The Fate of Greenland

The Fate of Greenland - The Fate of Greenland's Vikings by...

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The Fate of Greenland's Vikings February 28, 2000 by Dale Mackenzie Brown
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Arm of Ericsfjord, on which Eric the Red had his farm (Dale Mackenzie Brown) Some people call it the Farm under the Sand, others Greenland's Pompeii. Dating to the mid- fourteenth century, it was once the site of a Viking colony founded along the island's grassy southwestern coast that stretches in a fjord-indented ribbon between the glaciers and the sea. Archaeologists Jette Arneborg of the Danish National Museum, Joel Berglund of the Greenland National Museum, and Claus Andreasen of Greenland University could not have guessed what would be revealed when they excavated the ruins of the five-room, stone-and-turf house in the early 1990s. As the archaeologists dug through the permafrost and removed the windblown glacial sand that filled the rooms, they found fragments of looms and cloth. Scattered about were other household belongings, including an iron knife, whetstones, soapstone vessels, and a double-edged comb. Whoever lived here departed so hurriedly that they left behind iron and caribou antler arrows, weapons needed for survival in this harsh country, medieval Europe's farthest frontier. What drove the occupants away? Where did they go? Map of Greenland showing settlements (Lynda D'Amico) The disappearance of the Greenlanders has intrigued students of history for centuries. One old source held that Skraelings, or Inuit, who had crossed over from Ellesmere Island in the far north around A.D. 1000, migrated down the west coast and overran the settlement. Ivar Bardarson,
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steward of the Church's property in Greenland, and a member of a sister settlement 300 miles to the southeast, was said to have gathered a force and sailed northwest to drive the interlopers out, but "when they came hither, behold they found no man, neither Christian nor heathen, naught but some wild cattle and sheep, and they killed as many of the wild cattle and sheep as they could carry and with them returned to their houses." The death of the Western Settlement portended the demise of the larger eastern one a century later. Of the first 24 boatloads of land-hungry settlers who set out from Iceland in the summer of 986 to colonize new territory explored several years earlier by the vagabond and outlaw, Erik the Red, only 14 made it, the others having been forced back to port or lost at sea. Yet more brave souls, drawn by the promise of a better life for themselves, soon followed. Under the leadership of the red-faced, red-bearded Erik (who had given the island its attractive name, the better to lure settlers there), the colonists developed a little Europe of their own just a few hundred miles from North America, a full 500 years before Columbus set foot on the continent. They established dairy and sheep farms throughout the unglaciated areas of the south and built churches, a monastery, a nunnery, and a cathedral boasting an imported bronze bell and greenish tinted glass windows. The Greenlanders prospered. From the number of farms in both colonies, whose 400 or so stone
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The Fate of Greenland - The Fate of Greenland's Vikings by...

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