12 February 2010

Historically Speaking

History may be defined as “a chronological record of significant events, often with an explanation of their causes.” 2000 Zane Publishing, Inc. and Merriam-Webster, Incorporated

An historical event is often quoted on the evening news as a basis of comparison for current events, or to reinforce a pundit’s opinion. The fabric of our daily lives is frequently held up against the backdrop of history, to give credibility—the ring of truth. But how much of what we accept as historical fact actually ever happened as we have always thought, or been taught? Not much, in my opinion. “What is history but a fable agreed upon?” Napoleon Bonaparte

Contemporary events are often manipulated to make a political point. Ask yourself, are we Americans, or the citizens of any country for that matter, going to willfully enter information into the permanent historical record that will harm the world’s perception of our country? We, the common citizen won’t, but we have little opportunity to be a player in historical events, rather we are bystanders. But we see our elected representatives do so daily. Why? To further a political agenda that has been proven to be at odds with the desires of the majority of the electorate. We see this penchant to make history, to manipulate history, in play every day on the national news. When today’s events are recorded you may rest assured that they will not reflect what really occurred; the record will show a manipulated opinion to reflect the ideology of the time. It has always been so. Why, there are those who steadfastly maintain that Christopher Columbus “discovered” America. He in fact did not, nor did he ever set foot on the American continent. He was preceded by Leif Eiriksson by some 500-years and Leif may not have been the first, either. We will never know for certain.

I write novels about the medieval Greenland Norse people. Little substantiated information exists about them, because they wrote nothing down. Except for some facility with the runic alphabet of the time, I think they were illiterate. There are many historical gaps where I can portray daily events with fiction, i.e. - my own opinion of the unknown aspects of their history. Some of their history was recorded in sagas as long as 200-years after the events they portray, by writers who knew nothing about the subject people; the tales they tell are hearsay, folklore if you will. Although the sagas do give us a sense of the life of the times in which they were written the stories themselves cannot be verified.

All of history has been written by the bystanders. “The men who make history have not time to write it.” Metternich
It is human nature to embellish facts to increase individual participation or to reinforce opinion. I am doing that with this article. Memoirs written long after the events they portray are also a case in point. Embellishment is not dishonest, exactly, unless it is a lie and there are lots of those. Two generations of the youth of the major combatants of World War II have not been taught of the actual parts their country’s played in the conflict—the facts have been intentionally distorted. It is more palatable that way; ignorance is bliss, so to speak.

This brings me to archaeology. While archaeology has provided many windows into ancient civilizations and much terrific work has been, and continues to be done in the field, an overactive imagination is a prerequisite for success. Granted I am a layman, but I have had more than a passing association with the discipline through my years of research on the Viking Age and specifically the Greenland Norse people. Archaeology can, and has built entire civilizations on piles of rocks and scattered ruins, even to the point that the daily dress and thought processes of the ancient peoples are detailed—all of this in the absence of a single corroborating written word from the antecedents. These flights of fancy continue to the present day. The accepted dogma becomes so sacrosanct that to dare to make mention of a differing opinion will ensure the end of one’s career. Since I am not constrained by such, I am not cowed in any fashion.

Greenland was settled by the Norse during the height of the Medieval Warm Period and gradually abandoned during the next natural climate cycle, the Mini-Ice Age. William W. Fitzhugh, Vikings The North Atlantic Saga (Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC, 2000) 330.
The medieval Norse settlers of Greenland disappeared from history after about 400 odd years. They went somewhere, leaving little behind, no ships, tools, and more importantly, no bodies. Those are the facts of the matter. Nobody knows what happened to them, not even the archaeologists. Nobody is even certain when the settlers disappeared. Many of us who are interested believe that they gradually assimilated with the natives of North America and the Arctic. Ellesmere - Vikings in the Far North, Peter Schledermann, 1977-1980. Vikings, The North Atlantic Saga, William Fitzhugh and Elizabeth Ward, (Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington DC, 2000)248-256.

I believe that the Mini-Ice Age prompted mass human migration on a vast scale that altered population locations of many of the indigenous people in the Arctic and on the North American continent. As the winter weather worsened the natives in the northern climes followed the animals on which they subsisted, they had no choice. This mass migration theory has been largely ignored because it is impossible to prove. Native language groups are the only certain indicator of homogenous relationships—a common origin. One such example would be the Athapaskan, or Athabaskan linguistic group, with origins in eastern Canada. The Navajo and Apache Indians of the American southwest belong to this group. The inference here should be obvious to all but the most obtuse individual—one who accepts without question the associated dogma of conventional archaeology. With the end of the Mini-Ice Age sometime in the 18th century, many of the northern dwelling indigenous peoples had been displaced from their ancestral homelands by a natural climate change cycle, some for generations, others forever.

“History is nothing but a pack of tricks that we play upon the dead.” Voltaire
And so, historically speaking, the Greenland Norse people did not disappear, they are still here. Over the past 1000-years their progeny became so mixed and commingled with the pre-historical ancestors of the North American Indians as to become invisible.

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J. A. Hunsinger, Vinland Publishing, http://www.vinlandpublishing.com/
©2010 Jerry A. Hunsinger, All Rights Reserved

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