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Das Normannische Grönland. Entstehung und Untergang der Wikingerkolonie auf Grönland



This paper discusses the founding of the medieval Viking colony in Greenland around 1000 AC as well as its demise. First, the factors are being analysed which led to the Viking Age that is usually being dated from 793 to the middle of the 1000s. The second part deals with the discovery of Greenland by Eiríkr rauði (Erik the Red) and the founding of the two settlements – the Western Settlement and the Eastern Settlement –, furthermore the process of landnám (colonisation) and the economy of subsistence. The discovery of Greenland, its colonisation and the economy of the Norse were being facilitated in the first three centuries by the Medieval Warm Period (MWP). When that period ended, the Norse Greenlanders missed to adapt to their environment. This in turn led to endemic starvation and shortage of supply in Greenland. Owing to those factors, the colony fell victim to extinction during the end of the Middle Ages. The Norse Greenlanders collapsed whilst the Thule culture – the ancestors of nowadays Inuit – prospered, which leads to questions concerning why the Vikings died and the Inuit managed not only to survive but to enhance their quality of living. We may find the reason in the well to their environment adapted Thule culture, whereas the Norse maintained their way of living known from Scandinavia and Iceland based on animal husbandry. Altogether, the Norse proved highly inflexible owing to their hierarchal society, the Roman church, and European customs and practices which led to the downfall of European settlement in marginal Greenland and giving way to a more promising Thule culture.
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Greenland, far north land of the Atlantic, has often been beyond the limit of European farming settlement. One of its Norse settlements, colonized just before AD 1000, is - astonishingly - not even at the southern tip, but a way up the west coast, the 'Western Settlement'. Environmental studies show why its occupation came to an end within five centuries, leaving Greenland once more a place of Arctic-adapted hunters.
People of European descent form the bulk of the population in most of the temperate zones of the world - North America, Australia and New Zealand. The military successes of European imperialism are easy to explain; in many cases they were a matter of firearms against spears. But as Alfred W. Crosby maintains in this highly original and fascinating book, the Europeans’ displacement and replacement of the native peoples in the temperate zones was more a matter of biology than of military conquest. European organisms had certain decisive advantages over their New World and Australian counterparts. The spread of European disease, flora and fauna went hand in hand with the growth of populations. Consequently, these imperialists became proprietors of the most important agricultural lands in the world. In the second edition, Crosby revisits his now classic work and again evaluates the global historical importance of European ecological expansion.