• Like
Konrad Smiarowski (CUNY) & Christian K Madsen (Copenhagen) Economics of Extinction in Norse Greenland
Upcoming SlideShare
Loading in...5

Konrad Smiarowski (CUNY) & Christian K Madsen (Copenhagen) Economics of Extinction in Norse Greenland

Uploaded on


More in: Education
  • Full Name Full Name Comment goes here.
    Are you sure you want to
    Your message goes here
    Be the first to comment
    Be the first to like this
No Downloads


Total Views
On Slideshare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds



Embeds 0

No embeds

Report content

Flagged as inappropriate Flag as inappropriate
Flag as inappropriate

Select your reason for flagging this presentation as inappropriate.

    No notes for slide


  • 1. Economic of Extinction in Greenland –Zooarchaeology of Vatnahverfi Region in Norse Eastern Settlement Konrad Śmiarowski PhD Program The Graduate Center CUNY 365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10016-4309 zaglobax@yahoo.com
  • 2. Norse Settlements •Greenland was settled from Iceland ca. 985 AD •Two areas of permanent farms in the SW. •Eastern Settlement has ca. 400 ruin groups. •Western Settlement has ca. 80 ruin groups. Norðursetur •The Norðursetur (Northern Hunting Grounds) were in the Disko Bay area, 800 km N of the settlements. •Western Settlement becomes extinctWestern ca 1350 (switch from “Norse” settledSettlement cultural landscape to “Inuit” mobile landscape) •Eastern Settlement lasts at least Eastern another 100 years Settlement
  • 3. The Vatnahverfi Project- - IPY NABO Excavations 2005-06 sites E 29 BrattahlidE 74 E74 Qorlortorsuaq 2007 sites E78 Eqaluit E172 Tatsip Ataa E64 Innoqassaq E60 2008 sites E64 Innoqassaq E68 Timerliit 2009-2010 site E172 Tatsip Ataa 2011 sites E3, E4, E171, E168 Map by Mikkelsen, Kuijpers, Lasse and Vedel
  • 4. Midden Excavation at E172 Tatsip Ataa -2007, 2009, 2010• 3 Seasons of midden excavation – over 50m2 in main area + 2 small trenches• Long period of occupation 1000AD to 14th C.• Large archaeofauna under analysis at CUNY• Dry and wet sieving in 4mm mesh for optimal artifact and bone recovery – 100% Bone and artifact collection• Palaeobotany and Entomology sampled • Detailed Survey work, including GPR and geomagnetics • Column sample taken in a peat bog next to the dwelling • The only known site with organic preservation at the time of the excavations – Global warming severely affected waterlogged, frozen deposits in ALL of SW Greenland
  • 5. Wild and Domestic 100% 90% 80% 70% 60%% NISP 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% Domestic Mammals Cetacea Seals Birds Fish Mollusca Caribou Other Mammals
  • 6. Seal Biology in Greenland Hooded Harp• Migratory Harp (P.groenlndica) and Hooded (C. crystata) seals ride the spring and summer sea ice. Number in millions.• Arctic non-migratory seals present all winter (breathing hole). Ringed (P.hispida- Nerpa) and Bearded (E. barbatus) seals.• Harbor/Common seals (P. vitulina) are driven off by heavy summer sea ice, if occurs Map: Aqqalu Rosing-Asvid
  • 7. Harbor/Common Seals•Form small concentrations at hauling out spots on sandybeaches•Vulnerable to human hunters when have pups on shore•Over-hunting, and local population extinctions or dispersal arepossible•Can not reproduce in ice filled waters
  • 8. Modern Drift Ice & Sealing Conditions Former Eastern and Western Settlement areas Modern Seal Catch 100% 90% 80% 70% % of seals taken 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% Qaqortoq 1954-75 Narsaq 1954-75 Kapisillt 1954-75 Ringed Common Bearded Hooded Harp
  • 9. Brattahlið (E Settlement) % Identified Seal Bones Brattahlid N Farm Identified Seals 100% 80% % NISP Identified seal 60% 40% 20% 0% ca 1200-1250 ca 1250-1300 post-1300 V IV III Harp seal Harbor seal Hooded seal
  • 10. Why Low Common Seal Numbers in the Later Phases ?• Depletion of common seal stocks in the area due to over-hunting by Norse hunters? (they survive for 300 years)• Climatic change from earlier, warmer conditions with little or no summer drift ice to a climate similar to modern conditions during the later 13th century AD ?
  • 11. Connecting Deep Sea Cores, GISP Temperature Reconstruction,Zooarchaeology & Climate Thresholds in SW GreenlandSea cores detect majorchange in summer sea icedistribution in SE and SWGreenland.Increasing summer drift iceafter 1250-1300 AD. Jennings A. E and Nancy J Weiner Environmental change in eastern Greenland during the last 1300 years; evidence from foraminifera and lithofacies in Nansen Fjord, 68 degrees N. The Holocene, 8(3) 434-441 Jensen et al. 2004; Diatom evidence of hydrographic changes and ice conditions in Igaliku Fjord, South Greenland, during the past 1500 years. The Holocene 14,2, 152-164
  • 12. Seal Bone Distribution in W and E Settlements Sealing Changes 100% 90% Eastern Settlement Western Settlement 80% 70% Later 60% 50% 40% Early 30% 20% 10% 0% Ringed Common Bearded Hooded HarpData from Śmiarowski, McGovern and Enghoff
  • 13. • Summer drift ice affects harbor (common) seal colonies• Drift ice also cools sea level pastures, reducing growing season of the most productive plant communities and pastures• Causes intensification of migratory seal hunting after 1250-1300 AD
  • 14. Decrease in Farm Productivity (Preliminary data) E 172 Domestic Mammals  E 172 Major Taxa 1000‐1100  vs. 1200‐1300 1000‐1100 vs. 1200‐1300 100 80 90 70 E172 Ph1 80 E172 Ph1 E172 Ph 3 60 70 E172 Ph 3 50 60% NISP 40 50 30 40 20 30 10 20 0 10 0 Cattle Horse Dog Pig Caprine
  • 15. Intensification of seal hunting Marine to Terrestrial Mammal Bone Ratio 4,00 3,50 3,00 2,50 2,00 “Seasonal 1,50 sheep station” 1,00 Inland Vth. Central Vatnahverfi E. Settlement SW 0,50 E. Settlement 0,00 pre 1200 ca 1200-1250 ca 1250-1300 post-1300 1000-1100 1200-1300 980-1035 later 1040-1300 1300-1400 medieval VI-IX V IV III 1 3 lower 1/2 3 E29 N E29 N E29 N E29 N E172 E172 E17a E17a E74 E74
  • 16. 100% 50% 0% Ø111#14 Ø111#15 Ø1a Ø111#13 V51#2 Ø149#7 V7K-4120 Ø149#10 V7#174 Ø66#23Diet in Norse Greenland AD 1000 – 1450 V51#4 Ø149#8 Ø149#213 Period III: ca. 1300 ‐ V51#254 V51#247 Eastern Settlement vs Western Settlement V51#184 Ø149#9 Ø111#207 Greenland Isotope Project Ø111#206 Ø23a Ø23b Ø1b V51#6 Data from the Nationalmuseet research team, Jette Arneborg et al. Ø149#215 V51#5 V51#3 Vesterbygden V51#255 V51#249 Ø23a Sample ID V7K-4117 V51#256 Østerbygden Ø66#24 V51#1 V51#253 Ø111#210 Ø111#208 Ø47#21 V51#258 Ø149#216 Ø149#214 Period II: ca.  Ø111#205 1160 ‐ 1300 V51#250 Ø47#20 V7#175 Ø35a Tj#19 Tj#26 Tj#27 Tj#16 Tj#25 Ø48b Period I: ca.  Tj#12 980 ‐ 1160 V51#240 V51#197 Ø48a Ø35b Ø35c Tj#11 Ø35a Tj#28 Tj#18 -13 -13,5 -14 -14,5 -15 -15,5 -16 -16,5 -17 -17,5 -18 -18,5 -19 -19,5 -20 -20,5 -21 C13 contents
  • 17. • Harbor seal colonies managed successfully in both Norse settlements• Resilient Norse successfully intensify migratory seal hunting as a response to century long unpredictable, unfavorable temperature change post 1250- 1300 AD• 15th Century Conjunctures that contributed to Norse Demise High magnitude cold temperature hazards overlap with high magnitude unpredictable storminess (affecting agricultural activity & trade with Europe) Political and economic changes in Europe result in decreased contact and Ivory demand and export Cultural contact with Thule Inuit – hostile? Resource competition?
  • 18. International Collaboration in Greenland 2005-12 – Many Thanks! • Thomas McGovern - NABO North Atlantic Biocultural Organisation • Sophia Perdikaris - HERC Human Ecodynamics Research Center • NORSEC - CUNY Northern Science & Education Center • NUNATTA KATERSUGAASIVIA ALLAGAATEQARFIALU - (Greenland National Museum and Archives, NKA) • Jette Arneborg and Christian Madsen - The Middle Ages & Renaissance Dept. at The Danish National Museum