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Ancient Vikings Settled Greenland for the Ivory

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tags: Greenland, Vikings, Archeology, Ivory



After Erik the Red killed his enemies in Iceland, he found himself banished and sailing westward. Around 985 CE, Erik settled his family on an unexplored island, and, in what is widely regarded as the first act of real estate branding, named the place “Greenland,” hoping to attract other Vikings with the implicit promise of rich farmland. But as archaeologists are now learning, Erik may have been better off naming the place “Walrusland.”

Scholars have long thought that Erik’s branding deception worked, and that Vikings flocked to Greenland to set up farms—even though the growing season is short and raising livestock difficult. Archaeologist Thomas McGovern and colleagues, however, are testing a new idea: that Vikings settled Greenland to provide European markets with luxury trade goods such as furs, eiderdown, hides, and walrus tusk ivory.

As new research suggests, it does appear that walrus hunting, not farming, was the main source of prosperity for many of the Vikings—an estimated 3,000 at peak population—who chose to eke out a living on the farthest fringe of European culture.

Read entire article at Hakai


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