Viking Comings and Goings

Historical Revelation of the Week:
May 2011 Rhode Island, USA — Brown University


This “finding comes from the first reconstruction of 5,600 years of climate history from two lakes in Kangerlussuaq, near the Norse “Western Settlement.” Unlike ice cores taken from the Greenland ice sheet hundreds of miles inland, the new lake core measurements reflect air temperatures where the Vikings lived…”

Image: William D’Andrea/Brown University


“An extended cold snap, called the Little Ice Age, gripped Greenland beginning in the 1400s. This has been cited as a major cause of the Norse’s disappearance. Now researchers led by Brown University show the climate turned colder in an earlier span of several decades, setting in motion the end of the Greenland Norse.”

“Beginning around 1100, the climate [in Greenland] began an 80-year period in which temperatures dropped 4 degrees Celsius (7 degrees Fahrenheit), Brown scientists concluded from lake readings. While that may not be considered precipitous, especially in the summer, the change could have ushered in a number of hazards, including shorter crop-growing seasons, less available food for livestock and more sea ice that may have blocked trade.”


Historical Importance:
The less friendly the climate, the more mobile its people. It’s something I’ve noticed in my wanderings through history. Look at the denizens of the African deserts, and let’s say the Eskimos. Before modern technology found them, they wandered around and spent a few generations, or maybe only a season where they could eke out a living.

In the more stable parts of the globe, small climate changes still made a big difference. One generation, a land was welcoming and comfortable, but in the next? “Just what was pops thinking when he decided to live in this godforsaken place?”

No one is quite sure what exactly drove the Vikings to Greenland, as the Viking Age began as Europe came out of a “little ice age,” but this study seems to have discovered what drove them out. Weather, the great herder of life.

In the late 10th century, the Norse Viking’ed over to Greenland. At that time the weather was fair and accommodating settlers. However, the honeymoon ended soon enough, driving the Norse yet again to search out new homes. But by the 15th century there were plenty of other opportunities, and they knew of better ways to find a place to live. Maybe they did learn from history…

The next post will be the last post of 2011 Viking Discoveries. I’ve saved the best for last!

 This post is part of the January is Viking Month blog series. To read the next, and last, post, One Viking in Ardnamurchan, click here. To see the series page click here.

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