The Viking era in Greenland began when Gunnbjørn Ulf-Krakuson first saw the island sometime during the early 10th century. Gunnbjørn was blown off course while sailing from Norway to Iceland, an event that would happen to several ships who were trying to cross the North Atlantic.
It was not until 982 when the Vikings tried to settle the island. Erik the Red, an Icelander who had been exiled from that country as the punishment for the crime of murder, came here. He decided that the land would be a place to colonize, and he named it Groenland (Green Land) on the pretext that if he gave this island an attractive name more people would want to settle here. After returning to Iceland, Erik organized settlements on the extreme south-west coast (Vestribyggd, around the present Godthåb) and on the extreme south-east coast (ʼEystribyggd, near the present Julianehåb).
Although the community probably very small, attempts were made at farming, which were largely unsuccessful, a trade in walrus Ivory was established, which saw the tusks exported to Europe. A bishopric was founded at Gardar and the ruins of its church are still visible. Two convents were added, and a dozen churches.
One of the great mysteries of the Middle Ages is what was the fate of Greenland. By the fourteenth century the settlement was in decline, with the colony on the western side of the island being abandoned around 1350. In the early 15th century their were sporadic mentions of the colony, and the Papacy was worried that the settlers had fallen into paganism.
Articles about Viking Greenland
Viking Expansion Northwards: Mediaeval Sources, by Tette Hofstra and Kees Samplonius
Norse Greenland Settlement: Reflections on Climate Change, Trade, and The Contrasting Fates of Human Settlements in the North Atlantic Islands, by Andrew J. Dugmore, Christian Keller, and Thomas H. McGovern
Cows, Harp Seals, and Churchbells: Adaptation and Extinction in Norse Greenland, by Thomas H. McGovern
Codfish and Kings, Seals and Subsistence: Norse Marine Resource Use in the North Atlantic, by Sophia Perdikaris and Thomas H. McGovern
Why did Norse Greenland fail as a colony?, by Alexandra Slack
An Eleventh-Century Farmhouse in the Norse Colonies in Greenland, by C.L. Vebaek
Enduring Impacts: Social and Environmental Aspects of Viking Age Settlement in Iceland and Greenland, by Orri Vésteinsson, Thomas H McGovern and Christian Keller
News about Medieval Greenland
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