The Norse in Greenland and late Holocene sea-level change

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Abstract

Norse immigrants from Europe settled in southern Greenland in around AD 985 and managed to create a farming community during the Medieval Warm Period. The Norse vanished after approximately 500 years of existence in Greenland leaving no documentary evidence concerning why their culture foundered. The flooding of fertile grassland caused by late Holocene sea-level changes may be one of the factors that affected the Norse community. Holocene sea-level changes in Greenland are closely connected with the isostatic response of the Earth's crust to the behaviour of the Greenlandic ice sheet. An early Holocene regressive phase in south and west Greenland was reversed during the middle Holocene, and evidence is found for transgression and drowning of early-middle Holocene coast lines. This drowning started between 8 and 7ka BP in southern Greenland and continued during the Norse era to the present. An average late Holocene sea level rise in the order of 2-3 m/1000 years may be one of the factors that negatively affected the life of the Norse Greenlanders, and combined with other both socio-economic and environmental problems, such as increasing wind and sea ice expansion at the transition to the Little Ice Age, may eventually have led to the end of the Norse culture in Greenland.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-50
Number of pages6
JournalPolar Record
Volume44
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2008

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 5: Nature and Climate

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