ESS Topic 3 and 7 - The Norse and Inuit in Greenland

but the Maya aren't the only civilization to have faced climate upheaval during the last two thousand years five hundred years after their collapse the northern hemisphere was hit by the Little Ice Age and on the south coast of Greenland two very different societies found themselves in the firing line climate scientists Joyce Inga Raya has come here to find out what happened to them when they were hit by the biggest freeze since the last ice age this has to be the most amazing landscape I've ever beaded where's all this ice coming from vice is all falling from the coop glaciers your front just breaking off the shelf fizzes glaciers protruding into the short the same extraordinary Vista would have greeted the founders of the first of the two communities they were a band of Norse adventurers from Norway in around 89 85 they landed somewhere on this stretch of coast and established an extraordinary outpost of medieval Europe that would last for 400 years back home in Norway the Norse had been livestock farmers but farmland was in short supply and they'd come here in search of fresh uncrowded pastures they found them in abundance this would have looked somewhat like now covered in grass so this would be the winter fodder so they'd cut this down at the end of the summer and then keep it so that the animals have something to eat over winter yeah exactly by the twelve hundreds there were as many as 300 thriving farming settlements along a 400 mile stretch of the southwest coast and the population had grown to around 5,000 they were a pretty sophisticated Bunch although the European mainland was almost 2,000 miles away the Norse farmers tried to live a cultured European lifestyle sail we're always oriented towards a continent so from the Magnificent collection of medieval everyday clothes we know from houses we can see that the trend the style trend in the hoods of these dresses actually following the style in Europe so they like to keep up with the fashions on mainland you and do their best to keep up with meal in Europe what they couldn't make or grow locally they imported luxuries like furniture jewelry books even their own bishop so in the early 12th century they brought a bishop all the way from Norway all the Greenlandic bishops were from Norway which is some spectacular in fact nestling between the houses of the modern village of a gala coup are the remains of the Bishop's estate and it was pretty grand but its heart a Great Hall where the bishops themselves lived nearby quarters for clergy farmhands and servants workshops huge warehouses for storing goods given as taxes and of course a cathedral not quite the grandest in Europe but it was built in stone it had glass windows and a bell tower and was large enough to accommodate a congregation of hundreds so we just walked into the church people have been coming in from the mountains from each side and maybe from across the fewer and there were been a great gathering and the church bells ringing and people coming in from the both sides riding on horses and the best dresses to fight on occasion when you're living so spread out in the landscape would have been and a really important part of everyday life coming from us the North had created a little pocket of medieval Europe in the unlikeliest of places but how would they fare when climate change turned their pastoral paradise into an icy desert as our ancestors progressed from the Stone Age to the modern age they became better at almost everything but did their increasing sophistication make them more or less able to cope when the climate changed joy singers come to Greenland to investigate how to neighboring societies reacted very differently to a brutal freeze some 600 years ago she's discovered how one of them the Greenland Norse established a thriving outpost of medieval Europe in the lush pastures here now she's off to meet the neighbors local historian REE Oldenburg is going to show her the nuts and bolts of a very different way of life here you'll have a sight of more than 20 houses from from from a long period 300 years but this is the one that's that's interesting right now and how old is this week it's from around 1350 to 1450 and when you follow me yes you have to bend it because the ceiling is very low okay good answer be careful so they would have had to crawl in here the people who lived in this house were Inuit so they would be sitting on the benches making sure the women that the fire was working yeah and the men would be taking care of their tours only dressed in little pants because of the heat their ancestors migrated here from northern Canada from about AD 1200 more than 200 years after the Norse arrived around 500 of them settled on both the east and west coasts of Greenland the island was now home to two cultures the Inuit and the Norse living side by side but poles apart because the Inuit slitter lifestyle completely foreign to their Norse neighbors they were semi-nomadic hunters and fishermen used to roaming a hostile landscape in search of prey instead of the latest European fashions so valued by the Norse the Inuits wore animal skins instead of luxuries they possessed only what they needed to survive and the most important buildings weren't for the glorification of God but for the storage of food what's that that's a meat cache actually probably it's for whole animals to be preserved such as what it can be either hooded whale or the Greenland shark so you'd have kept one whale or one one shark in common a couple of of Wego saw sharks in here and and a couple of where's there perhaps four or six very large animals the Norse and the Inuit coexisted uneasily for about a hundred and fifty years each side sticking rigidly to their own way of doing things and then around AD 1350 the climate began to change we call it the Little Ice Age the reason scientists still don't fully understand a 400 year spell of cold weather began to grip the northern hemisphere in Europe the average winter temperature fell by two degrees centigrade cold enough to freeze the River Thames in London further north in Greenland as temperatures dropped an already tough climate became brutal both the Norse and the Inuit were in for a rough ride and only one of them would survive the main challenge for the Inuit was sea ice as the temperature dropped the fjords froze hunting grounds became harder to reach but the Inuit already had the tools and strategies to deal with the challenge they would travel following the prey they had two kinds of boats that could take the mouse or notch or lesser ice boats that could be used for different kinds of hunting they couldn't go out in an open boat sometimes but then they would do hunting from the ice for instance there were ice hunters they had techniques for all kinds of praise they had special tools for special animals and they could actually take everything in the land and in the sea the Little Ice Age was it seems no big deal for the Inuit the Norse though founded a much tougher challenge Christian and his colleague Konrad Moravsky are excavating a Norse settlement not far from the bishops estate at a gala coup in rubbish tips on mid wounds left by the Norse they found evidence of a desperate struggle for survival the increased amount of sea ice have reduced the growing season of grass and vegetation therefore the firing is much harder than before for instance they were have had the catastrophic winters would would crop the sheep populations drastically just over one winter maybe killing off half she even got numbers Wow if you have a series of those winters you really start to feel the strain to try to subsidise for that they would go out and hunt more seals so we see increased amount of seal bonds as compared to the domestics I see these are all seal bones which are all seal bones but hunting was only ever a sideline and old habits die hard the Norse farmers couldn't or wouldn't give up what they knew for example this is a sheep bone and it's broken in half for marrow extraction so the farming continues as a way of life until the end can you say that they're adapting a to climate change I think this the the increased amount of sealing yes but farming still continues as a way of life as a cultural trait and as a way of securing food they're trying to carry on the farming despite a heart condition what were the final years like for the people living here it must have been training very bleak in here but some would have clung on for the last bit the old farmers who would spend all the life farming we probably not have left that farm that easily some would have stayed to the bitter end nobody knows how many Norse died because of the changing climate but by around AD 1450 the entire population was gone the only trace they'd ever existed a few crumbling remains the Inuit on the other hand are still here and today they make up around 90% of the islands population before the advent of farming our ancestors like the Inuit were nomadic when they wanted food they moved to where it was but we're trapped in villages and towns and cities we can't move which as the Norse found out the hard way is a real problem when the climate changes the supposedly more civilized way of life actually made it harder not easier for them to adapt but for some societies even wholehearted adaptation may not be enough

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