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Local and Traditional on the Millennial Scale: Sustainable Waterfowl Management from Viking Age Iceland

Local and Traditional on the Millennial Scale: Sustainable Waterfowl Management from Viking Age Iceland

Lecture by Tom McGovern

Given at Yale University on May 13, 2014

Local and Traditional on the Millennial Scale: Sustainable Waterfowl Management from Viking Age IcelandTom McGovern presents the Faroe Islands as an anthropogenic landscape which, though harsh and desolate, offers an encouraging lesson about the potential of human behavior. Inhabited by Vikings since approximately 600 AD, the islands hosts an abundant, but terribly fragile resource, puffins, flightless birds that nest on rocky exposed cliffs, in easy range of the islanders other prime food source, pigs. Analysis of the bones of pigs and puffins, consideration of place names and remnant walls of structures built to protect them, suggest he says, a society that managed to share their commons on a millennial time scale. Similarly, he reports on ‘€œsheets’€ of duck shells, and an absence of duck bones, to suggest another resource that was managed with long-term sustainability uppermost in mind.

Tom McGovern has done archaeological fieldwork since 1972 in the United Kingdom, Norway, France, the Caribbean, and the United States, but his main research work has been in the North Atlantic (Greenland, Iceland, Faeroes, and Shetland). McGovern was one of the founders of the North Atlantic Biocultural Organization with initial NSF support in 1992, and has served as NABO coordinator down to the present.

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