24 June 2010


The latest review of the just published novel, Axe of Iron: Confrontation, the second book of the continuing tale of Greenland Vikings in North America--Vinland, gets a front page spread in the Norwegian American Weekly newspaper. How neat is that?

18 June 2010

Life of Vikings seen through soil

A scientist and a composer are working together to explore a thousand years of human history through soil samples.
The pair have built an installation in Dundee which tells the story of Viking settlers in Greenland going back to the year 900.
Images of soil samples gathered by Dr Paul Adderley have been set to audio by Dr Michael Young.
Dr Young said: "Hidden in the soil is this story about people and the environment. We explore that."
The audio-video presentation is generated live by a specially built computer program. The presentation takes about 30 minutes to explore more than 1,000 years of human history.
Stirling University's Dr Adderley said: "We combine visual information gained from a forensic examination of soils from old settlements, with an understanding of how Greenland's environment has changed. The everyday farm-life of the Viking settlers is used to create the synthesis of the sounds heard. Michael and I hope that the work will cause the audience to reflect on the nature of these past communities and the extremes of environment which were faced by Viking settlers."

Dr Young, from Goldsmiths, University of London, said he had used audio from a variety of sources to create the science-art collaboration.

Story from BBC NEWS:


Published: 2010/03/09 12:42:57 GMT


09 June 2010

Human Migration - The Arctic and North America during the Mini-Ice Age

From 1200-1800, Greenland and northern North America experienced climate change caused human and animal migration that has not been repeated to the present day. The climate in these areas began to change dramatically during the one to two centuries of the latter half of the Medieval Warm Period (700-1200) and the onset of the next natural climate cycle, the Mini-Ice Age (1300-1800).

The Greenland Norse, whom I write about, and the pre-historical ancestors of certain northern American Indian tribes, depended on large land and littoral animal species for their existence. As the climate decayed from the benign temperatures of the Medieval Warm Period, inland ice and snow pack and coastal sea icepack would have increased with the onset of the Mini-Ice Age. The animals affected would move gradually south to ensure their own survival. Humans who depended on them, moved with them.

A study of Indian language groups reveals that massive human migration occurred on the North American continent during the Mini-Ice Age. It is virtually impossible to determine origin and relationships between the tribal bands because of the mixing of peoples that occurred as a result of this climate induced forced migration.

I am specifically interested in the Algonquian, Iroquoian, and Athapaskan language groups, because the people speaking these languages would have had contact with the Greenland Norse settlers in my Axe of Iron series of novels, as the Norse moved south with them.

To offer credence to my contention of climate-caused human migration I offer the case of the contemporary Cree and Ojibwa Indians, both tribes are Algonquian speakers. Their pre-historical ancestors, the Naskapi and Anishinabeg respectively, play a major role in my novels, for they originated along the shorelines and inland areas of Hudson Bay/James Bay, where my first novel, Axe of Iron: The Settlers, takes place. Their ancestors, fleeing the climate onslaught from the north, spread out over the present day upper Midwest and Great Plains of the United States, where many of them remain to this day.

Others eventually made their way back north, again following their food source, as the climate moderated with the cycle that we enjoy today.

The Haudenosaunee, pre-historical ancestors of the Iroquois Indians, also contacted my Greenland Norse settlers during the period, but you will have to read my books to know how and where that association occurred.

I also offer the present day Navajo and Apache Indian tribes as an example of the mixing of cultures that occurred on this continent during the period. These indigenous people did not originate where they now reside, the American southwest. Their language is Athapaskan and their pre-historical ancestors originated somewhere in what is now Canada. Their journey south began near the onset of the Mini-Ice Age, or about 1200.

As these nomadic warrior people took up residence in the southwest they came in contact with agrarian societies that were already there, such as the people we know only as Anasazi. Their invasion no doubt forced the Anasazi to develop the fortified cliff-dwellings - Mesa Verde for example - that they later abandoned as the onslaught of the warrior societies continued. This combined with the drought throughout the southwest that resulted during the period finally overcame their civilization.

Much happened on this continent as a direct result of climate-caused human migration during pre-history. The same thing will happen to contemporary humans - us - during the present natural climate cycle, as global climatic conditions dictate. The stark contrast will be that we will not be able to migrate, as our ancestors did, for we are too, many.

04 June 2010

Greenland Vikings Hit By Changing Climate


Temperatures in Iceland plummeted soon after settlers arrived

New research reveals just how bad an idea it was to colonize Greenland and Iceland more than a millennium ago: average temperatures in Iceland plummeted nearly 6°Celsius in the century that followed the island’s Norse settlement in about A.D. 870(sic), a climate record gleaned from mollusk shells shows.

The record is the most precise year-by-year chronology yet of temperatures experienced by the northern Norse colonies, says William Patterson, an isotope geochemist at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada, who led the new work. The study will appear online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“We’re aware from written documents of the kinds of things that people faced in the North Atlantic over the last 1,000 years,” he says. “This is a way to quantify the experiences they had.”

For instance, Icelandic sagas mention several famines that took place in the first century after settlement, at the time temperatures were dropping. But Astrid Ogilvie, an Arctic historian at the University of Colorado at Boulder, says it’s a stretch to blame those famines — in which, as one saga describes it, “the old and helpless were killed and thrown over cliffs” — totally on climate.

The mollusk temperature record is “all tremendously interesting,” she says, “but there is a caveat — we can’t be 100 percent sure that climate was involved” in the famine.

The study will, however, help historians better understand exactly what was going on in the Norse settlements over the years, Ogilvie says.

Patterson’s team made detailed measurements of oxygen isotopes contained within 26 mollusk shells taken from sediment cores drilled off the northwestern coast of Iceland. The ratio of oxygen-16 to oxygen-18 in the shells varies depending on water temperature, so the amounts of the two isotopes can be used as a proxy to gauge how hot or cold things were.

The shells show a large amount of variation both within years and from year to year. For instance, the researchers say, winter temperature variability increased between 990 and 1120, a time when written records suggest that crops occasionally failed. By 1250, things heated up again and summer temperatures reached 10°C, possibly the highest in three centuries. Within decades, though, temperatures began to plunge again.

While Iceland remained settled through the modern day, Norse settlements in Greenland were abandoned by the early 15th century. Many researchers believe that climate changes played at least a minor role.

By Alexandra Witze

Monday, March 8th, 2010

Read about the Axe of Iron series of historical fiction books offering a viable alternative, through the eyes of the characters, to the disappearance of the Greenland Vikings from Greenland and history.