Disequilibrium, Adaptation, and the Norse Settlement of Greenland

Rowan Jackson, Jette Arneborg, Andrew J. Dugmore, Christian Koch Madsen, Thomas H. McGovern, Konrad Smiarowski, Richard Streeter

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


There is increasing evidence to suggest that arctic cultures and ecosystems have followed non-linear responses to climate change.
Norse Scandinavian farmers introduced agriculture to sub-arctic Greenland in the late tenth century, creating synanthropic landscapes
and utilising seasonally abundant marine and terrestrial resources. Using a niche-construction framework and data from
recent survey work, studies of diet, and regional-scale climate proxies we examine the potential mismatch between this imported
agricultural niche and the constraints of the environment from the tenth to the fifteenth centuries. We argue that landscape
modification conformed the Norse to a Scandinavian style of agriculture throughout settlement, structuring and limiting the efficacy
of seasonal hunting strategies. Recent climate data provide evidence of sustained cooling from the mid thirteenth century and
climate variation from the early fifteenth century. Archaeological evidence suggests that the Norse made incremental adjustments to
the changing sub-arctic environment, but were limited by cultural adaptations made in past environments
Original languageEnglish
JournalHuman Ecology
Issue number5
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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