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Exploring the limits of the island Anthropocene: the Norse colonisation of Greenland in an Atlantic context.

Author(s): Andrew Dugmore ; Jette Arneborg ; Christian Madsen ; Tom McGovern ; Rowan Jackson

Year: 2017

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The medieval Norse colonisation of Greenland was unique, but we can use this completed experiment to explore key drivers of, and limits to, the ‘island Anthropocene’. The indigenous biota of Greenland while sensitive, lacks the fragility of small, isolated low latitude oceanic islands rich in endemic species. The timing of Norse settlement was determined by the patterns and process of island colonisation to the east combined with a suitable environmental and economic window of opportunity. The timing and scale of settlement was contingent- and the consequences were different to previous Norse island colonisations to the east. In Greenland Norse settlement was limited to pockets of the west coast where the settlers either lacked the numbers or the means to impose rapid or lasting environmental transformations- or they were inhibited by their approach to environmental management. Much of the Norse impact on Greenland was transitory as species they introduced were dependent on people and disappeared with them. Key drivers of exploration, colonisation and settlement were honour and prestige, and the ways of achieving this through control of land or trade items; environment and distance strongly mediated the process, with transitions to alternate states strongly determined by the numbers of people.

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Exploring the limits of the island Anthropocene: the Norse colonisation of Greenland in an Atlantic context.. Andrew Dugmore, Jette Arneborg, Christian Madsen, Tom McGovern, Rowan Jackson. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430799)


Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14672

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America