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About Me

Capt. Alan Price

A global traveled lecturer on Viking Shetland-Pembrokeshire history, Alan, based in London, having turned down a position at the Viking Institute, now spends much of his time "in-the-field" gathering, and researching, fresh evidence on Shetland and in Pembrokeshire. Ireland, Iceland, and Greenland are, also, destinations well featured in Alan's itinerary.

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HISTORY

GREENLAND

2018

Shetland was already important to the Vikings as it marked the first port of call in their westward expansion, being only 160 miles from Norway’s west coast and less than a day’s sailing away. This importance grew as time went on, with Shetland being recently described as the “Grand Central Station” of the Viking world, as the sea lanes filled with adventurers and traders going back and forth between Scandinavia, Britain, Europe, Asia, Africa, Arabia, Ireland, Iceland, Greenland and America.

From 986, Greenland's west coast was settled by Vikings, through a contingent of 14 boats led by Erik the Red. They formed three settlements—known as the Eastern Settlement, the Western Settlement and the Middle Settlement—on fjords near the southwestern-most tip of the island. They shared the island with the late Dorset culture inhabitants who occupied the northern and western parts, and later with the Thule culture that entered from the north. Norse Greenlanders submitted to Norwegian rule in the 13th century under the Norwegian Empire. Later the Kingdom of Norway entered into a personal union with Denmark in 1380, and from 1397 was a part of the Kalmar Union.

Erik the Red's recruitment of others to colonize Greenland has been characterized recently as a land scam, the scam (and the name) portraying Greenland as better farm land than in Iceland.

The Norse settlements, such as Brattahlíð, thrived for centuries but disappeared sometime in the 15th century, perhaps at the onset of the Little Ice Age. Apart from some runic inscriptions, no contemporary records or historiography survives from the Norse settlements. Medieval Norwegian sagas and historical works mention Greenland's economy as well as the bishops of Gardar and the collection of tithes. A chapter in the Konungs skuggsjá (The King's Mirror) describes Norse Greenland's exports and imports as well as grain cultivation.

Icelandic saga accounts of life in Greenland were composed in the 13th century and later, and do not constitute primary sources for the history of early Norse Greenland. Modern understanding therefore mostly depends on the physical data from archeological sites. Interpretation of ice core and clam shell data suggests that between 800 and 1300, the regions around the fjords of southern Greenland experienced a relatively mild climate several degrees Celsius higher than usual in the North Atlantic, with trees and herbaceous plants growing, and livestock being farmed. Barley was grown as a crop up to the 70th parallel. What is verifiable is that the ice cores indicate Greenland has had dramatic temperature shifts many times over the past 100,000 years. Similarly the Icelandic Book of Settlements records famines during the winters, in which "the old and helpless were killed and thrown over cliffs".

These Icelandic settlements vanished during the 14th and early 15th centuries. The demise of the Western Settlement coincides with a decrease in summer and winter temperatures. A study of North Atlantic seasonal temperature variability during the Little Ice Age showed a significant decrease in maximum summer temperatures beginning in the late 13th century to early 14th century—as much as 6 to 8 °C (11 to 14 °F) lower than modern summer temperatures. The study also found that the lowest winter temperatures of the last 2000 years occurred in the late 14th century and early 15th century. The Eastern Settlement was likely abandoned in the early to mid-15th century, during this cold period.

Theories drawn from archeological excavations at Herjolfsnes in the 1920s, suggest that the condition of human bones from this period indicates that the Norse population was malnourished, maybe due to soil erosion resulting from the Norsemen's destruction of natural vegetation in the course of farming, turf-cutting, and wood-cutting. Malnutrition may also have resulted from widespread deaths due to pandemic plague; the decline in temperatures during the Little Ice Age; and armed conflicts with the Skrælings (Norse word for Inuit, meaning "wretches". In 1379, the Inuit attacked the Eastern Settlement, killed 18 men and captured two boys and a woman. Recent archeological studies somewhat challenge the general assumption that the Norse colonisation had a dramatic negative environmental effect on the vegetation. Data support traces of a possible Norse soil amendment strategy. More recent evidence suggests that the Norse, who never numbered more than about 2,500, gradually abandoned the Greenland settlements over the 1400s as walrus ivory,the most valuable export from Greenland, decreased in price due to competition with other sources of higher-quality ivory, and that there was actually little evidence of starvation or difficulties.

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On the same latitude as the Shetland Islands, Cape Farewell is a headland on the southern shore of Egger Island, Nunap Isua Archipelago, Greenland. As the southernmost point of the country - projecting out into the North Atlantic Ocean and the Labrador Sea - it is one of the important landmarks of Greenland.

“Gunnbjörn Ulfsson (c. 10th century), also Gunnbjörn Ulf-Krakuson, was a Norwegian settler in Iceland. He was reportedly the first European to sight Greenland. A number of modern place names in Greenland commemorates Gunnbjörn, most notably Gunnbjørn Fjeld. ” — Wikipedia

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The Oseberg ship (Norwegian: Osebergskipet) is a well-preserved Viking ship discovered in a large burial mound at the Oseberg farm near Tønsberg in Vestfold county, Norway. This ship is commonly acknowledged to be among the finer artifacts to have survived from the Viking Era.

Greenland is the world's largest island. Australia and Antarctica, although larger, are generally considered to be continental landmasses rather than islands. Three-quarters of Greenland is covered by the only permanent ice sheet outside Antarctica. With a population of about 56,480 (2013), it is the least densely populated territory in the world. About a third of the population live in Nuuk, the capital and largest city. The Arctic Umiaq Line ferry acts as a lifeline for western Greenland, connecting the various cities and settlements.