which we seem now to be calling the ‘little ice age’, which subsequently closed down many aspects of the agricultural and social life of Iceland.

    So, when I first heard of somebody trying to ‘get rid of the Mediaeval Warm Period’, I knew that we were in a space of propaganda and suppression of truth, rather than science. Thank you to WUWT and its contributors for broadening my understanding of these things so much.

    I bought today’s Times (what you call the London Times); this is the one in which Lord Stern says we must all become vegetarians. That means the Global Warmists taking on the farmers of the developed world. Bring it on.

  48. Carsten Arnholm, Norway (15:42:32) :
    “- Etter Svartedauden i Norge og på Island rundt 1400 var det nok masse plass, det var ikke noe problem å reise tilbake for disse bosetterne. Og de som reiste tilbake, var de unge. Dermed ble også barna med,”

    “- After the bubonic plague in Norway and Iceland around 1400 there was lots of space left over, it wasn’t a problem to go back for these settlers. Those who went back, were the young. The kids went with them”

    Absolutely fascinating. So when it was warm population boomed and folks moved out to the newly hospitable areas. When the cold and disease came back, the younger folks moved on again; but this time back to Norway. The older folks did what they usually do, stay to die in their familiar home where they expect to reach their natural end before it gets too bad; but encouraging their children on to a better life.

    Simple. Elegant in its completeness. Perfectly rational. And pretty much the same as my family story (modulo the cold, snow, etc.). The lineage moves backward in time from coastal California, to Iowa, to England Ireland and Germany, then on to “somewhere viking” … with parents staying in their home, but young adults moving on “to a better life”. My son has been talking of Australia… My daughter is interested in Ireland…

    I think I know what happened to the Vikings of Greenland. The same thing that happened to a lot of Vikings. They were just passing through, but slowly and generationally. The Viking Ship is a generational ship…

  49. Caleb (03:04:27) : Where did they go? I feel an answer to this question has never been satisfactorily given. I’m fairly certain they headed west, but until an actual Viking ship is discovered in Hudson Bay or Lake Superior, I don’t expect people who seldom budge from university armchairs will believe it was possible.

    As I recall the hazy memories of 40+ years ago education: There was speculation that the Iroquois were at least partially of European decent. They made “long houses” in the boxy european style, and had somewhat European features. There was also, IIRC, a small tribe of blue eyed “indians” somewhere near Virginia coastline. Since the blue eyed gene evolved around the Baltic Sea and grades out in more or less linear proportion with distance from there, blue eyes in American Indians means somebody traveled… Finally, I once worked with a lady who announced she was headed off to a “tribal reunion”. I commented that her tribe had rather western features (she looked fairly European to me and had green eyes, a brown blue blend of genes…) Her reply was a “thank you” that I had not denigrated her claim to be Indian as so many others had, and recounted that her tribe had always had that “look” and it was fairly common in the East Coast tribes.

    So, for my money, your answer is simple. They came to North America and after a few hundred years of intermarriage were the “European looking Indians” you see in the old pictures. When it became “unpopular” to be an indian, many simply chose to “pass” as white and blend in. I’ve also met a guy who looked very European. Stated he was 1/2 Danish and 1/2 pure indian (again from some eastern tribe who’s name I’ve forgotten) but that his mother had decided to ‘pass a white’ back in the 19teens because she could.

    So my guess is that they are wandering around various parts of North America today…

  50. Philip T. Downman (11:26:50) :

    It originated in China after crop failure due to bad climate after volcanism in the area.

    It is interesting that Chinese soldiers and explorers from the Ming Dynasty may have been in Canada at the same time. It is believed that a Canadian Indian killed Lief Erikson’s brother in a skirmish on the Eastern coast of Canada. That Canadian Indian may have been a Ming soldier (anecdotal, from art work).

  51. John Galt (11:54:48) :

    Obviously Greenland was much farther south a few centuries ago. No other explanation is possible, a least none that I can imagine.

    1000 years ago? Come come now John.

    Imagine this : it was much warmer 1000 years ago.

  52. L (12:22:53) :

    just about the time Europeans were ‘discovering’ the Americas for what, they thought, was the first time.

    I was watching a show on Viking in Minnesota a few weeks ago on the History Channel. One man said it was always believed that the Vikings were the first Europeans on the North American continent until about the middle 1880’s. The, he said, the Italians claimed credit by changing the story of Columbus’ journey.

    The show went on to say that there was some connection between the Knights Templar, the Vikings, and Christopher Columbus. One man said the symbol on Nina was a Knights of Templar symbol and Columbus was really coming to America to carry on some unfinished mission of the Knights of the Templar.

    Nina ship symbol :

    Knights of Templar symbol :

  53. Yarmy (12:39:29) :

    Pfff, forget these historians and their anecdotes. I’ve got a tree here that tells me Greenland was frozen then.

    That’s not a tree. It’s just a hockey stick; a crappy, broken hockey stick. How many times do we have to break it!

  54. I have always enjoyed using the Vikings as a springboard for thought, because they did such amazing things. So did explorers from other lands.

    I have also long been annoyed by people who have a it-can’t-be-done attitude, who tend to dismiss amazing examples of human courage and tenacity as being “fiction.” Often they use science to do this, when science was never intended to be used that way.

    For example: The word “Russia” came from the root “Rus.” Who were the Rus? The Rus were Vikings, who invaded that area and set up a kingdom, long ago. The invasion is interesting, for their long boats did not come up the Volga River from the sea. (After all, the Volga drains into the Caspian, which is landlocked.) Rather their ships came down the Volga.

    How the heck does a fleet come down a river from the headwaters? Well, those crazy Vikings picked the entire fleet up and carried it overland from another river, that drained into the Baltic, to the Volga River.

    How do we know this crazy deed isn’t just some fabricated saga invented by some boozing dude who glorifies Vikings? Apparently there is enough written history to verify that it happened.

    However suppose some achademic demanded archeological evidence the Vikings had hauled an entire fleet overland. Could proof be provided? I doubt it. After a thousand years, the footprints people leave behind tend to fade away.

    Why on earth would an achademic want to prove “it can’t be done?” I have no idea. Maybe it makes them feel better about never daring to leave their armchair. However when I see climate scientists prove there never was a MWP period, I feel I am seeing something I’ve seen before.

    I have become resigned to the fact it is difficult to prove some things. There is a world of difference between what is humanly provable and what is humanly possible. However, while accepting that fact, I am never surprised when people ignore those who say “it can’t be done,” and do amazing things.

    For example, when Mr. Watts started this website, I’ll bet there were those who said, “It can’t be done. You will never reach more than a handful of people.”

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