Transdisciplinary Approaches to Norse Use of Marine Mammals: History, Archaeology and aDNA

Author(s): Vicki Szabo; Brenna McLeod Frasier

Year: 2017


Historical, literary and archaeological evidence suggests frequent use of marine mammals by the Norse across the medieval North Atlantic and Eastern Subarctic, circa 870 – 1500 CE. Written records indicate the importance of cetacean species in Norse economies from Norway to Newfoundland, but especially in medieval Iceland. Archaeological assemblages from Iceland reveal an abundance of worked and waste cetacean bone, most of which are morphologically undiagnostic. As such, details on the economic and subsistence value of cetaceans in Norse archaeological contexts remain unquantified and approximate. This paper presents preliminary conclusions from an ongoing NSF project that employs Sanger and Next Generation aDNA sequencing of cetacean bone from medieval Norse archaeological sites from landnám through the sixteenth century. Preliminary results offer analysis of successful applications of different aDNA methodologies, and the value of transdisciplinary approaches in analysis of species results. In addition to assessing the social, cultural, and economic importance of cetacean use among Norse populations, our genetic analyses may provide new datasets for assessing marine mammal population change in the Subarctic and North Atlantic before industrial-scale hunting impacts in the sixteenth century (Contributing authors: C.Anderung, T.Frasier, K.Grisedale, R.Harrison, K.Smiarowski, J.Woollett, F.Feeley, G.Hambrecht, T.McGovern, I.Mainland, A.Kitchener, O.Vésteinsson, V.Hreinsson, A.D.Júlíusson, B.Fitzhugh).

Cite this Record

Transdisciplinary Approaches to Norse Use of Marine Mammals: History, Archaeology and aDNA. Vicki Szabo, Brenna McLeod Frasier. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430926)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 15825