29 May 2008

Climate Change on Medieval Greenland


The causal factors for the demise of the Norse settlements at Eiriksfjord and Lysufjord, Greenland, around the beginning of the 15th century are no doubt many and varied. The people remaining in the settlements on Greenland would have seen their lifestyle steadily deteriorate and indeed their very existence become threatened as their winter weather continued to worsen.

Why these few residents continued to hang-on is unknown and unfathomable because the end of life as they knew it on the island must have been apparent to them as the Medieval Warm Period--about 800-1300--wound down and their lifestyle became unsustainable. If they did actually remain until the beginning of the 15th century (1425), as some hypothesize, the winter weather must have been awesome as the Mini-Ice Age--about 1300-1850--had already held the island in its grip for some 125-years, or one quarter of the 500-year climate cycle.

Of all the single-cause explanations for the death of Norse Greenland, climate change has been the most durable. (Thomas McGovern, Vikings, The North Atlantic Saga, The Demise of Norse Greenland, 2000-Smithsonian Institution, 330-331.)

Another factor, one that had little affect on the Inuit, or the Tuniit of the Dorset Culture, was certainly the Norse culture itself. The Northmen stubbornly adhered to their unsustainable lifestyle in the face of horrific weather conditions. http://www.vinlandpublishing.com/

They would not have waited, to die alone in the darkness of the long winter. Those few remaining in the Eastern Settlement at Eirksfjord finally abandoned Greenland, perhaps joining the former residents of the Western Settlement at Lysufjord, in Vinland.

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