From Medieval Wool Tunics to Bone Powder: Rapid Degradation of Norse Middens in Southwest Greenland


This presentation is one of the products of a series of ongoing inter-connected, international, interdisciplinary fieldwork projects coordinated by the North Atlantic Biocultural Organization (NABO) research cooperative since 2005 in Greenland. The projects drew upon more than a century of prior field research, where four generations of archaeologists described and assessed organic preservation conditions at their sites in several regions of the Norse Eastern Settlement. This created a unique form of "archaeological TEK" (Traditional Ecological Knowledge) that represents an invaluable guide into the changing preservation conditions since the late 19th century. Between 2005-2017 we conducted extensive coring surveys of over 100 Norse middens, and open area and small test excavations at over 15 sites. The results show a shocking and almost complete loss of once outstanding organic preservation in a region where only 60 years ago wood, bones, leather, wool, and feathers were recovered. Our findings draw attention to the destructive process of the modern climate change that has been affecting the organic preservation conditions for at least 60 years, and to the need to organize a circumpolar-wide, international response strategy to rescue the endangered sites and their unique cultural heritage before it is too late.

Cite this Record

From Medieval Wool Tunics to Bone Powder: Rapid Degradation of Norse Middens in Southwest Greenland. Konrad Smiarowski, Christian Madsen, Michael Nielsen. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 443831)

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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): 21226