Credit G. Everett Lasher / Northwestern
Greenland was balmy when the Vikings invaded, a new study based on isotopes in flies has proven, and they left as the glaciers bore down
Vikings evoke many associations, none of which involve relaxing on the seaside and smelling flowers on a balmy evening. The Scandinavian warriors are more usually perceived as being roughnecks in horned helmets who laughed off subzero temperatures. And maybe they did, but a new study by Northwestern University, published this week in Geology, has proven the theory that when the Vikings braved the violent northern seas and conquered Greenland from auks in the 10th century, the island’s climate was less merciless and more Mediterranean.
Also, the Vikings suddenly disappeared from Greenland in the middle of the 15th century, just as the warm snap was ending and the glaciers were sweeping down. A combination of factors seems to have crushed the formerly prosperous settlement, but cold seems to have been key. They could either go native and become horn-helmeted Inuits, or leave. They left.
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