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THE INUIT of the Arctic Regions Of Canada, Greenland, Russia & Alaska

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Author Topic: THE INUIT of the Arctic Regions Of Canada, Greenland, Russia & Alaska  (Read 8171 times)
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« Reply #15 on: February 05, 2009, 07:04:21 pm »

Islands off Greenland were sighted by Gunnbj÷rn Ulfsson when he was blown off course while sailing
from Norway to Iceland, probably in the early 10th century. During the 980s, explorers from Iceland
and Norway arrived at mainland Greenland and, finding the land unpopulated, settled on the south-
west coast. The name Greenland (GrŠnland in Old Norse and modern Icelandic, Gr°nland in modern Danish and Norwegian) has its roots in this colonization and is attributed to Erik the Red (the modern Inuit call it Kalaallit Nunaat, meaning "Land of the Kalaallit (Greenlanders)").

There are two written sources on the origin of the name, in The Book of Icelanders (═slendingabˇk),
an historical work dealing with early Icelandic history from the 12th century, and in the medieval Icelandic saga, The Saga of Eric the Red (EirÝks saga rau­a), which is about the Norse settlement in Greenland and the story of Erik the Red in particular. Both sources write: "He named the land Green-
land, saying that people would be eager to go there if it had a good name."

At that time, the inner regions of the long fjords where the settlements were located were very different from today. Excavations show that there were considerable birch woods with birch trees up
to 4 to 6 meters high in the area around the inner parts of the Tunuliarfik- and Aniaaq-fjords, the central area of the Eastern settlement, and the hills were grown with grass and willow brushes. This was due to the medieval climate optimum.

The Norse soon changed the vegetation by cutting down the trees to use as building material and for heating and by extensive sheep and goat grazing during summer and winter. The climate in Greenland was much warmer during the first centuries of settlement but became increasingly colder in the 14th and 15th centuries with the approaching period of colder weather known as the Little Ice Age.

According to the sagas, Erik the Red was exiled from Iceland for a period of three years, due to a murder.  He sailed to Greenland, where he explored the coastline and claimed certain lands as his own. He then returned to Iceland to bring people to settle on Greenland. The date of establishment of the colony is said, in the Icelandic sagas, to have been AD 985, when 25 ships left with Erik the Red. Only 14 arrived safely in Greenland.

This date has been approximately confirmed by radiocarbon dating of some remains at the first settlement at Brattahlid (now Qassiarsuk), which yielded a date of about 1000. According to the sagas, it was also in the year 1000 that Erik's son, Leif Eirikson, left the settlement to discover Vinland, generally assumed to be located in what is now Newfoundland.

The last written records of the Norse Greenlanders are from a 1408 marriage in the church of Hvalsey Ś today the most well-preserved of the Norse ruins.This colony existed as three settlement areas Ś the larger Eastern settlement, the smaller Western settlement, and the still smaller Middle Settlement (which is sometimes considered part of the Eastern). Population estimates vary from highs of only 2000 to as many as 10,000 people. More recent estimates such as that of Dr. Niels Lynnerup in "Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga by Fitzhugh Ww and William W. Fitzhugh", have tended toward the lower figure. Ruins of around 600 farms have been found in the two settlements, 500 in the Eastern settlement, 95 in the Western settlement, and 20 in the Middle. This was a significant colony (the population of modern Greenland is only 56,000) and it carried on trade in ivory from walrus tusks with Europe as well as exporting rope, sheep, seals and cattle hides according to one 13th century account. The colony depended on Europe (Iceland and Norway) for iron tools, wood, especially for boat building, which they also may have obtained from coastal Labrador, supplemental foods, and religious and social contacts. Trade ships from Iceland and Norway (from late 13th century all ships were forced by law to sail directly to Norway) traveled to Greenland every year and would sometimes overwinter in Greenland.

In 1126, a diocese was founded at Gar­ar (now Igaliku). It was subject to the Norwegian archdiocese of Nidaros (now Trondheim); at least five churches in Norse Greenland are known from archeological remains. In 1261, the population accepted the overlordship of the Norwegian King as well, although it continued to have its own law. In 1380 the Norwegian kingdom entered into a personal union with the Kingdom of Denmark. After initially thriving, the Norse settlements declined in the 14th century. The Western Settlement was abandoned around 1350. In 1378, there was no longer a bishop at Gar­ar. After 1408, when a marriage was recorded, not many written records mention the settlers. There are correspondence between the Pope and the Biskop Bertold af Garde from same year. The Danish Cartographer Claudius Clavus seem to have visited Greenland in 1420 from documents written by Nicolas Germanus and Henricus Martellus who had access to original cartographic notes and map by Clavus. Two mathematical manuscripts containing the second chart of the Claudius Clavus map from his travel to Greenland where he himself mapped the area were found during the late 20th Century by the Danish scholar Bj÷nbo and Petersen. (Source: originals in Hofbibliothek at Vienna. A Greenlander in Norway, on visit; it is also mentioned in a Norwegian Diploma from 1426, [Peder Gr°nlendiger] source: Diplomatarium Norwegicum bind 13 nr 91.)

It is probable that the Eastern Settlement was defunct by the middle 15th century although no exact date has been established.
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