Towards a first chronology for the middle settlement of Norse Greenland: 14C and related studies of animal bone and environmental material

Article English OPEN
Edwards, K.J. ; Cook, G.T. ; Nyegaard, G. ; Schofield, J.E. (2013)

The so-called Middle Settlement (Mellembygden) of Norse/Viking Greenland has received far less attention\ud than either of its larger Eastern and Western counterparts. The Greenlandic Norse occupation is nominally taken to date\ud between AD 985 and about AD 1450 and it is generally assumed that the Western Settlement was abandoned prior to the Eastern,\ud but where the Middle Settlement fits into the pattern temporally has hitherto been completely unknown. This paper presents\ud the first absolute dating evidence from the Middle Settlement. In addition to providing the results (14C, 13C, 15N) of\ud a radiocarbon dating and stable isotope measurement program from domesticated (Bos, Ovis/Capra) and wild (Rangifer) animal\ud bone and cultural-environmental (coastal, possibly midden) samples, the paper also addresses some problems of 14C estimation\ud for the period of Norse occupation in Greenland. Investigations show a Medieval Scandinavian presence close to the\ud start of the conventional landnám period (after AD 985) and with occupation continuing up to at least the 14th century AD.\ud The start of this activity, found at 2 sites, bears comparison with various locations in both the Eastern and Western settlement\ud areas. The terminal phase of activity in the Middle Settlement is represented at 1 site only, but despite this limitation, it shows\ud that the Norse may have been present for most of the period that they occupied sites in both the Western and Eastern settlements.\ud Caribou bone from separate contexts that also contained Thule Inuit material proves useful in indicating dates for a\ud probable post-Norse Inuit presence. The position of age estimates on the calibration curve underscores the need to look critically\ud at such evidence when making chronological inference during the Norse period owing to the existence of plateaus and\ud wiggles. The inclusion of samples from both domesticated and wild fauna considered to be possibly modern, yet reported\ud from archaeological assemblages, provides a warning to archaeozoologists to be especially vigilant when considering the\ud potential non-contemporaneity of material.
  • References (47)
    47 references, page 1 of 5

    Albrethsen SE, Arneborg J. 2004. Norse Ruins of the Southern Paamiut and Ivittuut Region. Copenhagen: Danish Polar Center Publication no. 13; Sila - Greenland Research Center, National Museum of Denmark.

    Arneborg J. 1996. Burgunderhuer, baskere og døde nordboer i Herjolfsnaes, Grønland. Nationalmuseets Arbejdsmark 1996:75-83.

    Arneborg J, Heinemeier J, Rud N, Sveinbjörnsdóttir A. 1998. AMS dates from the hall (XVII). In: Arneborg J, Gulløv HC, editors. Man, Culture and Environment in Ancient Greenland. Report on a Research Programme. Copenhagen: Danish National Museum & Danish Polar Centre. p 27-30.

    Arneborg J, Heinemeier J, Lynnerup N, Nielsen HL, Rud N, Sveinbjörnsdóttir ÁE. 1999. Change of diet of the Greenland Vikings determined from stable carbon isotope analysis and 14C dating of their bones. Radiocarbon 41(2):157-68.

    Balasse M, Mainland I, Richards MP. 2009. Stable isotope evidence for seasonal consumption of marine seaweed by modern and archaeological sheep in the Orkney archipelago (Scotland). Environmental Archaeology 14(1):1-14.

    Barlow LK, Sadler JP, Ogilvie AEJ, Buckland PC, Amorosi T, Ingimundarson JH, Skidmore P, Dugmore AJ, McGovern TH. 1997. Interdisciplinary investigations of the end of the Norse Western Settlement in Greenland. The Holocene 7(4):489-99.

    Bronk Ramsey C. 2009. Bayesian analysis of radiocarbon dates. Radiocarbon 51(1):337-60.

    Bruun D. 1918. Oversigt over Nordboruiner i Godthaabog Frederikshaabs Distrikter (1917). Meddelelser om Grønland 56:55-147.

    Coltrain JB. 2009. Sealing, whaling and caribou revisited: additional insights from the skeletal isotope chemistry of eastern Arctic foragers. Journal of Archaeological Science 36(3):764-75.

    Coltrain JB, Hayes MG, O'Rourke DH. 2004. Sealing, whaling and caribou: the skeletal isotope chemistry of eastern Arctic foragers. Journal of Archaeological Science 31(1):39-57.

  • Metrics
    No metrics available
Share - Bookmark