Greeland is one of the most mysterious places in the world. Part of what keeps it a mystery is that no one clearly knows why the Vikings left Greenland and where did they disappear? The discovery of recent evidence has offered the researchers a different view of what might have gone down but nothing can be said for sure. While some blame the climate, others highlight the conflicts with Inuit and European invasions. So let’s gather the facts and try to discover what happened to the Vikings of Greenland.
Where It All Began
There was a time when Vikings in Greenland while having settled at the southernmost tip, built a church. Today, only the ruins of that church remain, which existed centuries ago before Columbus sailed to the Americas.
The building features 20-foot-high gables and thick granite-block walls. Additionally, the wooden roof, doors and rafters rotted and collapsed away long ago. Now, sheep are seen grazing the ground where devout Norse Christians once used to knelt in prayer.
This fjord is called Hvasley, which means “Whale Island”. It was discovered by Sigird Bjornsdottoir and Thorstein Olafsson in 1408 while engaging in a wedding ceremony. At the time, the couple had been sailing from Norway to Ireland when their ship was blown off course.
As a result, they ended up in Greenland, which had been a Viking colony for around 400 years. Their wedding was recorded when both exchanged letters between 1409 and 1424. Another evidence found also suggests that one person was burned at the stake for witchcraft.
However, the most intriguing evidence relating to Vikings and greenland natives is something that vanished from history. The available evidence does not show any type of hardship or imminent catastrophe experienced by the Vikings, which lead to their disappearance. And since these letters were lost, nothing could said for sure about Greenlanders.
The Settlement of Vikings
Researchers state that if there was trouble, the letters would contain some sort of information but instead, it was just an ordinary wedding. Additionally, it was until the 18th century that the Europeans returned to Greenland and did not come across a single evidence of the inhabitants.
The Greenland Vikings were nowhere to be found. Even today, their disappearance confounds archeologists despite having found ruins of the Vikings settlements.
One thing is for sure, that the Vikings were the toughest seafaring warriors who landed on this formidable part of the earth and made it their home. And this was not just another ordinary settlement. They built many farms, raised sheep and cattle and even built manor houses. They were basically running a mini-economy on the island. This continued for generations and centuries. You can read the short history of Greenland here.
So What Happened to the Vikings?
Believe it or not, the mysterious disappearance of the Vikings is termed “dumb” by several archeologists. According to them, some dumb Norsemen visited the north outside, which was beyond their economic range and messed up the environment. Plus, they were not aware of the fact that it would get cold to the point where they would all die.
Similarly, the Vikings were also dumb but more than that, they had dumb luck. Initially, they had discovered Greenland when it was known as the Medieval Warm Period between 900 to 1300. Sea ice melted during the period and sailing from Scandinavia to Greenland became comparatively less hazardous. As a result, they brought in their sheep and other animals and made an uninhabited land turn into a trade center.
However, eventually they ran into some problems such as lack of wood, overgrazing soil and especially the climate turning cold. In 1257, the volcano on the Indonesian island of Lombok erupted. Geologists term it the most fatal and biggest eruption in history.
Meanwhile, the Greenland Vikings never gave up on their old ways. They never learned from the Inuit who pioneered the art of hunting. As the livestock of the Vikings starved so did they, while the Inuit were relatively more flexible interms of hunting marine mammals.
Over the last decade, a radically different viewpoint of the situation has been highlighted. It is said that it is possible that the Vikings did not vanish completely. What was once the most important Viking settlement in Greenland is today an area covered with lush green grass. Gardar, was the official residence of the bishop as the Norse called it.
Although the ruins of Gardar are impressive but what impresses more is the ruins of an enormous barn nearby. The Vikings moving from Sweden to Greenland measured their status of wealth by the cattle they owned. Therefore, they did everything to protect their livestock.
Research work conducted in Greenland found that the Inuit hunted seals and the Vikings adopted the new diet as well. With the passage of time, the marine diet became increasingly popular. This was a genius idea by the Norse since raising cattle was now difficult in Greenland.
However, analyzing the bones, the researchers state that the Norse could have easily wiped out endangered seal species but they did not. Instead, they focused on catching seals that were in abundance but difficult to catch.
Apart from hunting seals, the Norse would save their energy for hunting even better animals such as Walruses. Since Walrus hunting was common due to ivory tusks, only skilled hunters would do the job. Upon returning, the hunters would only carry important parts of the animal such as the hides.
Several years later when the climate changed for the worst, things became pretty bad for both Vikings and Norse. Although they had been surviving by hunting walruses and seals but that wasn’t enough.
Ultimately, elephant ivory replaced walrus ivory and the economy collapsed. There wasn’t simply anything left to exchange or to rely on for survival. And then came the Black Death, which devastated Europe. However, there is no evidence suggesting that it made its way into Greenland as well.
Archeologists remain divided about the disappearance of the Vikings even today. Some say they might have migrated but then again, there is no record of it. The evidence suggests an orderly departure and no conflicts with the Inuit or anything else as assumed previously.
Only two married people were known to come out of Greenland alive. And even they couldn’t lead to a solid source regarding possible extinction. Therefore, there is a chance that the Vikings never vanished and might be amongst us still. Moreover, here is the link to the secret abandoned military bunker in Greenland.