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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 7750 times)
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« Reply #30 on: February 05, 2009, 07:10:40 pm »

There are many theories as to why the Norse settlements collapsed in Greenland.

Jared Diamond, author of Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, suggests that some or all of five factors contributed to the demise of the Greenland colony: cumulative environmental damage, gradual climate change, conflicts with hostile neighbors, the loss of contact and support from Europe, and, perhaps most crucial, cultural conservatism and failure to adapt to an increasingly harsh natural environment. Numerous studies have tested these hypotheses and some have led to significant discoveries.

On the other hand there are dissenters: In The Frozen Echo, Kirsten Seaver contests some of the more generally-accepted theories about the demise of the Greenland colony. Thus Seaver asserts that the Greenland colony, towards the end, was healthier than Diamond and others have thought. Seaver believes that the Greenlanders cannot have starved to death. They may rather have been wiped out by Inuit or unrecorded European attacks, or they may have abandoned the colony to return to Iceland or to seek out new homes in Vinland.

However, these arguments seem to conflict with the physical evidence from archeological studies of the ancient farm sites. The paucity of personal belongings at these sites is typical of North Atlantic Norse sites that were abandoned in an orderly fashion, with any useful items being deliberately removed but to others it suggests a gradual but devastating impoverishment. Midden heaps at these sites do show an increasingly impoverished diet for humans and livestock.

Greenland was always colder in winter than Iceland and Norway, and its terrain less hospitable to agriculture. Erosion of the soil was a danger from the beginning, one that the Greenland settlements may not have recognized until it was too late.

For an extended time, nonetheless, the relatively warm West Greenland current flowing northwards along the southwestern coast of Greenland made it feasible for the Norse to farm much as their relatives did in Iceland or northern Norway. Palynologists' tests on pollen counts and fossilized plants prove that the Greenlanders must have struggled with soil erosion and deforestation.

As the unsuitability of the land for agriculture became more and more patent, the Greenlanders resorted first to pastoralism and then to hunting for their food.

But they never learned to use the hunting techniques of the Inuit, one being a farming culture, the other living on hunting in more northern areas with pack ice.
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