The Viking Age & the Norse Westward Expansion• Norse “landnám package” – Farming-based domestic economy • Domestic animals • Barley, flax, rye, oats, hay – Supplemental use of wild food resources – “Natural Capital” • Fish, sea mammals, birds, reindeer, etc.
Natural Capital• Wild species & lush landscapes serve to underwrite landnám by reducing consumption of imported domesticates• Some resources might be expended - “natural capital” is totally drawn down• Others might be managed sustainably for long period of time• Participation in a community network was key for continued access to most important wild resources• Human impact story is NOT simple
Norse North AtlanticDifferent choices- different outcomes to climate changes Communities in the Atlantic islands faced different challenges, made different choices and faced different outcomes.
Norse N. Atlantic: Different Geographies Greenland: Iceland: Faroes: Very large island- Large island- Everywhere close to sea Distant resources Extensive interior Close to EuropeShort summer/pack ice Woodlands Open landscape No accessible iron Bog iron deposits Marginal grain productionPastoralism challenging Very marginal arable cultivation Pilot whales Caribou No terrestrial mammals Birds and fish Migrating seals Birds and fish Other societies
Three 1: The unsurprising part. In the Faroecontrasting Islands, sustainable practice, effective utilization of wild resources, limitedoutcomes in landscape impacts and successfulthe face of adaptation to climate change on centennialclimatic time scales is associated with long-term settlement success and the developmenthazards of a prosperous society.
Threecontrastingoutcomes inthe face ofclimatichazards2: In Iceland we have thepuzzle of Norsesustainable practice,successful adaptation Soiland long-term success erosionlinked to extensive 2009landscape degradation.
Same Beginnings, differentoutcomes- deforestation & erosion
Three contrasting outcomes in the face of climatic hazards3: In Greenland, sustainable practice, limited landscapeimpacts and successful adaptation to climate change oncentennial time scales was followed by settlementabandonment in the mid 15th century.
Disruption of upland vegetation generates sediment fluxKAM 3 First introduction of herbivores to hill tops?
Deflation of Faroesesummits and dispersal of silt a notable local impact of landnám… ..a modest effect compared to change in Iceland
The Faroes as success story• Environmental: – Creation of managed infield system – No woodland to clear – Limited soil erosion & peat removal• Wild resources heavily, sustainably exploited – Continued legacy• Nucleated settlement – Reinforces social interactions
Legislated management system• Exclusive grazing rights to hreppur• Farm quotas for maximum number of sheep – Penalty if exceeded• Regulated grazing season – Began given week in June – Ended given week in September
30 Proportions of cattle and sheep change over time from 9th-11th c, varying from ca 2 25 -6 sheep per cow. However, a major transition takes place ca 20 AD 1200: now 20-25 sheep per cow.Caprine per cattle bone This pattern continues to the 18th century 15 The wool-producing part of the flock – which uses the highlands – dramatically increases ca 1200 10 l 9th - e 10th c 10th c 11th-12th c Creates far greater chance of upland 5 degradation 0 He rg. SV fsd. h m W 2 SL c 11 1th m th m th th m th Sv 2th h ba 100 0 10 0 ea 00 9t HS 10t Sv rð 1 120 th rð M rd 1 120 L 0 10 0 ST 10 na 17 1 14 HR id 1 HS id 1 -1 l 10 L ba H rjo ar e id id tL th K - 0- ba gi c n al H T Tj 25 ko VG T H K o m ga H Sv nb SV SL G ei n ei at Sv St ýv al al
13th Century environmental managers were slightly distracted... Civil W ! ar•Age of the Sturlungs: - Five Great Families struggle to control all Iceland - Icelandic warlords seek kingship - Everyone loses - Iceland submits to Norway 1264
The human impacts of climatechanges that were extreme (in termsof their deviation for the mean of theprevious 15 years) were buffered bythe drawdown of natural (landscape)capital and resulted in threshold-crossing events.
Iceland: success at a cost• Early establishment of environmental management & regulation; sustainable exploitation of finite resources (e.g. birds)• When faced with predictable changes (e.g. woodland clearance) adaptations were made to conserve a landscape fit for purpose• When faced with unpredictable change (e.g. climate hazards) natural capitals could be drawn down to maintain settlement
Travel time & connectedness• With a 12-hr travel time, all settlement connected to each other• Outer parts of fjord and skerries (seal hunting grounds) are only marginally reached or not at all
Travel time & connectedness• With deteriorating climate, travel conditions become more difficult• Settlements concentrate on best farmland & in greater concentration• But crucial marine food resources are now further away
Changing world systems – a double exposure?Plague may have reached Greenlandin 15th century; it certainly caused the collapse of the Norwegian economy (and market for ivory) Triple exposure? Inuit contacts: source of conflict, or source ofExposure to step-wise climate trade goods (furs)? change Settlement focused on marinemammals for subsistence & trade did not endure past the climate hazards of mid 14th century
Lessons from the Viking Age• In Greenland, successful adaptation led to the development of a rigidity trap – Path chosen by the Greenlanders created a society that could not endure the conjunctures of climate hazard, economic change & culture contact of the mid 15th century• In contrast to Iceland & Faroe Islands, the exploitation of marine resources in Greenland had greater exposure to climate hazards – Faroe Islands faced less extreme climate change – Icelanders could utilise greater pastoral resources (and drawn down landscape capitals) – Greenlanders died
Lessons from the Viking AgePeople can...• Creatively adapt to new environments• Build up centuries of community-based managerial experience• Wisely conserve fragile resources• Maintain long-term (century-scale) sustainable patterns of life & society• …and still face localized collapse and extinction
Lessons from the Viking AgeScales & cross-scale interactions• Distances matter – Utilization of dispersed resources carries cost, especially when settlements are fixed – Dispersed systems are vulnerable to increased travel costs• Strong communal interaction can be a strength, but collapse of a well-integrated system can kill everyone…