Using historical, archaeological and palaeoclimate sources to create an understanding of the Viking expansion and collapse (James Spray)

There was a great presentation given by James on using historical, archaeological, and palaeoclimate sources together to create an understanding of the Viking expansion and collapse. He told us about cultural drivers (exile, need for more land, escape from bad rulers), climate drivers (the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age), and physical remains (animal bones). When the Vikings went to Greenland, they were in the midst of the Medieval Warm Period, which enabled them to continue their previous lifestyle of raising cattle and farming. However, as the temperatures began to drop moving into the Little Ice Age, they needed to adapt and began to eat more seals and fish (which can be see in the animal bone remains), though they were not as adept at surviving at the Inuit tribes currently living there. This was possibly because of historically documented evidence that the Vikings saw eating fish as taboo. Additionally, the colder weather created ice floes that cut Greenland off from Iceland, which was their main avenue for trade.

James also told us about how The Day After Tomorrow has actually happened before, to a certain extent, and the National Oceanography Centre monitors the North Atlantic through RAPID. RAPID measures the different streams of water coming into the Atlantic. This includes the Gulf Stream and Upper Mid Ocean, as well as the Ekman (which is a physical marker). These combined make up the Meridional Overturning Current, which can show us whether or not the temperature is changing (but not always why).

 

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