(ORDO NEWS) — For years, researchers have tried to understand why the Vikings abandoned one of their settlements in Greenland.
While some experts have suggested that the drop in temperature may have been the cause, new research suggests that the cold was not the main factor. It’s just that the Vikings faced a new enemy they couldn’t defeat: the drought.
A study detailing the results has been published in the journal Science Advances.
The hypothesis of a colder temperature persisted for many years due to the so-called Little Ice Age, which occurred between 1300 and 1850, when temperatures remained low in the North Atlantic.
The Vikings established their settlement, known as the East Settlement, in southern Greenland in 985. They cut down bushes and planted grass for grazing.
Up to 2,000 people lived in the settlement, and by the early 1400s it had been abandoned. Too cold weather caused by the Little Ice Age made Norwegian farming and farming life unsustainable, scientists believed.
However, there was no evidence to support this reasoning.
The ice cores used in the research were collected over an area of more than 1,000 kilometers and at an altitude of over 2,000 meters.
“Before this study, there was no data on the actual location of the Viking settlements.
And that’s the problem,” said study co-author Raymond Bradley, emeritus professor of geosciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
“We wanted to study how the climate was changing near the Norwegian farms themselves.”
Professor Bradley and the research team traveled to Lake 578, which was once close to one of the largest farm groups in the East Settlement.
Over the next three years, the team collected sediment samples from the lake over the past 2,000 years. The samples were analyzed for elements that could help researchers figure out what the climate and environment were like.
“We found that the temperature barely changed during the Norse settlement of southern Greenland, but it got drier over time,” Dr. Zhao said.
The trend towards a drier climate continued and reached its peak in the 1500s. Drought can reduce grass growth, which is an important food source for livestock to get through the winter.
During the winter, Norwegian farmers kept their livestock in warm barns along with stored dry grass fodder. By spring, the cattle were usually too weak to move, so as soon as the snow melted the Vikings would actually transport them back to pasture.
A prolonged drought, along with any other economic and social pressures, could have turned the East Settlement into a place the Vikings wanted to leave.
The researchers also found evidence that the diet of the Vikings changed over time, from livestock to marine food sources. According to the authors of the study, this forced the Norwegians to “hunt marine mammals.”
In addition, the amount of sea ice has increased, which is likely to make fishing and sea hunting even more difficult.
In southern Greenland, drought still happens. Now farmers can just import hay, but in those days the Vikings could not do that.
The authors of the study hope that their study will also provide insight into how climate and the environment affect and continue to influence our lives.
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