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Greenland and the Wider World
Guðmundur J. Guðmundsson

Journal of the North Atlantic, Special Volume 2 (2009–10): 66–73

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66 Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume 2 Greenland and the Wider World Guðmundur J. Guðmundsson* Abstract - The subject of this paper is the medieval Greenland trade, emphasizing the country’s export commodities and modes of communication with other countries. On this topic there are many questions, but unfortunately few answers based on hard evidence. Much is therefore open to speculation and the conclusions are more in the line of hypotheses than actual theories. *Menntaskólinn í Reykjavík, Lækjargötu 7, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland; gjaki@isl.is. Introduction: The Greenland Trade in Medieval Sources Since this paper is primarily based on written medieval sources, it is proper to begin by giving a short introduction to them. The most comprehensive scholarly account of these sources is Grænland í miðaldaritum (Greenland in Medieval Writing; Halldórsson 1978), and much of this fi rst section is based on this book. The medieval sources on Greenland can be divided into three main groups. First are narrative texts including the sagas, second are the Icelandic annals, and third are medieval diplomas and charters. The narrative texts can be divided into three subcategories. The fi rst includes the Sagas, both the well-known sagas of Icelanders (Íslendingasögur) as well as legendary sagas (fornaldarsögur) and tales of courtly love (riddarsögur). In the second are the contemporary sagas (samtíðarsögur), and in the third a number of texts like Konungs skuggsjá or Speculum regale (The Kings Mirror) (Lárusson 1955); Ívar Bárðarson’s Description of Greenland (Jónsson 1930); Historia Norwegiae (History of Norway; Salvesen 1969), and other shorter texts. The sagas of the Icelanders describe events set in the 10th and 11th centuries. Most of them are regarded as fi ction, but some may contain material from oral narrative tradition and therefore have a historical core. The legendary sagas, on the other hand, are entirely fi ctional, and the same holds for the tales of courtly love. These texts were written in the 13th or 14th centuries, or later, and their description of events can therefore not be taken literally. As the authors seem to have drawn freely on their own social conditions and general environment as background for the events they were describing, the sagas do, however, contain useful evidence about conditions and state of knowledge at the time of their writing. A good example of this is in ch. 18 of the Saga af Tristram og Ísönd, which gives a description of the cargo of a 13th-century Norwegian merchant ship (Vilhjálmsson 1953:30–31). Greenland is mentioned in some of the Sagas, e.g., Fóstbræðra saga and Króka-Refs saga, and one can assume that the authors used their knowledge of Greenland to add local color to the narrative (see Grove, this volume). Four of the sagas are particularly significant for Greenlandic history. Íslendingabók (The Book of the Icelanders; Benediktsson 1986), Eiríks saga rauða (The Saga of Eric the Red; Halldórsson et al. 1935), Grænlendinga saga (The Saga of the Greenlanders; Halldórsson et al. 1935), and Grænlendinga þáttr (The Tale of the Greenlanders; Halldórsson et al. 1935). Íslendingabók is a concise history of Iceland from the settlement until the early 12th century. Chapter IV deals with the settlement of Greenland. Since Íslendingabók is a pioneer work, its author only cites oral sources, trustworthy informants who had good memory and valid information to contribute. Íslendingabók is considered a fairly reliable source. Eiríks saga rauða and Grænlendinga saga both describe the settlement of Greenland and the discovery of Vínland. The narratives of both sagas are similar in outline, but disagree on a variety of details (Halldórsson 1978). One can therefore assume that they are more reliable than if there had been a textual connection between them. They may, however, be based on a common oral tradition. Grænlendinga þáttr relates how the Greenlanders established the Garðar bishopric, but it also tells of a feud between Norwegian merchants and the Greenlanders. These events happened in 1124–1126, and as Grænlendinga þáttr is considered among the oldest saga texts, written around 1200 (Halldórsson 1978:403), it can be considered as relatively reliable. Written soon after the events they describe, the contemporary sagas—the sagas of the Icelandic bishops and the sagas in the Sturlunga-collection— contain reliable evidence about the events they describe as well as contemporary and recent social conditions. Among these, we can also place some of the Kings’ sagas, for example, Hákonar saga Hákonarsonar, which describes how the Greenlanders became King Hákon’s subjects in 1264. One of the largest compilations of saga texts, Flateyjarbók (written in 1387–1394), also includes copies of older lists naming the bishops of Garðar, the churches 2009 Special Volume 2:66–73 Norse Greenland: Selected Papers from the Hvalsey Conference 2008 Journal of the North Atlantic 2009 G.J. Guðmundsson 67 in Greenland, and many of the fjords (Nordal 1944:241). The manuscript AM 194 8vo has a text on the discovery and the location of Vínland (Halldórsson 1978:79). Most of the sagas are available in good modern translation in The Complete Sagas of the Icelanders I–V (Hreinsson 1997). In the second category are the Icelandic annals. They can be divided into three main groups. The annals of the fi rst group were written around 1300. The annals of the second group were written at the end of the 14th century, and in the third group consists of two annals written in the 16th century. In the annals, all kinds of material have been accumulated. Some derive from the Sagas, others from a variety of other written sources, Icelandic and Norwegian, and on top of that, all kinds of tales, realistic or fantastic, were collected by the annalists and added to the pile (Benediktsson 1993, Storm 1888). The annals are important historical sources and, on the subject of this paper, they give us valuable information on travels to and from Greenland. It must also be mentioned here that the textual relations between individual annals have not been fully explained. In the third category are medieval diplomas and charters, the earliest being a papal letter from 1053. These are of course contemporary documents and therefore in most cases fairly reliable. They are, however, fragmented, and many are only preserved in later copies, some in a bad condition. The diplomas and charters give us valuable information on a variety of issues: the people involved in the Greenland trade, the institutions they had to deal with, and the legal actions derived thereof. The diplomas also preserve information on the goods exported from Greenland, how they were used, and by whom. The documents are either in Old Norse, Latin, or early modern Danish. Many of these documents are therefore open to interpretation. Two early modern works on Greenland also need to be mentioned: Groenlandia by Arngrímur Jónsson (written in 1597–1602) and a work called Grænlands annáll from 1623, originally written by Jón Guðmundsson the learned, but with additions by the annalist Björn Jónsson of Skarðsá. Both of these works are partly based on written sources now lost as well as oral traditions (Halldórsson 1978). Export and Import Norse Greenland was in many ways a typical subsistence economy based on animal husbandry (cattle and sheep), similar to Iceland and the Faeroe Islands. Hunting probably became an important factor soon after settlement, and its importance increased as time passed. Principal import commodities can be assumed to have been similar to the goods imported to Iceland (see Karlsson 1975:16–17). Iron and other metals as well as timber and tar for houses and boats were important, and after the conversion to Christianity, the newly established church needed various goods like wax, linen, and wine. Luxury articles like fi ne clothing and weapons were also important to the chieftains to signal their status and wealth. Corn was expensive and only used by the chieftains; according to Konungs skuggsjá, many Greenlanders never ate bread. (Lárusson 1955:58). The same goes for brewing material: hops, malt, and yeast. There is good evidence for the importance attached to these last items by the Norse chieftains. Hosting social gatherings where there was plenty to eat and drink was important for their status (Þorláksson 2001:106–107). According to Fóstbræðra saga, one of the chieftains brewed large quantities of beer before Christmas to add to his merit because there were seldom drinking parties in Greenland (Sveinsson and Þórðarson 1935:226). In Eiríks saga rauða, there is also an episode when Eiríkur became very depressed and silent some time before Christmas. The reason was that he did not possess any brewing material. When Þorfi nnur karlsefni found out, he took some from his own trading cargo and gave it to Eiríkur, who then regained his humor (Halldórsson et al. 1935:220). According to Páls saga biskups, Bishop Jón smyrill Árnason of Garðar had learned to make crowberry wine from King Sverrir Sigurðsson (Egilsdóttir 2002:311). In Iceland, on his way to Greenland, he taught some Icelanders this art, and without doubt, his fl ock in Greenland benefi ted also from his knowledge. Crowberries are plentiful in Greenland, so there would have been no shortage of material. We know nothing about the quality of the crowberry wine, but it is fair to assume that merchants selling European grape wine would have been welcomed as before. The export commodities are a different matter. They can be divided in two categories: bulk and exotic. In the fi rst category, there are cow and calf hides, seal and sheep skins, and caribou hides. In this category also belong walrus hides and ropes from walrus hide (svarðreipi), which were so strong that not even 60 men could tear them apart (Lárusson 1955:56–59). Although no sources mention woollen homespun cloth (vaðmál) as an export from Greenland, it may still have fi gured in the outbound cargoes. Vaðmál was in demand in Europe and it was Iceland’s most important export commodity until the 14th century (Þorláksson 1991). All the goods mentioned here could bring good prices in Europe. Even though there is plenty of good soapstone in Greenland, it was, as far as is known, not exported, presumably because Norway could easily supply all the soapstone the market demanded. The Greenland Norse, however, used it extensively in their own households. 68 Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume 2 Of the exotic items, the most important was walrus tusk. According to Else Roesdahl (1995), elephant ivory was in short supply in Europe in the high Middle Ages, and in that period demand was met by walrus ivory. Used for carving all sorts of prestige items, walrus ivory was quite expensive and sought-after both by the Church and the aristocracy. While walrus tusk was expensive, the tooth of the narwhal was even more valuable and a greater rarity. The Norse sailed regularly up to Norðursetur (Disco Bay and vicinity?) to hunt walrus and it is likely that they traded there too, fi rst with the Dorset Eskimos and later the Thule Inuit, securing an even supply of walrus tusk. Acquiring narwhal teeth seems to have been more unpredictable. In Europe, the narwhal tusk was believed by many to be the unicorn’s horn, and the Norse probably did little to correct that misunderstanding. Yet the Eskimos and Inuit had more goods that were of value to the Norse. The high proportion of fox bones found in medieval Inuit sites in northern Greenland might indicate that the Inuit traded fox skins with the Norse (Gulløv 2008:18). But what did the Inuit get in return? Woollen cloth was entirely foreign to them, and wooden utensils and metal tools can also be assumed to have been considered valuable by them. Pieces of homespun wool and Norse objects made of wood and metal found in medieval Inuit dwellings support this possibility. The best known of these artifacts is a wooden bucket excavated in the early 20th century in northern Greenland (Mathiasen 1935:46–48). There are other possibilities, however. Grænlendinga saga has a description of the trade between the Indians and the Norse in Vínland. After tasting the Norse dairy products, the Indians took a liking to them and were ready to exchange their furs for them. It is therefore fair to assume that the Eskimos might also have been interested in butter, cheese, or milk curds, products that were entierly foreign to them and were not produced by them (Halldórsson 1957:262). Other export items include whalebone, whale tooth, and caribou horn. All kinds of white fur, from arctic hare and arctic fox, were also exported—used, e.g., in borders on clothes. Polar bear pelts were used in churches, usually placed on the fl oor in front of the altar (Teitsson 1975:35). There are two reliable examples of live polar bears being used as presents to European potentates. According to Hungrvaka, Ísleifur Gissurarson gave one to the German emperor Henry III to smooth his way to become Iceland’s fi rst bishop, and according to Grænlendinga þáttr, the Greenland Norse chieftain Einar Sokkason gave a polar bear cub to the king of Norway to secure his support for the founding of the bishopric at Garðar. In both cases, the gifts had the expected result (Egilsdóttir 2002:7, Halldórsson et al. 1935:274–275). Even though polar bears must have been a rare export commodity, they are mentioned in the laws of the Icelandic commonwealth, and the responsibility of their conduct was placed on the owner (Karlsson et al. 1992:261). This legal reference suggests that the lawgivers recognized the possibility that they might be imported to Iceland. Greenland’s most expensive regular export commodity was the white Greenland falcon. Scandinavian falcons were much in demand, and the Icelandic falcon was considered by connoisseurs to be the best hunting falcon; yet for the discerning dandy, the white Greenland falcon was by far the most fashionable. The white falcon is mentioned in Konungs skuggsjá, which points out that the locals did not use it (Lárusson 1955:59), most likely meaning that the Greenlanders did not use it themselves for hunting. Konungs skuggsjá does not say whether they exported the falcons or not, but white falcons are mentioned as an export commodity in Króka-Refs saga, along with tusk, walrus hide, furs, and polar bears (Halldórsson 1959:157). Króka-Refs saga is a late text, probably written in the second quarter of the 14th century, but even though the narrative is more in line with the legendary sagas than classical sagas, it gives an indication about what people knew about Greenlandic export commodities at the time and their value. It is important to note that all the goods the Greenlanders exported, except perhaps for the narwhal tooth, could be obtained also from hunters in northern Norway or northern Russia. Even white falcons could be obtained from Iceland as some of the Icelandic falcons can be of a very light color variety. We can assume that the less exotic, bulk commodities were sold and bought like similar goods from Iceland and the Faeroe Islands, and after they had been unloaded in Bergen, they disappear from our view. It is easier to follow the luxury items because they are for various reasons mentioned in letters and documents. Some were undoubtedly sold in similar fashion as the other commodities, but a good portion of them ended up with royal or church dignitaries who used them in diplomatic relations with foreign counterparts. In the early 13th century, King Hákon of Norway sent the King of England falcons, some of them white, and some teeth, probably walrus tusks (Diplomatarium norvegicum XIX:125). The purpose seems to have been to secure Norwegian trade in England. King Hákon also gave an Arab ruler some falcons around 1260, but for what purpose we do not know (Jónsson 1957:425). In 1347, King Magnús smek sent a white falcon along with other gifts to Pope Clemens VI. The purpose was to secure papal permission for Norway to sell falcons to Islamic countries. The Pope naturally gave his permission (Diplomatarium norvegicum VI:212, VII:206). Whether anything came of the 2009 G.J. Guðmundsson 69 trade is, however, not known. In 1347, King Phillip IV of France received falcons from a Norwegian emissary (Diplomatarium norvegicum XIX:685). Sources indicate that Norwegian bishops used these commodities for similar ends as the kings, sending them as presents to their friends and associates abroad. In 1338, Bishop Hákon in Bergen sent many gifts to Ægidus Correnbitter in Brügge, among them seven walrus teeth and a polar bear pelt (Diplomatarium norvegicum X:33). These examples show that Greenlandic export commodities were not only valuable on the market, but also useful to the state and church in securing their interests. The discovery of Vínland is well known, and we also know that communications between Greenland and America did not stop after the base in L´Anse aux Meadows fell in to ruins. In 1346, a ship from Greenland landed on the west coast of Iceland. It was described as a Marklandsfar, a ship that had been commuting between Markland (Labrador) and Greenland but lost its way, and the crew of 17 hands had to stay in Iceland for the winter (Storm 1888:213). The annals describe it as being smaller then the smallest ships that sailed to Iceland. Why did the Norse go to Labrador? The most likely explanation is that they had been fetching timber, and it can be assumed that this became more and more important for the Greenlanders as communications with Norway slowly deteriorated in the course of the 14th century. The Norse probably sailed regularly between Canada and Greenland since the discovery of Vínland and not only for timber. Recent archaeological research indicates that they traded with the Baffi nsland Inuit, and what seem to be ruins of a possible Norse-Eskimo trading post have been excavated on the coast of Baffi nsland (Sutherland 2000). Hair from bison and remnants of brown bear pelts have also been found in the Farm Beneath the Sand (Arneborg 2004:267). Whether any of the goods the Norse bought from the Inuit ended up on the European market is not known. Communication To sail across the North Atlantic in the middle ages was always dangerous. Such an expedition required a large and sturdy ship like a knorr, a knowledgeable captain, and a competent crew. Though no less hazardous, sailing between Iceland and Greenland was a bit different. To begin with, the journey was shorter, 4 or 5 days if the travellers were lucky, and therefore smaller ships could be used. In some ways, they might even have been better suited since they would have been easier to navigate between icebergs and drift ice. Most importantly, the small volume of the Greenland trade would not have required large ships. The only commodity that may have required large ships was timber, but if the Norse Greenlanders had found a way to supply themselves with building timber from Labrador, the only timber they had to import from Europe was perhaps hardwood for special purposes. Therefore, large ships like the knorr were not really needed, as big boats would have suffi ced. Lúðvík Kristjánsson has suggested that the fl eet Eiríkur rauði and his companions sailed on to Greenland in 982 consisted mostly of big boats with ten or twelve oars or slightly larger ships which the sagas call ferjur or skútur (Kristjánsson 1981). Professor Helgi Guðmundsson has studied Iceland’s possible role as a transit port for the Greenland trade. His conclusion is that most of this business was conducted from Breiðafjörður and its vicinity in western Iceland. He is also of the opinion that until the 14th century Greenlandic goods were not only shipped to Norway but also to the British Isles, especially the Orkney Islands. Guðmundsson bases his conclusions on saga texts, archaeological fi nds, and linguistic research. He points out, for example, that the ancient Irish word for walrus is derived from Old Norse. Guðmundsson argues that the Icelanders made a handsome profi t out of being middlemen in the Greenland trade and that particularly prolifi c cultural activity in western Iceland was funded by the profi ts (Guðmundsson 1997). There is, however, no doubt that larger ships like the knorr were also used, especially for direct crossings form Norway to Greenland, and it is these ships that most of the available evidence relates to. A big knorr that had sailed to Greenland is mentioned in Vestmannaeyjar in 1216 (Jóhannesson et al. 1946:270), and in 1260, envoys from King Hákon of Norway sailed directly to Greenland in a knorr to negotiate the Norse Greenlanders’ submission to the Norwegian crown (Jónsson 1957:420). Although it is clear that the knorr was larger than other types of ships, it is diffi cult to pin down exactly how large these ships were. The only preserved knorr, in the Roskilde Museum, is about 16 m long and 4.5 m wide and could probably carry up to 20 tons. In 1118, a knorr about 70 feet long was damaged on the south coast of Iceland (Laxness 1998:52). If we take that to mean the Old Icelandic foot, which was ca. 23–24 cm (Lárusson 1981:445–446), that knorr would have been of similar size to the Roskilde knorr. According to Helgi Þorláksson, a late-medieval knorr could hold a cargo of up to 50 tons (Þorláksson 2000:24), a much bigger and bulkier cargo than carried by the ships sailing only between Iceland and Greenland. Most of the ships that sailed to Greenland were from Norway or Iceland, but the Greenland Norse were not entirely dependent on foreign shipping. They themselves also built ships. In 1192, a small 70 Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume 2 ship with a crew of 13 landed in Breiðafjörður. It was of a curious design since it had no iron nails, and the bow was held together with sinews and wooden nails (Storm 1888:61, 120). According to Heimskringla, the Saami of northern Norway also built similar ships, suggesting that this design was well suited for sailing in northern waters (Aðalbjarnarson 1979:311, Guðmundsson 2005:96). Ships of apparently similar design were used in Siberia until the late 19th century (C. Keller, IKOS, Oslo, Norway, pers. comm.). It is also likely that the Marklandsfar from 1346 was built in Greenland. and it seems to have been of a similar size, but we know nothing about its construction. Yet the Norse also used conventional methods in shipbuilding. The bow of a small boat used in a house roof in the Western settlement proves that (Gad 1984:40). Written records support the hypothesis that Iceland was used as a transit point between Greenland and Europe. Since the foundation of the bishopric in Garðar in the early 12th century, at least four of the bishops of Greenland visited Iceland on their way to or from Norway. Arnaldur, the fi rst bishop of Garðar, stopped in Iceland on his way to his new see after his consecration in 1125–26 (Halldórsson et al. 1935:274); Bishop Jón smyrill Árnason visited bishop Páll Jónsson in Skálholt in 1187 (Egilsdóttir 2002:311); Bishop Helgi was in Flatey in 1212 (Storm 1888:23); and Ólafur was in Iceland in 1262 (Storm 1888:67). The last bishop of Garðar who could have visited Iceland was Þórður bokki, but the sources are unclear about this. According to the annals, he left Greenland in 1309 and arrived in Norway in 1310 (Storm 1888:341–342). The annals do not mention if Bishop Árni, who was consecrated in 1314, ever came to Iceland. The next bishop to travel to Greenland was Álfur in 1368, but at that time the crown-operated Greenland knorr had taken over communications between Norway and Greenland, so there was no need for him to stop in Iceland. Changes in Foreign Trade—Changes in Communication? Sources from the early 14th century indicate that changes in communication between Norway and Greenland were taking place at that time. After 1315, there is no unequivocal evidence that travellers to or from Greenland stopped in Iceland on the way. Instead, ships seem to have sailed directly between Bergen and Greenland. These changes are refl ected in The Book of Settlement (Landnámabók). The Sturlubók version of Landnámabók, written ca. 1270, gives precise directions on how to sail from Norway to Iceland and then on to Greenland. It also mentions that ships going directly should sail a “tylft” or 90–110 km south of Iceland. On the other hand, the Hauksbók version of Landnámabók, written ca. 1320, not only has the same directions as Sturlubók but also exact instructions on how to sail directly from Norway to Greenland. Why this change? Again, there is very little hard evidence, so we have to speculate. Even though Crown and Church were strengthening their hold on all sectors of society in the Norwegian state in the late 13th and early 14th centuries, there is no evidence at that time that the authorities tried to prevent Icelanders from sailing to Greenland or travellers from Norway from making a stopover in Iceland on their way to Greenland. Increasingly direct sailing therefore does not seem to have been politically motivated, suggesting that the reasons were perhaps economic in nature. In the late 13th and early 14th centuries, the value of walrus tusk probably decreased as elephant ivory became increasingly available. Nevertheless, walrus tusk remained valuable because the supply of elephant tusk continued to be limited until the early modern period (Seaver 2006:233–252). Beautiful objects of art continued to be made from walrus tusk, and there was lively trade in the material in the 14th century. In 1327, the Greenland Norse paid papal dues with a shipment of walrus tusk. The tusks were sold by the pope’s representatives for what seems to have been a considerable sum, which they forwarded to Rome (Fyllingsnes 1990:81). Whatever inroads elephant ivory was making into the market, they were obviously not prohibiting handsome returns in the walrus-tusk trade, although it is possible that it was not as exceedingly lucrative as before. Other goods exported from Greenland, like white fur, falcons, and rope, continued to be in demand and brought good prices. In 1346, the annals report that a Greenland knorr returned safely to Norway with a valuable cargo (Storm 1888:212). The fi nal proof of how valuable the Greenland export goods continued to be is the fact that the Crown protected its interest in the Greenland trade vigorously throughout the 14th century and prosecuted anyone suspected of violating its monopoly. In 1374, the Crown pressed charges against its own representative in Greenland for buying property and goods that the Crown maintained it had fi rst option to buy (Diplomatarium norvegicum XV: 27). In 1389, some Icelanders who had drifted to Greenland were accused of illegal trading and buying goods owned by the Crown, but they were acquitted after they had paid dues on their cargo (Diplomatarium norvegicum XVIII:29–31). Apart from a possible decline in profi ts from sales of walrus tusks, more likely to have been a dip than a crash, there do not seem to have been any signifi cant changes in the nature or marketability of Greenlandic exports over the course of the 14th century. It may be rather that the context of North 2009 G.J. Guðmundsson 71 Atlantic trade changed, most significantly with the fast growth of the stockfi sh trade in the early 14th century. By the end of the century, stockfi sh had become the major export commodity of both Iceland and Norway. To transport large volumes of stockfi sh over the North Atlantic was quite different from moving the traditional commodities of the Greenland trade. Stockfi sh, transported in packs, was much bulkier and could be a dangerous cargo if care was not taken. Eyrbyggja saga has a story about a farmer who was transporting stockfi sh to his home for the Christmas feast. He loaded the boat high with packs of fi sh, but when the sea got rough, the boat lost balance and capsized, and the whole crew drowned (Halldórsson et al. 1935:147–148). For the stockfi sh export, much larger ships were needed than for the low-volume tusk or hides trade. The question then is whether the Greenland Norse exported stockfi sh? Of that there is no direct proof, although some indirect indications have been pointed out (Seaver 1996). Fishing did take place as evidenced by fi shing gear like hooks and sinkers that have been found in Norse ruins in Greenland (Vebæk 1991:12–13), parts of nets that have been found in ruins in the Western settlement (Arneborg 2004:269), and sources which mention processed dry fi sh (Halldórsson et al. 1935:290). However, buildings that can defi nitely be linked to fi sh processing have not been found. Finn Gad has suggested that some of the stone houses found in various places in Greenland—ones that are built on fl at rock surfaces and have good ventilation and thick walls that can secure the goods kept there from predators—were used to dry food such as meat or fi sh (Gad 1984:41). Most of these buildings are, however, more likely to have been food stores (Arneborg 2004:243.) In the 16th century, ships from Hamburg sailed to the east coast of Greenland. On board one of them was an Icelander, called Jón Grænlendingur. He later claimed that when he and his companions went ashore they found the corpse of a man dressed in clothes made of skin and woollen cloth. The woollen cloth indicates that the dead man was Norse, not an Inuit. Jón Grænlendingur also said that he had seen huts for drying stockfish and other buildings connected with fish processing (Halldórsson 1978:51, 272). However, there are problems that have to be considered. Archaeological excavations of Norse middens in Greenland have yielded much smaller quantities of fi sh bones than in other parts of the Norse North Atlantic (McGovern et al. 1984:97). Fish bones have been found in earthen fl oors in the Farm Beneath the Sand, and research on human bones from Greenland proves that seafood was a substantial part of the diet of the Norse Greenlanders (Arneborg 2004:265–266, Arneborg et al. 1999). How much of the marine diet was seal and how much was fi sh is, however, diffi cult to say. The comparative absence of fi sh bones has been difficult to explain. Greenlandic soil preserves fi shbone just as well as Icelandic or British soil, so the reason cannot be related to preservation. Helge Ingstad suggested that the Greenland Norse cooked the fi sh bones into a thick soup and either ate it themselves or fed it to the cows, or that they used the leftovers from the fi sh processing as a fertilizer on the hayfi elds (Ingstad 1992:109). Both methods are known from Norway and Iceland. This kind of bone soup was in Iceland called bruðningur or strjúgur and was made from fi sh bones, mainly the skull, though bruðningur from other kinds of bones is known. After all the fi sh meat had been eaten from the skull, it was submerged in whey, which made it soft and edible (Gísladóttir 1999:83–84, 167). That could explain the lack of fi sh bones in the Norse middens in Greenland. It is also possible that since the stockfi sh was so valuable, the Norse exported most of it and kept for themselves only what was absolutely needed. There are more questions than answers concerning Norse Greenlandic fi shing and possible stockfi sh export. The fi rst and most important is of course whether they exported any, and if so how much? Is it possible that they produced so little that they only needed a knorr every fi fth or sixth year to export the cargo to Norway? And if so, what did a fi ve-yearsold vintage stockfi sh taste and look like? Concluding Words The exports of Norse Greenland were an important contribution to the Norwegian economy in the middle ages. The Crown and the Church used the more exotic items in diplomacy, and the Greenlandic commodities brought good prices on the continental markets when sold. Until the 14th century, both large ships sailing directly from Norway to Greenland and smaller ships sailing to and from Iceland were used. From the early 11th century, Iceland seems to have been an important link in the Greenland trade. All that changed in the early 14th century when larger ships were introduced. In the second half of the century until the early 15th century when communications ceased altogether, regular shipping was direct between Greenland and Norway, operated with a royal licence under state supervision. It has been argued here that the change relates to the increased importance of stockfi sh in the North Atlantic trade, resulting in larger ships dominating the sea-lanes. That spelled the end of the communication between Iceland and Greenland, unless of course you happened to drift off your chosen course for some reason 72 Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume 2 or another, wound up in Hvalfjarðarey, and used the opportunity to get married. Whether communication continued between Europe and Greenland after 1408 is another story and not part of this study. Literature Cited Aðalbjarnason, B. 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