Resilience, Sustainability and Collapse in the North Atlantic

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 80th Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA (2015)

The North Atlantic has become recognized as a key research area in the circumpolar north. Long term Human Ecodynamics in the North Atlantic islands affected by human settlement impact, climate change, and early globalization and culture contact have become classic (and controversial) cases of “resilience and collapse” in the archaeology of global change literature. International, interdisciplinary collaboration coordinated by the North Atlantic Biocultural Organization (NABO, ) during the International Polar Year (2007-11) and the NSF funded Comparative Island Ecodynamics Project (2012-15) has supported extensive new fieldwork across the region and innovative combinations of archaeology, documentary sources, high resolution multi-proxy climate reconstruction, modeling and data management initiatives are producing new insights. This session presents this new research from the Faroes, Orkney, Iceland and Greenland that report on new understanding of processes of Viking Age settlement, cases of both sustainable and ultimately unsustainable management of natural resources, impacts of sudden climate change after the Lombok eruption of 1257 with onset of summer sea ice ca. 1275-1300, the effects of growing trade and proto-world system impacts on local communities, and the integration of archaeology with use of heritage for place based sustainability education.

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-11 of 11)

  • Documents (11)

  • Climate Change and Resource Management in Eastern Settlement Norse Greenland: Zooarchaeological Perspective (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Konrad Smiarowski.

    Changes in climate regimes have played a significant role in the cultural settlement patterns of Greenland for several millennia. This presentation focuses on the Norse Settlement ca. 985-1450 CE and how the terrestrial and marine (wild and domestic) animal resources were utilized, managed and modified in the face of climatic and environmental changes at all levels of the Norse social strata. Datasets from small tenant farms and shielings such as E74 Qorlortorsuaq and E168 , middle size...

  • Cod, Sand & Stone: Proto-Industrial Scale, Medieval, Commercial Fishing at Gufuskalar in Western Iceland (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Frank Feeley.

    At the start of the 15th century a major commercial fishing was built on the far western coast of Iceland at a farm called Gufuskalar. During the winter months cod fish were caught, processed and dried on site for trade with continental European merchants. This paper details the rescue excavations at the site and discusses some of our preliminary results. SAA 2015 abstracts made available in tDAR courtesy of the Society for American Archaeology and Center for Digital Antiquity Collaborative...

  • The Gásir Market and the Möðruvellir Farm: A Cross-Disciplinary Approach to the History of Human Ecodynamics in High Medieval Iceland (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Ramona Harrison. Árni Daníel Júlíusson.

    This paper reconciles the results of the long-term Gásir and Hinterlands Project with the underpinnings of historical research of the area. The harbor and trade site complex at Gásir and the monastic estate at Möðruvellir were central areas in the region. Zooarchaeological/environmental data from these sites and hinterlands sites suggest that Hörgá Valley as closest supplier of animal products, may have changed its livestock management strategies, potentially to partake in increasing...

  • Hard times at Hofstadir Iceland: Medieval Climate Impact and Cultural Responses (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Thomas McGovern.

    In 1257 a major volcanic eruption in modern Indonesia produced rapid cooling in the North Atlantic region, and multiple climate proxies indicate onset of summer sea ice in Danmark Strait and N Iceland followed ca. 1260-1300. Zooarchaeological and paleoclimate research has documented the impacts of summer sea ice onset in the Norse Greenlandic settlements (Ogilvie et al. 2009), and documentary sources from Iceland report weather-related famine in the 1270’s. An archaeofauna excavated in 2011 from...

  • Hierarchy and Human Securities in Norse Vatnahverfi, South Greenland - A Case Study (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Christian Madsen.

    Greenland was settled by Norse hunter-farmers in the decades around AD 1000. Two fjord systems were populated: South Greenland formed the largest settlement area that lasted until c. AD 1450, the smaller Norse settlement area in present day Nuuk fjord being abandoned c. 100 years earlier. New detailed archaeological settlement evidence from the Vatnahverfi-a core settlement area in the Norse Eastern Settlement-is explored in terms of environmental- and food securities relating to community level...

  • Landscape Stability, Environmental Resilience and Anthropocene Transformations in Iceland (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Andrew Dugmore. Richard Streeter.

    Before the Norse settlement, Iceland was characterised by substantial areas of birch woodland in sheltered valleys, highland willow tundra and birch-willow scrub extending into more exposed areas of upland, coast, and marginal wetlands. Terrestrial mammals had been extirpated by the Quaternary glaciations. Aeolian sediment accumulation rates were low and correlated over kilometre–scales. Rapid colonisation by the Norse (perhaps 20,000 settlers in less than 30 years) and their introduction of...

  • Long-term Seabird Exploitation in the Faroe Islands (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Seth Brewington.

    Fowling traditionally played an important role in the subsistence economy of the Faroe Islands. The large-scale, sustainable exploitation of wild seabirds in the Faroes is noted in written sources at least as far back as the 16th century. Though the practice of fowling in these islands no doubt far precedes the earliest written documentation, archaeological evidence for the activity has until recently been limited. However, recent archaeofaunal data are beginning to provide a more complete...

  • Missing Bodies and Cat Skeletons: New Perspectives on Ritual in Viking Age Iceland (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Brenda Prehal.

    The research that has dominated Icelandic burial practices has until very recently been quite narrow. Burials were excavated to extract the skeleton and artifacts within the grave cut itself, leading to a central theory that Icelandic burials are poor in ritual and culture. Recent excavation and theories, however, have led to open area excavations of pagan cemeteries, which reveal much more complicated ritual. Snorri Sturlusson, the author of the famous Icelandic Sagas and Eddas, might give us...

  • The Orkney Islands: Long-Term Human Ecodynamics and Enduring Culture (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Ruth Maher. Julie Bond. Stephen Dockrill. Julie Gibson. Jane Downes.

    The Orkney Isles of Scotland, though greatly impacted by environmental shifts, are remarkably resilient and have a 5,000+, long-term occupation sequence. There has been a concerted effort by many researchers to study Orkney’s past in order to help Orkney move forward in the face of current sea-level rise and changing social identities. Current archaeological research is shedding light on land- and sea- scapes of power and monuments of control, social identity through burials & settlement...

  • Soil Nutrient Management in Norse Greenland (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Ian Simpson. Konrad Smiarowski. Christian Madsen. Michael Nielsen.

    In this paper we set out to establish the role of soil nutrient management in the sustainability and resilience of livestock agricultural systems in Norse Greenland (ca. late 9th – 14th centuries AD). Using a landscape sampling framework that includes large church farm, medium sized farms and small farms we use thin section micromorphology and associated SEM-EDX analyses of cultural soils and sediments (anthrosols) in home field areas to identify materials used in the endeavour to sustain soil...

  • Vulnerabilities and Failure of Building Resilience in Norse Greenland (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jette Arneborg.

    The Norse colonies in SW Greenland were established in the late 900’s and depopulated in the middle of the second half of the 1400’s. The traditional Nordic Temperate Zone pastoralism clearly was at its limits in Sub Arctic SW Greenland. Still, adaptation to the new environment has been described as successful, and the depopulation in the late Middle Ages is considered a consequence of the specialization the successful adaptation leaving the Norse Greenlandic society less resilient and more...