Saturday, 11 January 2020

Viking Colonies Collapsed Through Over Hunting Walruses

The mysterious disappearance of Greenland's Norse colonies sometime in the 15th century may have been down to the overexploitation of walrus populations for their tusks, according to a study of medieval artifacts from across Europe.

Founded by Erik the Red around 985 AD after his exile from Iceland (or so the Sagas tell us), Norse communities in Greenland thrived for centuries - even gaining a bishop - before vanishing in the 1400s, leaving only ruins.

An Economy Built on Walrus Ivory

Latest research from the universities of Cambridge, Oslo, and Trondheim has found that, for hundreds of years, almost all ivory traded across Europe came from walruses hunted in seas only accessible via Norse settlements in south-western Greenland.

Walrus ivory was a valuable medieval commodity, used to carve luxury items such as ornate crucifixes or pieces for games like chess and Viking favorite hnefatafl. The famous Lewis chessmen are made of walrus tusk.

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