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Why Vikings Abandoned Colony in Greenland

Why Vikings Abandoned Colony in Greenland | Geography Education |
For years, researchers have puzzled over why Viking descendents abandoned Greenland in the late 15th century.
Seth Dixon's insight:

As the climate began to cool the diet of the Greenland settlers changed dramatically.  Originally their diets consisted of about 20-30% seafood, but as farming became nearly impossible on this increasingly marginal land, it jumped up to about 80%.  The economic livelihood of the settlements was in danger and the solution lay in a cultural transition, but one that they didn't want to make.  "They saw themselves as farmers and ranchers rather than fishermen and hunters...[and were] worried about the increasing loss of their Scandinavian identity."  In essence they abandoned Greenland in part because they chose not abandon their Viking heritage to embrace a culture that would have be more like that of the Inuits.  Cultural factors may have mattered more than economic limitations.


Tags: Greenland, folk culture, historical.

James Good's comment, April 19, 2013 6:33 PM
It would make sense that the Vikings abandoned Greenland because they felt isolated from their mother country. There must have been a strong Scandanavian folk culture that the people of Greenland valued enough to make such a drastic movement. It is very likely that the people of Greenland cherished their home land and its culture. This culture was probably more exciting to them then the dismal life in the far north.

Once the demand for walrus tusks and seal skins decreased, there was really no need for the Vikings to stay in Greenland anyways. If they did not want to become farmers and take advantage of the potential farming land that Greenland had to offer, then there would be no benefit to staying there anyway.
Conor McCloskey's comment, April 30, 2013 10:25 AM
Humans have been exploring our planet for thousands of years. Settlements are established, and deemed successful or unsuccessful. The successful ones are still around today, however the unsuccessful one’s usually fall to the wayside and are forgotten. Many things can make a colony of human exploration unsuccessful, much like Viking colonies in Greenland. These colonies were abandoned and archeologists have search for the reasons why. Questions of the fertility of the land and available animals to hunt have been reasons that archeologists use to explain the colonial abandonment.
The push and pull factors of ancient Viking life are apparent through their migratory patterns. There are many possible reasons for the Vikings to have left this colony though archeologists are struggling to find just one. Food source seems to be a major reason why other colonies were abandoned, though seal meat does not seem to be at a shortage in this area. Ancient reason of migrating is similar to modern ones, however they are also very different. Globalization has changed the way humans live, the interconnectedness of the world has made living in places that could support life in ancient times possible.
Zakary Pereira's comment, April 30, 2013 5:11 PM
Of course they left, who would want to be basically stranded on Greenland away from any other civilization? Not me for sure. Plus, the lack of supplied they were receiving and tools it would have been near impossible to live and thrive in Greenland. They were also losing their identity; they were thinking of themselves more as farmers and ranchers rather than fishermen and hunters, their original identity as Scandinavians. Nonetheless it was imperative that they leave and head home because the colony in Greenland surely would have run dry and died out. If not for the overkilling of seals for food or the bone-chilling winters, I might theorize that they might stay in Greenland however that is not how history unfolded and it doesn’t surprise me that they left. Like James said, once their trade had virtually ceased, the outpost in Greenland was useless because they could be just living back home where you weren’t in extreme weather conditions and living off of seal meat.
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