New Findings about demise of Greenland Vikings

Recently publicized findings from a new major study (“Pastoral Settlement, Farming, and Hierarchy in Norse Vatnahverfi, South Greenland”) are challenging the long held assumptions regarding the demise of the Viking settlements in Greenland.

It has long been held that climate change (including the “Little Ice Age”) and a seeming inability or unwillingness of the Viking settlers to adapt, were the main reasons for the colonies disappearing. Among others, Jared Diamond in “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive” included several chapters about the Viking colonization of the North Atlantic including Greenland.

The new study shows that the Vikings survived the onset of the Little Ice Age, and that in general they seem to have been both very resourceful and adaptive in nature. Additionally it shows that the settlers changed their social structure to better cope with the changes. All findings that indicate that the climate change is less likely to have been the main cause of the disappearance.

However it may well still have been a contributing factor. For example, what the Little Ice Age may have caused is more competition for limited good land and indigenous Iniut people migrating south into the Viking settlement areas, resulting in hostility. Ultimately the Viking disappearance remains a mystery, however the new findings do force a more nuanced picture going forward.


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