Accepted paper:

Experiencing climate in preindustrial Greenland


Anne Eg Larsen (Odense City Museums)

Paper short abstract:

Understanding the effect of climate change in past societies can involve a study of the relation between climate and culture, since the experienced climate might differ from scientifically measured changes. Did people in the past without thermometers necessarily notice smaller drops in temperature?

Paper long abstract:

Ca. 985 the norse settled in Greenland and lived there for nearly 500 years before they disappeared. Today it is unknown exactly why and how the norse disappeared, but it has been proposed that the cooling climate - due to the Little Ice Age, ca. 1300-1900 - had a negative effect on the resources they were dependent on, which made life in Greenland impossible for them. But other than assume the changing climate only had a negative influence on life in Greenland, this presentation tries to understand exactly what the changes could have meant for daily life on the medieval farms, and if dropping temperatures were a major concern for the norse - which has been assumed in the rhetoric often used about their living conditions. In order to understand the circumstances of life in the arctic during changing climate conditions a study of the multiple sources from preindustrial colonial Greenland, ca. 1750-1930, was conducted. The results were that life in the arctic not necessarily meant that cold weather was experienced as a bad thing. In fact it held some opportunities regarding hunting and fishing that a warmer weather did not - disciplines that the norse also depended on in their daily life. Comparing the medieval and the colonial Greenlandic societies of course involved some difficulties, since the norse primarily were farmers and the colony depended on hunting and fishing. Therefore the comparison had to be based on the similarities and differences between the two societies.

panel P46
Past weather, past climate - archaeology as Environmental Humanity