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The Use of Artistic Media in Norse Greenland
Lilla Kopár

Journal of the North Atlantic, Special Volume 2 (2009–10): 102–113

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102 Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume 2 Introduction Every artifact is the result of a specifi c combination of three components: content (or function in the case of everyday objects), style, and medium (or material). Most commonly it is the novelty of content or the uniqueness of style that makes an artifact exceptional, but in some cases, it is the choice of the artistic medium that is most original and innovative. Considering the wide-ranging cultural contacts of Viking-age Norsemen and the geographical variety of their settlement areas, and thus varying availability of materials, we may expect to see some level of diversity in their use of artistic media and some adaptation of local resources and traditions. The development of art in Viking-age England provides an example of a particularly successful adaptation of a new artistic medium and local art form by an immigrant Norse community: The emergence of Anglo-Scandinavian stone sculpture, one of the most prolifi c art forms of Viking-period England, was the immediate result of the acceptance of the artistic medium of stone in a new environment. The Viking settlers adopted this insular medium of monumental public art and transferred Scandinavian stylistic elements and iconographical patterns from wood, bone, and textile to stone. The birth of Anglo-Scandinavian stone sculpture was thus the outcome of the artistic adaptability of the Scandinavian settlers in England. The new medium also carried already established connotations, both cultural and social—it was the artistic expression of European Christianity, sponsored by local ecclesiastical and secular powers. Thus, the adoption of the new art form refl ected a degree of cultural and social adaptation, and resulted in artistic changes (introduction of new styles, iconographical patterns, and a new monument type, the hogback) as well as in changes in the function and patronage of pre-Conquest stone sculpture.1 This fruitful adoption of a local artistic medium, however, did not seem to be typical in the Scandinavian world of the North Atlantic. Archaeological evidence has revealed surprising homogeneity and consistency in the preference for certain raw materials as well as in the use of everyday objects and articles and in building customs throughout the Viking colonies of the North Atlantic, which suggests that Viking-age Scandinavian culture was largely homogenous in nature, in spite of the considerable geographical distances (Stummann Hansen 2005:106–107). The culturally determined preferences for certain artistic media, however, did not necessarily coincide with what the natural resources of newly settled territories had to offer. Thousands of miles west of the Anglo-Scandinavian settlements, in the Norse colonies of Greenland, the limited availability of resources imposed limitations not only on daily sustainability, but also on the availability of artistic media. Thus, one would naturally expect to see some degree of adaptation to the local circumstances in the choice of artistic materials among the Norse Greenlanders—similar to the creativity of the Anglo-Scandinavian communities, but motivated by very different circumstances (limited resources, harsh living conditions, relative isolation from Europe, and contacts with the Inuits). The present article offers a survey of the Norse Greenlanders’ use of different materials for artistic production. An examination of their choices of artistic media will shed light on the cultural identity and cultural contacts of the Norse Greenland colony and reveal some of the reasons for the Norse colonists’ willingness to adapt to the local circumstances in some cases, and their unwillingness to do so in others. Art of the Norsemen Art and artisanship were closely related concepts and practices in medieval Greenland. Most Norse artifacts found in Greenland are small, locally manufactured, often with a practical purpose, and usually intended for personal use. Artistic activity included the carving of amulets for protection and The Use of Artistic Media in Norse Greenland Lilla Kopár* Abstract - The choice of material (or artistic medium) is an important part of the creation of an artifact. At the same time, it is also an indicator of artistic traditions and cultural infl uences. This article offers an overview of the use of some of the most widely used and, in cultural terms, most signifi cant materials (metal, bone, ivory, wood, and soapstone) as artistic media in Norse Greenland, with special attention to availability (and its limitations), the choice of alternative media, and the infl uence of the Church on the use of artistic media. The survey reveals, on the one hand, some level of resourcefulness of the Norsemen in Greenland to adapt to local circumstances, and on the other, their strong adherence to European Christian culture. 2009 Special Volume 2:102–113 Norse Greenland: Selected Papers from the Hvalsey Conference 2008 Journal of the North Atlantic *The Catholic University of America, Department of English, 620 Michigan Avenue, NE, Washington, DC 20064 USA; kopar@cua.edu. 2009 L. Kopár 103 game pieces for entertainment, the creation of objects of Christian devotion and worship, as well as the decorating of tools and utensils, furniture, and clothes. Art also served as a way of self-expression, both cultural and religious. The roots lay in the pre-Christian tradition, but the role of art as well as artistic taste and practices were heavily infl uenced by Christianity, which was generally accepted by the Norse settlers shortly after the landnám.2 Judging by the evidence of Norse mythology, the Norsemen were most resourceful when it came to utilizing their environment for artistic production. Mythological sources contain several references to artistic creation and to the fashioning of objects as well as beings out of various materials: from natural materials (e.g., wood and driftwood, gold, iron, clay, ice, earth), body parts and bodily fl uids (blood and spit), to nearly impossible and magical ingredients (including sinews of a bear, breath of a fi sh, spittle of a bird, noise of a cat’s footsteps, beard of a woman, roots of a mountain). The native tradition assigned a certain value to each material, depending on the availability of resources in Scandinavia and continental Europe. Upon arrival to Greenland, the Norse settlers faced a very different natural environment which posed serious limitations on resources. In addition, the new faith, Christianity, introduced a new cultural perspective on and fashion for certain artistic media. Artistic Media in Greenland: Metal, Bone, Ivory, Wood, and Stone Even though the Norse settlers of Greenland had a variety of natural resources and materials available to them for everyday use and artistic production, the selection differed from that in Scandinavia and even in the geographically more similar Iceland. What Greenland lacked most was iron and wood, in particular timber. On the other hand, the Greenlanders had immediate access to ivory, which the rest of Europe lacked and desired. In the following, I will offer an overview of the artistic (and to lesser degree practical) usage in Greenland of select materials that are common in a general Scandinavian context and discuss their availability and cultural value in Norse Greenland. It is generally assumed that the greatest blow in practical terms was the shortage of metal, in particular iron and bronze, much needed for basic tools, weapons, and rivets, following European technological traditions. Indeed, archaeology has so far provided limited evidence for metal artifacts. However, that picture may be deceptive. The limited number of metal fi nds from Greenland does not necessarily indicate a shortage of metal in the Norse colonies. Rather, it may be due to poor preservation of the material, or the fact that metal artifacts were collected and reused by the Inuits after the desertion of the Norse settlements. There is evidence of local smelting at several Norse sites (smithies, soapstone moulds, pieces of slag), probably from imported blooms of crude iron, but so far no hearth pit has been found in Greenland that would indicate that the actual smelting of iron from bog ore took place in the Norwegian or Icelandic fashion (Seaver 1996:29–31).3 The lack of charcoal may also have made large-scale local smelting impossible.4 In spite of some level of local manufacturing (in the form of secondary smelting), iron had to be imported, crude or wrought, and was indeed one of the most desired articles in overseas trade. Metal was also required by the Christian church for certain ecclesiastical objects. Church bells made of bronze were imported for the foundation of churches, and several bell fragments have been found both at Norse sites of the Eastern Settlement and at Inuit sites.5 The question of whether the Norsemen deliberately destroyed their church bells or were simply unable to fi x the broken ones (Seaver 1996:96–97), or whether the bells were broken into pieces by the Inuits for reuse (Gulløv 2004:253), remains unanswered. Remains of church bells are missing from the Western Settlement; they may have been removed by the Norsemen when deserting the settlements (Gulløv 2004:253). Other ecclesiastical objects of precious metal (chalices, patens, etc.) could be easily imported at the time of the establishment of new churches or with the arrival of foreign churchmen. They were probably also the fi rst objects to be removed when a site was abandoned or sacked, due to their portable nature. The bishop’s golden ring from Garðar (Igaliku) (Fig. 1), probably of foreign make, was buried with the deceased churchman (after its precious stone had been picked out) and thus remains one of the two surviving golden artifacts from Norse Greenland, the other being a second ring from the same site.6 Silver objects are equally rare among the fi nds. An ornamented round silver buckle was found at ruin group Ø34 in Qorlortup Itinnera (Municipality of Narsaq) (Gulløv 2004:262). The same site also produced a decorated and an undecorated buckle of walrus tooth (see below and in Fig. 2). At Nipaatsoq (Western Settlement), a silver fi nger ring emerged along with a rather unusual object in the context of Norse Greenland, a small silver shield (18 x 24 mm) decorated (most probably) with the coat of arms of the Scottish Campbell clan7 (Fig. 3) (Østergård 2004:110). The function and origin of the object are unknown, although similar small shields are known as dress ornaments from Europe from the high medieval period (e.g., from the Slagelse hoard, Denmark). The Nipaatsoq shield was either imported, 104 Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume 2 or, according to Claus Andreasen (1982), the product of local craftsmanship (Seaver 1996:120–121). The latter hypothesis is supported by the apparently unfi nished nature of the artifact (it has no holes or hook to attach it to clothing or another object) and by the presence of a small lump of silver at the same site. Even if the shield is of local origin, it clearly follows imported designs. Other metal objects from Greenland (besides basic tools, several knives, and weapons) include a simple pewter pendant cross of English origin from Hvalsey (Qaqortukulooq) (Seaver 1996:173), an iron key with bronze inlay decoration from Sandnes (Kilaarsarfi k), two simple buckles or brooches formed of brass rings, and two copper costume pins from the churchyard at Herjólfsnes (Ikigaat), as well as a brass buckle from Nipaatsoq. They are all rather simple in design and have only limited aesthetic value. The one exception is a poorly preserved but carefully moulded lead plaque (40 x 45 mm) from Frederiksdal (Narsarmijit) near Herjólfsnes. It shows a Crucifi xion scene with the mournful Mary and John as attendant fi gures (Fig. 4). The plaque is believed to be a pilgrim’s badge, with remains of two holes on the top for attachment (Berglund 1988:35), and therefore it is almost certain to be of foreign make. Besides importation, an obvious solution to the diffi culty of obtaining metal was to replace it by other media, such as bone, ivory, antlers, and soapstone. Archeological excavations have brought to light a number of costume pins and hair pins (Narsaq, Brattahlíð [Qassiarsuk], Sandnes [Kilaarsarfi k], Umiiviarsuk) made of a wide variety of materials (bone, antler, ivory, and wood), belt buckles of bone and walrus tooth (e.g., at ruin group Ø34, Qorlortup Itinnera; Fig. 2), whalebone padlocks, spades, and shovel blades, arrowheads of reindeer antler, Figure 1. Walrus ivory crosier head and golden ring found and even a whalebone axe (Sandnes [Kilaarsarfi k]; in the bishop’s grave at Garðar (Igaliku). Photograph © National Museum of Denmark. Figure 2. Decorated belt buckle of walrus tooth from ruin group Ø34, Municipality of Narsaq. Photograph © Qaqortoq Museum, by Geert Brovard. Figure 3. Small silver shield with coat of arms from Nipaatsoq (18 x 24 mm). Photograph © Greenland National Museum and Archive, by Erik Holm. 2009 L. Kopár 105 Fig. 5A). The latter is clearly a copy of contemporary iron axes (Roesdahl and Wilson 1992:316, cat. no. 341) (cf. Fig. 5B). This creative and pragmatic shift of medium is, however, not unique to Greenland. For example, buckles in bone and occasionally in ivory8 have also been known in England and on the Continent from early Roman to late medieval times. Interestingly, the main developments in the design of buckles seems to have always taken place in metal, and metal prototypes have clearly infl uenced the design of bone buckles throughout the period (MacGregor 1985:103–105). Bone buckles were a resourceful and practical response to the limited availability of metal,9 and they tend to be copies of metal types. Various types of bones of both domesticated and hunted animals (sheep, cattle, reindeer, whale, etc.) were used, among others, for tools, household utensils, combs, fi gurines, and game pieces, but the most precious of all bones was ivory, primarily for commercial reasons. Walrus ivory and narwhal tusks were valuable trade materials that had to be acquired by dangerous and time-consuming hunts in the far North, in Disko Bay. In spite of all the diffi culties, the Norse Greenlanders produced large quantities of ivory to supply the European market and to cover tax duties. (The special crusade tithes of 1327 were paid by the Greenlanders in the form of 635 kg of walrus ivory. [Gad 1971:125–126, McGovern 1980:258]). Walrus ivory was exported in an uncarved state, usually in pairs (sometimes still attached to the severed front part of the skull), but there is evidence of local production of walrus tooth, ivory, and whalebone artifacts as well. Walrus remains in general are widespread and were found at nearly all excavated sites, but the distribution of the types of bones is uneven. While exportable tusks are very rare in Greenland fi nds, frequent ivory chippings and carved pieces of skull (especially the maxilla, or jawbone, around the tusk root) indicate their local preparation for the overseas market. It also suggests that the Norse Greenlanders appreciated the export value of the material over its value as fi ne artistic medium (Roesdahl 2005:189). Other types of walrus bones are rare, except for post-canines and penis bones (McGovern 1980:258, Roesdahl 2005:187). Walrus bones were used locally for making small fi gurines of humans, walruses, and polar bears for protective or decorative purpose, game pieces for entertainment, and tools, buttons, and belt buckles for more practical reasons. Narwhal bones are in general rare in farm middens, which suggests that only the exportable tusks were brought back from the hunting fi elds (Roesdahl and Wilson 1992:384, cat. no. 591). A total of twenty to thirty walrus and four to fi ve narwhal skulls were found buried in the churchyard and in the eastern end of the chancel at the episcopal church site at Garðar (Igaliku)10 (Arneborg 2006:51). The teeth of the animals had been extracted, probably for trade. The arrangement of the bones suggests that they were buried there deliberately, which indicates that walrus bones were assigned some religious signifi cance and special powers, and the local Christian church allowed for the integration of some aspects of heathen hunt ritual or magic (Nørlund and Roussell 1929:138; Seaver 1996:31, 101). Figurines and amulets carved of ivory and bone suggest the same supernatural associations and the hope for protection Figure 4. Moulded lead plaque (40 x 45 mm), possibly a pilgrim’s badge, with Crucifi xion from Frederiksdal (Narsarmijit). Figure 5. A. Whalebone axe head from Sandnes (Kilaarsarfi k). B. Iron axe head from Tunuarmiut, Tunulliarfi k. 106 Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume 2 or good luck. Bones in general were probably believed to retain certain characteristics of the animals to which they once belonged. In Europe, ivory had long been considered a precious artistic medium and luxury item. With the collapse of the Roman Empire in the West, elephant ivory from Africa and Asia became diffi cult to obtain and was completely unavailable in some regions. From the second half of the ninth century onwards, it was substituted by walrus tusk, narwhal horn, and whalebone available in the northern regions. From the late tenth to the early thirteenth century, whalebone and walrus ivory enjoyed an unprecedented popularity (in particular in the British Isles and northern Europe) as an artistic medium of precious devotional and secular objects (Beckwith 1972:116, Gaborit-Chopin 1992:204). This period coincides with a time of expanding commercial and political relations of England and the Continent with Scandinavia and their trade contacts with Greenland. Up to the early thirteenth century, Greenland and northern Norway were the chief suppliers of ivory to the European market, until elephant ivory from Africa became available again through Spain and Sicily (from the late twelfth century onwards) and became the basic material for Gothic ivory carvings. 11 As a result of Viking trade, walrus ivory and narwhal tusks reached even the Middle East, where they were much valued by the Arab rulers (Roesdahl 2005:185). Narwahl tusks in particular, commonly mistaken for unicorn horns, were believed to possess considerable prophylactic powers (MacGregor 1985:41). During this period, there was an increased interest in ivory as an artistic medium also in the Viking homelands of Scandinavia. The European popularity of ivory added a signifi cant prestige (not only commercial value) to this local raw material in Greenland too. Following the European fashion, ivory was used in Scandinavia to create refi ned (often ecclesiastical) objects, usually in Continental style and manner, but frequent fi nds of ivory pins and game pieces testify to a wider use of the material. Apart from a carefully executed chess fi gure of a queen from the island of Qeqertaq (Municipality of Sisimiut), carved in walrus tooth (Østergård 2004:96, Fig. 61), the only surviving Greenlandic example of a high-quality object of walrus ivory is the famous crosier head from Garðar (Igaliku) (Fig. 1), found buried in the bishop’s grave. It had long been associated with Bishop Jón Smyrill (Sverrisfóstri) (d. 1209), but the most recent dating of the grave to the late thirteenth century (1270–80s, based on radiocarbon dating) undermines this assumption and suggests that the interred bishop may have been Ólaf, bishop of Greenland between 1246 and 1280 (Arneborg 2006:50). The crosier resembles English models, although in a somewhat conservative and simple manner.12 An interesting parallel is offered by a carefully executed, gilt-bronze crosier found in a tomb (believed to be of Bishop Richard de Carew, 1256–80) in the cathedral of St. David’s in Pembrokeshire (Beckwith 1972:98, ill. 175). The English crosier is a composite object, ornamented with Winchester foliage and with nielloed silver and gilt bronze decorations. It predates the lifetime of the bishop; according to Beckwith, the crook dates from the middle of the twelfth century, the nielloed silver bands are slightly earlier, while the lower part and the knop are from the end of the twelfth century. While the Garðar crosier is undoubtedly simpler in design, it shows obvious parallels in the foliage carving. It also lacks silver and bronze decorations, but a very similar impression is given by carved patterns as a creative substitute for the lacking metal ornaments. The provenance of the Garðar crosier is debated. It may have been an import that arrived with the bishop, or as a later present to him, or it may represent high quality local craftsmanship. The idea that the crosier was a present of Bishop Páll of Skálholt to Bishop Jón Smyrill and consequently its association with the famous Icelandic female carver, Margrét hin haga (Margret the dexterous) (Gad 1971:115, Nørlund 1971 [1936]:44) seems less probable in light of the late thirteenth-century dating of the tomb. In addition to Iceland, the Norwegian archiepiscopal town of Trondheim has also been suggested as a possible place of provenance for the crosier based on the west-Norwegian origin of a number of contemporary high-quality ivory carvings and the obvious contacts between Norway and Greenland (Liebgott 1992:203; Roesdahl and Wilson 1992:316, cat. no. 344). If the crosier is of local origin, it certainly indicates Greenland’s artistic contacts with the wider North Atlantic world since the artist was undoubtedly copying or imitating an imported model.13 The third most valuable (and certainly most commonly used) material besides metal and bone was wood. Although there was limited availability of wood in Greenland, the Norsemen did not suffer a shortage of wood in general. What was lacking was quality timber for the construction of ships and buildings. Because of this, the Norsemen occasionally crossed the Davis Strait (up to the mid-fourteenth century) in order to obtain timber from Markland. For smaller objects, local trees and driftwood could easily be obtained and used. In addition to its obvious practical employment in ship and house construction and for making numerous household objects, wood was frequently used as artistic medium both in an ecclesiastical context (for crosses, crucifi xes, possibly church portals, etc.) and in a secular context (for fi gurines, toys, clothing accessories, decorative 2009 L. Kopár 107 wooden coffi ns found at Herjólfsnes were very simple in design, and the lack of coffi ns in many graves suggests that only wealthier inhabitants received the honor of being buried in a coffi n.18 Some coffi ns were even reused for a second burial, honoring the second deceased, but disturbing the peaceful rest of the fi rst. Many of the deceased at Herjólfsnes were accompanied by wooden crosses. Altogether there were fi fty-eight wooden crosses found, varying greatly in carvings for furniture, and even for an ornamented bridge of a fiddle-like stringed instrument (cf. Gulløv 2004:273)). While decorative wood carvings from Scandinavia often display complex ornamental patterns with fi ne details, the surviving Greenlandic fi nds are generally simple in decoration and design. One exception is a small ornamented plank from the Farm-Beneath-the-Sand (Gården under Sandet [GUS]), a site unusually rich in wooden fi nds. The plank has a carefully executed, symmetrical decorative carving on one side and the name “Björk” in runes and a dragon head incised on the other (Gulløv 2004:262). The function of the object is unknown; it may have been a thread holder (yarn reel), presented possibly as a wedding gift.14 A further example of elaborate household decoration is an arm of a chair from Sandnes (Kilaarsarfi k), ornamented with four carefully executed animal heads, three in low relief and one three-dimensional (Roesdahl and Wilson 1992:376, cat. no. 565).15 Decorative wood carvings may have also been used to ornament the doors, portals, and interior of churches and secular dwellings, although no carving of this category survives and it thus remains a speculation. Similarly to Norwegian stave churches, the west end-walls of churches, which in many cases appear to have been made of wood (Ingstad 1966:204), may have been a prime location of such decorative carvings. The two fi nest pieces of wood carving surviving from Norse Greenland are truly Christian artifacts and derive from Continental or English models. Both carvings, dated to ca. 1300 by Roussell, depict the Crucifi xion and were found in the Western Settlement. 16 The crucifi x from the churchyard in Sandnes (V51) (Fig. 6) is a three-fi gure group with Christ, the Virgin Mary, and St. John, surrounded by an ornamented oval frame. According to Seaver, the crucifi x was probably an import, rather than of local production, as was a “handsome wooden pax” found buried nearby (Seaver 1996:130). It may have belonged to a local priest and was buried with him upon his death. The other crucifi x (Fig. 7), found among the remains of a cross bench in ruin group V53d in Austmannadal, is a relief carving on a wooden slab, with a pointed end at the bottom (similar to the Herjólfsnes crosses, see below). It was made of driftwood and may have been locally carved following imported models (Roussell 1941:247–249, Seaver 1996:128). The two crucifi xes represent a departure from the indigenous tradition of decorative wood carving and emphasize artistic contacts of the Western Settlement with Europe. Further interesting aspects of the use of wood in a Christian context are revealed by the burials at Herjólfsnes (Ikigaat) in the Eastern Settlement. The Norsemen at Herjólfsnes followed the Christian practice of burying their dead in wooden coffi ns that were constructed of driftwood.17 The thirty-one Figure 6. Wooden crucifi x with Christ, the Virgin Mary, and St. John from Ruin Group V51, Sandnes (Kilaarsarfi k). Photograph © National Museum of Denmark. 108 Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume 2 made this cross in praise and worship of God the Almighty.” 3. In some cases, personal devotion extended into the realm of religious magic, as the mystic Latin formula on the transverse limb of cross no. 150 indicates: “ma(ria) au(e) agla tetragramma Iesus so(ter) a(don)ai on lo de(us) pater k(ristu)s r(ex) adoni(ia) fi lii iat” (Seaver 1996:100). 4. Finally, a small wooden stick (n.b., not a cross), known today as “Guðveig’s rune staff,” which was inscribed with runes and laid in one of the coffins, reveals a commemorative function: “This women, whose name was Guðveig, was laid overboard in the Greenland Sea.” The stick was carved in her memory, possibly by a Norwegian (Stoklund 1995:533) and laid to rest in consecrated soil to give the deceased a secondary Christian burial. The fi rst two functions suggest that the crosses were not meant to be burial crosses, but were used as devotional objects in the lifetime of the deceased and were interred as personal objects. Indeed, as Marie Stoklund has pointed out, they do differ from contemporary funerary crosses from England and France (1984:103–104), and similar inscribed wooden crosses found in Bergen, Norway, had no connection with a cemetery or church (1995:533). The shape of the crosses with a long and narrow part at the bottom terminating in a point indicates that they may have been hand-held crosses during rituals (so-called processional crosses), or they were stuck in the turf walls of houses and used as objects of private devotion (Stoklund 1984:108–109, 113; Seaver 1996:99–100). Two small crosses similar to the ones of Herjólfsnes have been found in one of the living rooms at the Farm-Beneath-the-Sand (GUS); their location indicates that they may have similarly been used for domestic worship (Gulløv 2004:254). At least two of the Herjólfsnes crosses imitate insular (Celtic) design (probably via Norway) in their shapes with semicircular armpits (Stoklund 1995:537). In their decoration, some of them resemble metal, metal- covered, or gilded crosses (cf. cross on the left in Fig. 8, where carved circles and bosses echo the look of gem stones set in metal). This resemblance suggests that some crosses may have imitated imported artifacts, some of them possibly of metal, which offers another possible example of a shift in artistic medium (metal and gems to wood). Similarly, the widely available soapstone (steatite) was also used as a local substitute for metal, wood, and earthenware. Due to the lack of clay in Greenland,19 no pottery was produced in the Norse colonies; thus, it must have been imported, probably from Norway and the Continent (Nørlund 1971 [1936]:82–83, Roussell 1941:243–244). On the other hand, soapstone, a soft but sturdy and fi re-proof material, was readily available for making large cooking pots, household vessels, and small bowls size, workmanship, and design (Fig. 8). They were dated by Poul Nørlund to ca. 1300, but the runic inscriptions on eight of the crosses suggest, according to Marie Stoklund (1995:533, 537–39), an extended period of production and in some cases a much earlier dating. That interpretation indicates that many of the crosses had been in use for a longer period of time judging by the later dates of the burials. The function of these crosses is revealed in part by the inscriptions carved on some of them (readings by Finnur Jónsson quoted in Hovgaard 1925:610). The crosses seemed to have served four basic functions: 1. Some had a protective function, e.g., “God the Almighty guard Guðleif well” (inscribed in runes) or “Jesus Christ help, Christus natus est nobis” (a bilingual inscription in runes). 2. Some served the purposes of worship and personal devotion in the form of art, e.g., “Þorleifr Figure 7. Wooden crucifi x from Ruin Group V53d, Austmannadal. Photograph © National Museum of Denmark. 2009 L. Kopár 109 (sometimes ornamented with fi ne decorative carvings), as well as tools, loom weights, spindle whorls, oil lamps, and other household objects. A similarly versatile usage of soapstone is also known from Norway, where steatite is available in large quantities (in contrast to Iceland, for example, where it is lacking).20 Due to its workability, soapstone was also used in Greenland as an artistic medium to fashion small fi gurines and probably also architectural carvings to decorate stone churches (e.g., Garðar [Igaliku]). Large-scale monumental stone sculpture was not part of the art of the Greenlanders, but the Christian tradition introduced the custom of stone grave markers. Simple and quite small grave markers in early medieval fashion were found, for example, at Herjólfsnes (Ikigaat) (Fig. 9a), Garðar (Igaliku), and Figure 8. Three of fi fty-eight wooden crosses found in the churchyard in Herjólfsnes (Ikigaat). Photograph © National Museum of Denmark. 110 Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume 2 in a number of impressive stone churches with mortared and possibly whitewashed walls22—highly ambitious enterprises considering the small size of the Greenlandic communities and their limited resources. These new churches represented a departure from local building traditions and showed the infl uence of contemporary Continental practices, and in particular, Norwegian examples (Roussell 1941:119). The impressive church buildings of imported designs required matching decorations and ecclesiastical objects. This need created a cultural pressure for certain artifacts: both ecclesiastical and devotional objects and decorative artifacts, such as church vestments and vessels, bells, and even stained glass. The items that were not available in Greenland, either due to the lack of materials or technology, were brought into the country by its foreign bishops or traded for exported ivory and other highly sought-after arctic items. In an ecclesiastical context, art was a form of worship and a statement of faith; thus, it required adherence to the traditions of the Church manifested in Continental European artistic taste and design. Besides its enrichment of the aesthetics of the Norsemen and the actual inventory of high-standard artifacts, the Church also imposed certain limitations on artistic development and cultural exchange, which affected the Norsemen’s relations with their more immediate neighbors, the Inuits (or Skrælings). The intensity of contact between the two cultures varied, but in most territories it was relatively limited.23 However, numerous Norse artifacts made it into the hands of the Inuits of Greenland and of the Canadian Eastern Arctic by trade or force, and were possibly further distributed through Inuit exchange networks.24 Brattahlíð (Qassiarsuk) (Fig. 9b). They are usually undecorated except for simple incised crosses and occasional inscriptions.21 The custom of stone grave markers was an artistic import and a sign of adherence to the tradition of the Christian church. The Role of the Church A similar adherence to imported traditions of the Church was true in terms of architecture. After his arrival in Greenland in ca. 1127, Bishop Arnald of Garðar launched a program of church construction, which was carried on by his successors. It resulted Figure 9. A. Stone grave marker from Herjólfsnes (Ikigaat). Photograph © National Museum of Denmark. B. Stone grave marker from Brattahlíð (Qassiarsuk). Photograph © National Museum of Denmark. 2009 L. Kopár 111 an established network of power and administration, and thus with a social prestige that could be utilized by those aspiring to local political and social power through building on available resources. In Greenland, however, joining Christian Europe did not mean utilizing existing resources and adapting to local circumstances, but rather accepting an external administrative system, turning away from possible adaptive strategies on ideological basis, and promoting a Europe-oriented, frontier identity. The above survey of the use of artistic media indicates not only this adherence of the Norsemen to European Christian culture, but also some level of resourcefulness to adapt to local circumstances. The European orientation of the Norse colony is evident in their desire to obtain objects in the European fashion and to create artifacts that resemble them in style and in medium. Their ability to adapt, on the other hand, is manifested in the occasional shift in media in response to availability of materials and the demands of trade. However, this did not result in a unique Greenlandic artistic tradition, and similar occasional shifts in media can also be observed elsewhere in the Scandinavian world and continental Europe.26 The art of Greenland is therefore a further proof of the fairly homogenous nature of Scandinavian emigrant culture and the wide-ranging cultural impact of Christianity even in the most remote region of the North Atlantic. Acknowledgments My understanding of the complexity of the art of the Greenlanders, both Norse and Inuit, as well as the original draft of this manuscript, was substantially improved through inspiring conversations at the Hvalsey Conference in Greenland (and in subsequent communications), particularly with Svend Erik Albrethsen, Jette Arneborg, Hans Christian Gulløv, Judith Jesch, Christian Keller, Else Roesdahl, Patricia Sutherland, and Orri Vésteinsson. I am grateful for their valuable comments on various aspects of my research. My trip to the Hvalsey Conference was made possible by the fi nancial support of the Department of English and the Dean of Arts and Sciences of The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC. Literature Cited Andreasen, C. 1982. Nipaitsoq og Vesterbygden. Grønland 30:177–88. Arneborg, J. 1990. The Roman Church in Norse Greenland. Acta Archaeologica 61:142–150. Arneborg, J. 2006. Saga Trails. Brattahlíð, Garðar, Hvalsey Fjord’s Church and Herjólfsnes: Four Chieftain’s Farmsteads in the Norse Settlements of Greenland. A Visitor’s Guidebook. Vintervår [Narsaq, Greenland] for The National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen, Denmark. 94 pp. Bailey, R.N. 1980. Viking Age Stone Sculpture in Northern England. Collins Archaeology Series. Collins, London, UK. 288 pp. The cultural exchange seems to have been limited primarily to isolated artifacts. So far there is little evidence of major change in Inuit technology or art under Norse infl uence, or vice versa, although Patricia Sutherland believes that the Inuit-Norse contact in the Arctic was “possibly suffi cient to have infl uenced local technologies” (quoted in Pringle 2000). Inuit carvings representing Norsemen (see Gulløv 1983) indicate an interest in and interaction with the Norse Greenlanders, but reveal little information about the intensity and nature of the contacts. Competition for limited resources may certainly have fueled hostile encounters. Instead of being a useful resource of arctic survival skills and local technology, the Skrælings were often seen as a source of potential danger, both in economic terms and in a spiritual sense as pagans. The establishment of a bishopric in Garðar (Igaliku) further intensifi ed these feelings and limited cultural exchange on ideological basis. As a result, the Norsemen did not seem to adopt any Inuit hunting tools, skin boats, or clothing even though that would have improved their effi ciency in the local arctic circumstances, especially after the worsening of the weather conditions (after 1150, and in particular in the fourteenth century, with its cooling and extreme meteorological fl uctuation [McGovern 1980:266–270]). Instead, they followed the Scandinavian tradition in boat building and the European fashion of clothing, similarly to their general artistic orientation.25 Oddly, it is in this most practical context of effi ciency and survival that a shift in the use of materials did not happen. Conclusion In conclusion, let us return to where we started, to the Scandinavian settlers in England, and draw a brief comparison with the Greenland colony. The differences are numerous and obvious, but a common desire for integration makes the comparison worthwhile. The most important difference between the Viking settlement of Greenland and England is that southern and southwestern Greenland were virtually uninhabited at the time of the initial settlement, thus the landnám was a full-scale settlement, while in England, the Vikings encountered an established society. In spite of this important dissimilarity as well as the difference in the geographical distance of the two islands from mainland Europe, both immigrant groups saw the path to survival and prosperity through the acceptance of Christianity within a generation or two after settlement and actively sought to join the Christian cultural community of Europe, in artistic as well as other terms. In both cases, the decision of conversion was made initially by the social elite who expected to benefi t most from such a change. The local circumstances differed greatly. In England, Christianity came with 112 Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume 2 Bailey, R.N. 1996. England’s Earliest Sculptors. Pontifi cal Institute of Medieval Studies, Toronto, ON, Canada. 155 pp. Beckwith, J. 1972. Ivory Carvings in Early Medieval England. Harvey Miller Publishers, London, UK. 168 pp. Berglund, J. 1988. Herjólfsnes (Ikigaat)—oqaluffi k immap killingani. Kirken ved havet. Nanortalik Municipality / BHM press, Esbjerg, Denmark. 72 pp. Buchwald, V.F. 2001. Ancient iron and slags in Greenland. Meddelelser om Grønland, Man and Society 26. Danish Polar Center, Copenhagen, Denmark. 92 pp. Buchwald, V.F., and G. Mosdal. 1985. Meteoritic iron, telluric iron, and wrought iron in Greenland. Meddelelser om Grønland, Man and Society 9. Commission for Scientifi c Research in Greenland, Copenhagen, Denmark. 52 pp. Cramp, R.J. (Ed.) 1984–2008. Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture. Oxford University Press for the British Academy, Oxford, UK. 8 vols. Gaborit-Chopin, D. 1992. Walrus ivory in western Europe. Pp. 204–205. In E. Roesdahl and D.M. Wilson (Eds.). From Viking to Crusader: The Scandinavians and Europe 800–1200. Rizzoli, New York, NY, USA. 429 pp. Gad, F. 1971 (1970). The History of Greenland. Volume 1. Earliest Times to 1700. C. Hurst, London, UK, and McGill-Queen’s University Press, Montreal, QC, Canada. 350 pp. Gulløv, H.C. 1983. The Eskimo’s view of the European: The so-called Norse dolls and other questionable carvings. Arctic Anthropology 20(2):121–129. Gulløv, H.C. (Ed.) 2004. Grønlands forhistorie. Gyldendal, Copenhagen, Denmark. 434 pp. Hovgaard, W. 1925. The Norsemen in Greenland. Recent discoveries at Herjólfsnes. Geographical Review 15(4):605–616. Ingstad, H. 1966. Land under the Pole Star. A Voyage to the Norse Settlements of Greenland and the Saga of the People that Vanished. St. Martin’s Press, New York, NY USA. 381 pp. Kopár, Lilla. In press. Gods and Settlers: The Iconography of Norse Mythology in Anglo-Scandinavian Sculpture. Brepols, Turnhout, Belgium. Liebgott, N.-K. 1992. Bone, antler, amber, and walrus ivory. Pp. 202–203. In E. Roesdahl and D.M. Wilson (Eds.). From Viking to Crusader: The Scandinavians and Europe 800–1200. Rizzoli, New York, NY, USA. 429 pp. MacGregor, A. 1985. Bone, Antler, Ivory, and Horn. The Technology of Skeletal Materials Since the Roman Period. Croom Helm Ltd., Beckenham, UK, and Sydney, Australia. 245 pp. Mathiassen, T. 1931. Inugsuk, a mediaeval Eskimo settlement in Upernivik district, West Greenland. Meddelelser om Grønland 77:145–340. McGovern, T.H. 1980. Cows, harp seals, and church bells: Adaptation and extinction in Norse Greenland. Human Ecology 8:245–275. Nørlund, P. 1971 (1936). Viking Settlers in Greenland and Their Descendants During Five Hundred Years. Kraus: New York, NY, USA. (Reprint. Originally published Cambridge University Press, London, UK.) 160 pp. Nørlund, P., and A. Roussell. 1929. Norse ruins at Gardar, the episcopal seat of mediaeval Greenland. Meddelelser om Grønland 76. Danish Poler Center, Copenhagen: Denmark. 170 pp. Østergård, E. 2004. Woven into the Earth. Textiles from Norse Greenland. Aarhus University Press, Aarhus, Denmark. 296 pp. Pringle, H. 2000. Hints of frequent pre-Columbian contacts. Science 288(5467):783–785. Roesdahl, E. 2005. Walrus ivory—demand, supply, workshops, and Greenland. Pp. 182–191, In A. Mortensen and S.V. Arge (Eds.). Viking and Norse in the North Atlantic. Select Papers from the Proceedings of the Fourteenth Viking Congress, Tórshavn, 19–30 July 2001. The Faroese Academy of Sciences, Tórshavn, Faroe Islands. 445 pp. Roesdahl, E., and D.M. Wilson (Eds.). 1992. From Viking to Crusader: The Scandinavians and Europe 800–1200. Rizzoli, New York, NY, USA. 429 pp. Roussell, A. 1941. Farms and Churches in the Mediaeval Norse Settlements of Greenland. With an appendix by M. Degerbøl. Meddelelser om Grønland 89(1). C.A. Reitzels Forlag, Copenhagen, Denmark. 354 pp. Seaver, K.A. 1996. The Frozen Echo. Greenland and the Exploration of North America ca. AD 1000–1500. Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA, USA. 407 pp. Stoklund, M. 1984. Nordbokorsene fra Grønland. Nationalmuseets Arbejdsmark 1984. National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen, Denmark. Pp. 101–113. Stoklund, M. 1995 (1993). Greenland runes: Isolation or cultural contact? Pp. 528–543, In C.E. Batey, J. Jesch, and C.D. Morris (Eds.). The Viking Age in Caithness, Orkney, and the North Atlantic. Select Papers from the Proceedings of the Eleventh Viking Congress, Thurso and Kirkwall, 22 August–1 September 1989. Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, UK. 554 pp. Stummann Hansen, S. 2005. Archaeology of the Arctic: Scandinavian settlement of the North Atlantic. Pp. 104–110, In M. Nuttall (Ed.). Encyclopedia of the Arctic. Volume 1. Routledge, New York, NY, USA, and London, UK. 2380 pp. Endnotes 1On Viking-age stone sculpture in England see, among others, Bailey 1980, 1996:77-94; introductory chapters to the individual volumes (esp. vols. I, II, III, VI, and VIII) of the Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture (gen. ed. R.J. Cramp, 1984–2008); and Kopár, in press. 2For primary sources and on the development of the Roman Church in Greenland see Arneborg 1990 (esp. pp. 143-145). 3There was a Norse hearth pit furnace found at L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland, which suggests that American ore was worked into crude iron at that settlement site and brought back to Greenland for further refi nement (Seaver 1996:31). 4There is evidence of an alternative method of metal production practiced mainly by the Inuits: at Cape York, Northwest Greenland, iron meteorite pieces (known among the Inuits by the names of the Tent, the Woman, and the Dog) were chipped away to produce metal by cold-hammering. (Buchwald 2001; Buchwald and Mosdal 1985; Christian Keller, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway, pers. comm.) 2009 L. Kopár 113 5The Inuits attributed special signifi cance to church bell fragments due to their music-making ability (Hans Christian Gulløv, National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen, Denmark, pers. comm.). 6There were two other rings found at the cathedral cemetery, both made of bronze, one with a setting for a stone (Nørlund 1971 [1936]:43, Roesdahl and Wilson 1992:316). 7The same pattern (or coat of arms) was also engraved on a goat’s knuckle and a couple of soapstone shards. The midden also revealed rivets, iron nails, and some rings that may have belonged to a coat of mail (Seaver 1996:120). 8A twelfth-century example in walrus ivory was found together with the famous Lewis chessmen in the Outer Hebrides. 9Bone buckles also had practical advantages over metal ones in the cold climate, the latter ones being unpleasantly cold to the touch and increasingly breakable in the cold weather. (I owe this practical remark to Kirsten Seaver, Stanford University, Palo Alto, California, United States, pers. comm.). 10The skulls found inside of the existing church ruins may have originally been in the churchyard of the earlier church on the site, and became enclosed in the later church by its eastward expansion. 11In England ivory was immensely popular; in his catalogue of early medieval ivories, Beckwith (1972) lists over 160 artifacts, mainly of ecclesiastical use. 12Further connections with the British Isles (or the insular church and culture via intermediaries) are the insular (Celtic) cross shapes of some of the Herjólfsnes crosses, the presence of “Anglo-Saxon” dotted u-runes, and perhaps word forms such as isu, isus for “Jesus” and kros (Stoklund 1995:538). 13An investigation into the geographical origin of the ivory itself by trace element analysis may bring us closer to a defi nite answer to the provenance question. 14Svend Erik Albrethsen, Virum, Denmark, pers. comm. 15A whalebone loom slay from Austmannadal is decorated with two incised human fi gures in combat (Roussell 1941:276, fi g. 171, no. 341). To my knowledge, this unique carving is the only surviving multi-fi gural (and possibly narrative) scene from Greenland (apart from the traditional three-fi gure Crucifi xion Images from Sandnes [Fig. 6] and Frederiksdal [Fig. 4]). It probably depicts a secular scene. 16A third Crucifi xion image survives on the lead plaque of Frederiksdal (Narsarmijit) at the southern tip of Greenland (Fig. 4). The plaque is most certainly an import. 17Jette Arneborg, National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen, Denmark, pers. comm. 18Coffi n burials were by no means a norm or necessity even for high-ranking ecclesiastics: the above-mentioned bishop buried at Garðar (Igaliku) in the thirteenth century was not laid in a coffi n. 19Jette Arneborg, pers. comm. 20Greenland was famous in the North Atlantic for its soapstone; “as a matter of fact, even in the seventeenth century, there was an idea prevalent in Norway that the soapstone used in Trondhjem Cathedral had come from Greenland” (Nørlund 1971 [1936]:82-83). 21According to Marie Stoklund, Greenlandic runic inscriptions on stones have probably all had connections with graves, except maybe for the þurfi nna stone from Herjólfsnes (Ikigaat) and the Napassut fragment (Stoklund 1995:532). 22See the example of the Hvalsey Fjord church site, the Inuit name of which (Qaqortukulooq) means “white.” 23According to Patricia Sutherland (cited in Pringle 2000:783), in the Arctic, unlike in Newfoundland, the Norse had frequent and prolonged contacts with the Dorset Inuits, more than just trading, as is shown in the presence of Norse or Norse-infl uenced artifacts (incl. yarn and pieces of wood showing the infl uence of European carpentry techniques and Norse-style design) at Dorset Inuit sites (e.g., Nunguvik and three other sites on Baffi n Island). 24For example, the Inugsuk Inuit culture of the west coast (Upernivik district) was defi ned on the basis of the presence of Norse artifacts such as iron and bronze objects, wooden spoon cases, draughtsmen (often made into tops) (Mathiassen 1931, McGovern 1980:264). 25Our knowledge of the clothing habits of the Norsemen is largely limited to the evidence of burials, which may not faithfully represent everyday clothing. 26Marie Stoklund arrived at a similar conclusion regarding runic inscriptions: “Innovations [in Greenland runic inscriptions] bear witness to close contact and widespread cultural relations and make it problematic to speak of isolation and to characterize certain features as ‘Greenland’ peculiarities (except perhaps the so-called ‘Greenland’ –r)” (Stoklund 1995:640).