The mystery of the missing colony, the Greenland Vikings
There was a time when at the mention of the Vikings was in awe the whole of Europe. These brave sailors on their swift ships made daring raids on coastal towns and villages, collected tribute and destroyed the disobedient. The Vikings not only feel at home in the British Isles, the Netherlands and France, but traveled to Spain, Morocco and Italy.
Now, few historians doubt that in North America, the Vikings visited long before Columbus. According to legend, the Viking Leif Eiriksson (Leif the Happy) reached the shores of America hundreds of years before Christopher Columbus. Relatively recently, scientists have obtained evidence that the Vikings did indeed go so far.
A special page in the history of the Vikings is the exploration of Greenland. Excavations on the island revealed that the Vikings flourished here for hundreds of years, trading with Europe, and possibly with native American tribes.
The history of the Vikings in the North Atlantic began with Iceland, the coast of which about 860 independently of each visited Natcod the Norwegian and the Swede Gardar Svavarsson. Their stories about the new land prompted the Norwegian Raven Floki to go there with the goal to establish a colony. The colonists barely suffered a harsh winter, so the island is called Iceland — «Ice land».
However, many colonists liked rich game island, with beautiful fjords and forests. The mass migration of Vikings to Iceland. To the 70-th years of X century in Iceland, there were already about 50 thousand colonists. It was during this period in the colony there was a terrible famine, when many wanted to leave the island and go in search of a better life. Soon the opportunity presented itself.
In 982 Eric G. Torvalds, nicknamed Red for his fiery hair and repeatedly accused of killings, another quarrel with his neighbor murdered his two sons. For this crime Eric was imprisoned and sentenced only to three years of expulsion outside of Iceland. Eric decided to go on a trip.
From a friend of a sailor he knew that 450 miles to the West is some kind of ground. Red bought the ship and with his friends went in search of her. In the summer of 982, Erik the ship had already rounded the southern tip of the mysterious land. He liked one beautiful place with meadows, covered with thick grass and flowers, in addition, its fjords remind travelers of their homes. Eric named the land Greenland — «Green country».
Spent three years travelling on their chosen place, and in 985, he returned to Iceland, began to gather an expedition for the colonization of open land by them. 25 ships with 700 colonists went to Greenland, but the brutal storm made its changes: only 14 ships and 400 reached the cherished land.
They founded on the southern coast of Greenland, the so-called Eastern settlement. In the next 10 years in Greenland several times came groups of settlers, some of which are based on the South West coast another colony and Western settlement.
Despite the fact that the living conditions of the colonists were very harsh Greenland outposts of the Vikings began to flourish. The number of colonists grew gradually. According to the archaeologists, there was a period when there were at least 3 thousand of the Vikings.
The Vikings settled at some distance from the sea along the fjords that reminded them of home. To build a farm in Greenland was quite difficult due to the lack of large trees. Source of wood was almost one fin. Houses were built of driftwood, stone or turf.
To provide adequate insulation from the harsh frost, the walls of some buildings were made with a thickness of 2 m and even more. Among excavated by archaeologists farms of the Western settlement is the so-called farm under the sand.
Scientists have discovered there are many interesting items that help to represent the lifestyle of the Vikings in Greenland. One of the excavated buildings was truly gigantic: to build such a structure of turf, it was necessary to tear it on an area of about 1000 sq. m.
Summer in Greenland was too short to grow crops, so the Vikings likely without beer and bread. The settlers reared cattle — goats, sheep and even cows, slaughtered them for meat very sparingly, mainly using secondary animal products — milk and cheese.
Reconstruction of a medieval house in Greenland
Another reconstruction of the medieval Greenland home
At first the settlers differed little from its abandoned in Iceland and Scandinavia compatriots. They caught fish nets and hunted seals and deer. The Greenland Vikings made clothes of wool and linen, sometimes using the fur of Arctic hares.
Used clothing from the skins of Buffalo and other exotic materials — apparently not without the influence of the American tribes.
To survive, the colonists supported the trade with Scandinavia. In exchange for iron, grain and timber from Europe, they offered the skins of bears and Arctic foxes, narwhal tusks and strong rope made of walrus skins. Whalebone has also found a demand among European fashionistas. Assume that the Greenland Vikings traded and… live bears.
It is possible that the Vikings of Greenland went for timber even in North America. Remnants of the Vikings in Newfoundland testify to their short stay on the continent.
In the XIV century the climate in Greenland became colder. Glaciers slid down to the land of the Vikings, bringing with it sand, mud and gravel. These sediments were gradually deprived the colonists of pasture.
«Over time the situation has worsened, says archaeologist Jett, Arneborg. — The black death (the plague) decimated Norway, destroying two thirds of the population. The plague hit Iceland, killing a third of its residents.»
While there is no evidence that plague reached Greenland, but on the development of trade it he said no doubt. The settlers gradually adapted to the new conditions. Their diet began to dominate the seafood. Scientists have found that, based on the ratio in the bones of excavated skeletons of the settlers of the two different forms of carbon. It turned out that closer to the XIV century in the diet of the Greenland Vikings, the seafood began to be about 80 percent.
The cold forced the Eskimos to migrate closer to the areas controlled by the Vikings. Some scientists suggest that the Vikings were able to meet with the Inuit, but even live among them. However, no evidence for this has not yet been received. More likely is the suggestion that the Vikings began to clash with the native Americans about the legends of the Eskimos.
More adapted to the harsh conditions of the North Eskimos endured the cold much easier than the Vikings. Archaeologists were very surprised when removed from the graves of well-preserved specimens of clothing the Greenland Vikings. It turned out that the Vikings strictly follow the European style, they don’t even come to mind to learn some items of clothing of the Eskimos, more adapted to survival in the North.
Around 1350, there was some mysterious event: the entire population of the Western settlement, about 1000 people, suddenly disappeared. The Norwegian priest from the Eastern settlements, visiting the Western settlement of the colony, did not find there a single living soul, in addition to feral livestock. Not been found and corpses!
The last written testimony of the Greenland Vikings — record of the wedding in the Church of Halse (Hvalsey Church) belongs to 1408
Among the hypotheses explaining the disappearance of such a large number of people are a version of the plague, the famine, the attack of the Inuit, or even pirates, mass resettlement. However, almost all these versions are lost because of the lack of corpses and the presence of Pets. There is still no more or less suitable explanation of this mystery.
The Eastern settlement existed until 1500, One of the last written sources of the Vikings of Greenland is a record of a Christian wedding ceremony in Church in Halsi, which survived until our days. Historians believe that the last Vikings of Greenland left the colony and moved back to Iceland.
And traditions of the Eskimos, the last Viking Eastern settlement was under attack by pirates, but the excavations have not confirmed this story.
In 1540, the team of the Icelandic ship is not found in the colony to any living soul, only the remains of a man in a hood. Perhaps it was the last Greenland Viking…
Their mystery still remains unsolved.