(Almost) Making it in the Margins: Medieval Norse Adaptation to the Arctic Fjord Environments


The medieval Norse settlements in Greenland formed the westernmost frontier of Scandinavia, and the Old World, between ca. AD 980-1450. A Norse society of perhaps only some 2500 farmer-hunters settled two subarctic niches: the Eastern Settlement in South Greenland with ca. 550 sites and the smaller Western Settlement 500 km north in the inner parts of the Nuuk fjord region and with only some 90 sites. For still not completely understood reasons, the latter was completely abandoned by AD 1350-1450, the former a generation or two later.

This presentation reports the preliminary findings of two coupled projects that attempt to recognize key drivers of Norse settlement change and deterioration: Winter is Coming Project (WiCP) and Comparative Island Ecodynamics in the North Atlantic Project (CIE). WiCP investigates agriculturally marginal areas to understand Norse settlement and land use dynamics in settings highly susceptible to climatic. CIE compares the ecodynamics of long-term societal development in Iceland/Greenland. However, rather than reveal new clues to Norse settlement decline in Greenland, the two projects have over the last 5 years demonstrated more examples of successful adaptation, complex settlement dynamics, and societal change in agriculturally marginal fjord areas that offered the Norse other opportunities.

Cite this Record

(Almost) Making it in the Margins: Medieval Norse Adaptation to the Arctic Fjord Environments. Christian K. Madsen, Jette Arneborg, Ian Simpson, Michael Nielsen, Cameron Turley. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 442894)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -97.031; min lat: 0 ; max long: 10.723; max lat: 64.924 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 21671