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Proto-World Systems, Long Term Sustainability, and Early Resource Colonies: Examples from the North Atlantic

Author(s): Thomas McGovern

Year: 2014

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Summary

Centuries before the rise and spread of the early modern world system after 1500 CE, Europeans colonized the islands of the North Atlantic and established a presence in the Western Hemisphere. Both Iceland and Greenland were initially settled by walrus hunters supplying prestige goods to a Scandinavian homeland experiencing rapid social and economic change. While Iceland developed into a substantial farming society of some 50,000 and eventually developed an active export trade in dried fish and woolens, Greenland stayed small (probably less than 3,000) and retained many of the characteristics of later post-medieval arctic resource extraction communities. Both Icelandic bulk goods production and Greenlandic prestige goods production have been shown to have profound impact on the organization of local subsistence economy and resilience in the face of climate change. These long distance market connections pre-figure later post medieval arctic resource exploitation patterns and associated local social impacts in the north and may illustrate the benefits of comparative approaches that cross the medieval/ post-medieval divide.


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Proto-World Systems, Long Term Sustainability, and Early Resource Colonies: Examples from the North Atlantic. Thomas McGovern. Presented at Society for Historical Archaeology, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. 2014 ( tDAR id: 436613)


Record Identifiers

PaperId(s): SYM-7,02

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