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Foreword

Journal of the North Atlantic, Special Volume 3 (2012): ii–iii

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ii Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume 3 ii This project all began in 1982 when one of the editors, J. Arneborg, was preparing for her first fieldwork in Greenland and Henrik Tauber, then head of the carbon-14 Dating Laboratory at the National Museum in Copenhagen, had published his ground-breaking article in Nature, where he used the 13C fractionation pattern to demonstrate the dramatic change from Danish Mesolithic man’s dependence on marine food sources to Neolithic man’s predominant subsistence on terrestrial food (Tauber 1981). Tauber wanted to continue his research on the marine effects on carbon isotope ratios and radiocarbon dating and the consequences for the study of past dietary habits. When he learned that the Greenland National Museum had initiated archaeological excavations at the Norse magnate farm Anavik in the Norse Western Settlement under the direction of Hans Kapel and with Jette Arneborg as participant, Tauber asked us to collect Norse skeletal material and, for the assessment of marine radiocarbon reservoir effects in the skeletal samples, he also wanted terrestrial samples from the same graves for comparison of the radiocarbon dates. We managed to collect human skeletal samples and charcoal from three graves, and the δ13C results were astonishing. The burials were dated to the later period of the Western Settlement, and according to the δ13C values, the Norse had had a predominantly marine diet very similar to the pre-1721 Inuit population (Tauber 1989). The 1982 Anavik results are published in this volume for the first time (Arneborg et al. 2012). It was tempting to look further into the diet of the Norse Greenlanders, but the conventional radiocarbon method required large amounts of bone, and it would be almost impossible to get the permission from Danish National Museum to take samples from the Norse skeletal collections at the Laboratory of Biological Anthropology at the University of Copenhagen. Things had changed when N. Lynnerup began his PhD project in 1992 on the Norse human skeletal material. Again, analysis of diet and precise dating were necessary, but at this point in time, a new method for radiocarbon dating, requiring a thousand times less sample material, had become available in Denmark. The AMS (accelerator mass spectrometry) method had been implemented at Aarhus University by upgrading the existing 5 megavolt tandem accelerator through the joint efforts of the physicists H.L. Nielsen, N. Rud, and J. Heinemeier (Arneborg et al. 2002). Stable isotope analysis was available through collaboration with Árný Sveinbjörnsdóttir at Science Institute, University of Iceland. The first collaborative efforts in the early 1990s thus resulted in the first AMS-datings and 13C analyses of Norse human skeletons (Arneborg et al. 1999, Lynnerup 1998). Again, some exciting results were obtained: e.g., the Bishop found interred at Gardar was shown to have a much more terrestrial diet than his flock— in line with him not having been raised in Greenland and then when living in Greenland probably consuming a more elite diet of terrestrial animal meat. Most interesting was a further corroboration of the above first results from Anavik: the Norse seemed to have changed their dietary habits, and indeed their whole dietary economy, towards a much larger marine component. Could this give us new insights about the history, and demise, of the Norse settlements in Greenland? Further studies on a larger scale would be needed to solve this. Thus, an application was made to the Carlsberg Foundation resulting in a generous three-year grant that became the basis of the study presented here: a comprehensive dietary analysis of the Norse, including the animals—terrestrial and marine, tame and wild—that formed part of their diet and similar analyses of the contemporary Thule Culture Inuit and their game animals. With assistance from the Danish Natural Science Research Council and SILA (The Danish National Museum), our research team was expanded with E. Nelson of Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, BC, Canada and Jeppe Møhl of the University of Copenhagen Zoological Museum. What we present here is one of the most comprehensive studies to date of the food consumption and dietary economy of a historical population based on stable isotope analysis. The Norse Greenlanders are in this respect particularly of interest because their settlements in Greenland were constrained Foreword Jette Arneborg1,2,*, Jan Heinemeier3, and Niels Lynnerup4 Special Volume 3:ii–iii Greenland Isotope Project: Diet in Norse Greenland AD 1000–AD 1450 Journal of the North Atlantic 1Danish Middle Ages and Renaissance, Research and Exhibitions, The National Museum of Denmark, Frederiksholms Kanal 12, DK-1220 Copenhagen, Denmark. 2Institute of Geography, School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland UK. 3AMS 14C Dating Centre, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Aarhus University, Ny Munkegade 120, DK-8000 Aarhus C, Denmark. 4Laboratory of Biological Anthropology, Section of Forensic Pathology, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark. *Corresponding author - jette.arneborg@natmus.dk. 2012 2012 XXX iii chronologically (ca. 500 years) and physically (the pasture lands of Southwestern Greenland). Archaeological efforts in Greenland have very likely uncovered all the settlement areas, including churches and cemeteries; thus, we can be reasonably assured that while new finds of, e.g., farmsteads may appear in future, the overall picture of the Norse settlements is pretty much fixed. It is these constraints that allow us to focus on the major and minor changes of their dietary economy. An important key to this approach is, of course, high-resolution dating and the development of a highly detailed chronological framework in the cemeteries, which allow us to record the changes over time using the human skeletons. This special volume is divided into 7 interdependent chapters or articles. They can be read separately, and although the individual papers have various author combinations, the three of us have had the stewardship of the final editing and collation of the papers. The Carlsberg Foundation grant was given 1998–2000. While admittedly some time has passed since we first began this study, we do hope that this volume, with single chapters detailing various aspects of the study, alongside a comprehensive presentation of the raw data, has been worth the effort! Literature Cited: Arneborg, J. 1996. Burgunderhuer, baskere og døde nordboer i Herjolfsnæs, Grønland. Nationalmuseets Arbejdsmark 1996:75–83. Arneborg, J., J. Heinemeier, N. Lynnerup, H.L. Nielsen, N. Rud, and Á.E. Sveinbjörndóttir. 1999. Change of diet of the Greenland Vikings determined from stable carbon isotope analysis and 14C dating of their bones. Radiocarbon 41(5):157–168. Arneborg J, J. Heinemeier, N. Lynnerup, H.L. Nielsen, N. Rud, and A.E. Sveinbjörnsdóttir 2002. C-14 dating and the disappearance of Norsemen from Greenland. Europhysics News 33(3)(May/June):77–80. Arneborg, J., N. Lynnerup, J. Heinemeier, J. Møhl, N. Rud, and Á.E. Sveinbjörndóttir 2012 [this volume]. Norse Greenland dietary economy ca. AD 980–ca. AD 1450: Introduction. Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume 3:1–39. Lynnerup, N. 1998. The Greenland Norse. A biological- anthropological study. Meddelelser om Grønland – Man & Society 24. The Commission for Scientific Research in Greenland, Copenhagen, Denmark. 149 pp. Tauber, H. 1981. C-13 evidence for dietary habits of prehistoric man in Denmark. Nature 292:332–333. Tauber, H. 1989. Age and diet of the mummified Eskimos from Qilakitsoq. Pp. 137–138, In J.P. Hart Hansen and H.C. Gulløv (Eds.). The Mummies from Qilakitsoq: Eskimos in the 15th Century. Meddelelser om Grønland, Man & Society 12, Copenhagen, Denmark. 199 pp.