Eagle Hill Masthead

Journal of the North Altantic
    JONA Home
    Aim and Scope
    Board of Editors
    Editorial Workflow
    Publication Charges

Other Eagle Hill Journals
    Northeastern Naturalist
    Southeastern Naturalist
    Caribbean Naturalist
    Neotropical Naturalist
    Urban Naturalist
    Eastern Paleontologist
    Eastern Biologist

Eagle Hill Institute Home

About Journal of the North Atlantic


Vatnahverfi: A Green and Pleasant land? Palaeoecological Reconstructions of Environmental and Land-use Change
Paul M. Ledger, Kevin J. Edwards, and J. Edward Schofield

Journal of the North Atlantic, Special Volume 6 (2014): 29–46

Full-text pdf (Accessible only to subscribers.To subscribe click here.)


Site by Bennett Web & Design Co.
Journal of the North Atlantic P.M. Ledger, K.J. Edwards, and J.E. Schofield 2014 Special Volume 6 29 Introduction Background Historical sources (e.g., Íslendingabók) record that settlers from Iceland, led by Erik the Red, arrived in southern Greenland around AD 985 (Benediktsson 1986) and founded the Eastern Settlement. The colony is known to have endured until at least AD 1408 when a marriage ceremony is recorded at the church in Hvalsey Fjord. This wedding constitutes the last historical reference to the settlements, although the colony is presumed to have survived into the mid-15th century (Seaver 2010). From the late 19th century and into the 21st century, archaeologists have documented the remains of the Eastern Settlement (e.g., Bruun 1896, Guldager et al. 2002), including the excavation of a number of farm and church ruins (e.g., Nörlund 1930; Nörlund and Stenberger 1934; Vebæk 1991, 1992). More recently, environmental archaeology and interdisciplinary collaborations have generated a wealth of zooarchaeological data (e.g., McGovern 1985). Much of these data point to a gradual impoverishment of the colony and a shift away in subsistence from pastoral agriculture towards the hunting of marine mammals (Arneborg et al. 2012, McGovern 1985), leading to the Norse Greenlanders apparently straddling an increasingly precarious line between survival and failure (Dugmore et al. 2012). Recent years have also witnessed a burgeoning interest in the palaeovegetational history of southern Greenland around the time of Norse settlement. Much of this work has been connected with two multidisciplinary projects funded by the Leverhulme Trust (Edwards et al. 2004, 2009) that have sought to understand how the Norse impacted on their environment. To date, this effort has yielded six new high-resolution local pollen records from organic contexts located adjacent to Norse ruin groups (Buckland et al. 2009; Edwards et al. 2008, 2011b; Golding et al. 2011; Ledger et al., in press; Schofield and Edwards 2011; Schofield et al. 2008, 2013). In addition, a multiple-proxy study from Lake Igaliku provides information on regional vegetation change (Gauthier et al. 2010), soil erosion (Massa et al. 2012a), and the biological impact of Norse landnám on the lake (Perren et al. 2012). These studies build on earlier palynological research undertaken by Fredskild (1973, 1978) around Qassiarsuk. Despite this research, the spatial coverage of such work across the former Eastern Settlement remains un- Vatnahverfi: A Green and Pleasant land? Palaeoecological Reconstructions of Environmental and Land-use Change Paul M. Ledger1,*, Kevin J. Edwards1,2,3, and J. Edward Schofield1 Abstract - Accounts describing the Vatnahverfi region of Greenland are almost always effusive in their praise for the rich and bountiful nature of the landscape. Whether it was the dense scrub and woodlands, or the freshwater lakes and fertile green pastures, this landscape—contrary to elsewhere in the Eastern Settlement—is frequently assumed to have been an excellent location for Norse pastoral farming. Nevertheless, these observations are merely anecdotal in nature and based on the perceptions of archaeologists, or others who have visited the region. This paper asks whether Vatnahverfi was really the green and pleasant land that the literature would suggest, while exploring the rationale behind settlement in this region. Pollen-analytical data and associated proxies are deployed here in an attempt to assess whether the pre-landnám landscape was an attractive location for settlement, and to investigate vegetation and land-use changes consequent upon settlement. Pollen analysis allows an assessment of the natural capital of the pre-landnám (initial settlement) environment, which suggests that the central valley of northwest Vatnahverfi supported substantial Betula-Salix scrub or low woodland prior to landnám. The presence of woodland at landnám indicates the availability of a key resource (for fuel, building materials, or as fodder for livestock), and a cluster of early landnám-era dates have been returned on pollen sequences from farms in the center of Vatnahverfi. Data from pollen influx and coprophilous fungal spores associated with grazing animals also point towards this landscape having been particularly suitable for pastoralism. Poaceae (grass) pollen influx values, for instance, are often double those of farms in the Qassiarsuk region, suggesting higher hay yields with the potential to support larger numbers of domesticates. Radiocarbon age-depth modelling of pollen sequences suggests that abandonment of farms in the region may have begun from the mid-13th century AD, culminating in the 14th century. In The Footsteeps of Vebæk—Vatnahverfi Studies 2005-2011 Journal of the North Atlantic 1Department of Geography and Environment, University of Aberdeen, Elphinstone Road, Aberdeen AB24 3UF, UK. 2Department of Archaeology, School of Geosciences, University of Aberdeen, Elphinstone Road, Aberdeen AB24 3UF, UK. 3St. Catherine’s College, University of Oxford, Manor Road, Oxford OX1 3UJ, UK. *Corresponding author - paul.m.ledger@ gmail.com. 2014 Special Volume 6:29–46 Journal of the North Atlantic P.M. Ledger, K.J. Edwards, and J.E. Schofield 2014 Special Volume 6 30 Figure 1. (A) Location of the Norse Eastern Settlement in Greenland, (B) locations of sites in the Eastern Settlement of Greenland for which palynological data are currently available (excludes this study), and (C) locations of sites within Vatnahverfi that are featured or discussed in the text. The line between Atikilleq and the Mountain Farm represents the transect shown in Figure 5. Journal of the North Atlantic P.M. Ledger, K.J. Edwards, and J.E. Schofield 2014 Special Volume 6 31 even (Fig. 1). This paper expands palaeovegetational coverage to a series of new sites in Vatnahverfi (Ledger 2013)—a region represented hitherto by only summary palynological data (Fredskild 1992). With the aim of exploring the rationale behind and dynamics of settlement in this region, this paper uses palaeoecological data to reconstruct the pre-colonization landscape and changes consequent upon settlement, while using radiocarbon age-depth modelling to date Scandinavian human arrivals and the abandonment of this part of the Eastern Settlement. Vatnahverfi Vatnahverfi, where there are a large number of farms located up to 4–6 km inland from the fjords— in direct contrast to more typical fjord-site settings of farms—is in many ways unique. Moreover, the landscape has frequently been viewed as rich and fertile when compared with other parts of the Eastern Settlement. Following his excavations in the region in 1948, Christian Vebæk (1992:8, 5, 108) observed that, “The vegetation is very rich. Large areas are covered with good grass and much willow-scrub … Vatnahverfi was—and still is—an attractive area for sheep farming, and to some extent agriculture too”, and went on to propose that, “Vatnahverfi was a rather rich part of the country with good conditions for Norse farmers”. Helge Ingstad (1966:243–247) recorded, “... a rich landscape of lakes and rivers ... a countryside lush in many places, rich in grass … the people of Vatnahverfi must have done well ... the land offers good pasture”. More recently, Kirsten Seaver (2010:23) referred to, “the fertile inland region of Vatnahverfi”. Thus, in general, Vatnahverfi is reported as a lush and fertile region with apparently rich grasslands and luxuriant scrub that may on occasion reach up to 2 m in height (Fig. 2). The previously published palaeovegetational data accord with these observations. Extensive scrub coverage is indicated prior to landnám (initial settlement), with Betula pollen (both tree and dwarf birch varieties) comprising approximately 35–40% of the total land pollen (TLP) at Fredskild’s (1992) site of “Søndre Igaliku” (2 km from the settlement of Igaliku Kujalleq). However, care is needed in the interpretation of these results, as this is a large lake (325 m x 175 m) collecting pollen from predominately extralocal and regional sources (sensu Jacobsen and Bradshaw 1981). Evidence from archaeology Evidence to support suggestions of an attractive landscape for Norse settlers is present in the archaeological finds of the region. Excavation has been undertaken at seven farms (Fig. 1C), many of which have produced interesting structures and artifacts. Large ovens or stoves, interpreted as either bath stoves or drying kilns for grain, were found at four of the farms: Ø64a, Ø64c, Ø71, and Ø167 (Vebæk 1943, 1992). To date, the only similar finds within Greenland come from the Western Settlement, at Sandnes (V51; Roussell 1936) and at V52a and V53d in the Austmannadal valley (Roussell 1941). The concentration of these structures at farms in the Vatnahverfi region is therefore unique in the Eastern settlement. Generally the stoves are large (approximately 1.5 x 0.9 x 0.8 m) and the fuel requirements for them would no doubt have been substantial, perhaps indicating that the people of Vatnahverfi had access to reliable and abundant supplies of fuel (cf. Trbojević et al. 2011). In fact, Krogh (1967:87–88) speculates that “a big wood belonging to the Cathedral” (Garðar), mentioned in Ivar Bardarson’s Description of Greenland, lay in the Vatnahverfi region in the vicinity of Undir Höfdi (Ø66). Indirect Figure 2. Examples of contemporary birch-willow thickets in Vatnahverfi (photographs by P.M. Ledger, July 2010). Journal of the North Atlantic P.M. Ledger, K.J. Edwards, and J.E. Schofield 2014 Special Volume 6 32 evidence for extensive wood resources (as fuel) is present in the form of finds of iron slag and semimanufactured iron bars that were unearthed at four of the farms in the region (Vebæk 1943, 1992). Finds of this kind are not common in Norse Greenland (Nörlund and Stenberger 1934), and their discovery in over half the farms excavated in Vatnahverfi may indicate that iron working or smelting was occurring locally; it remains possible, of course, that such materials were imported from Norway or elsewhere in Europe (Buchwald 2001, Vebæk 1992). Additional evidence for Vatnahverfi being a desirable place for settlement comes in the form of millstones found at Undir Höfdi (Ø66 at Igaliku Kujalleq; Nørlund 1930) and Ø64a (Vebæk 1943), presumably intended for the grinding of grain. The common perception is that the climate of Greenland made the cultivation of cereals unviable (Barlow et al. 1997). However, the Kings Mirror, a Norwegian manuscript dating to the early 13th century, records that some of the wealthiest Greenlanders at least attempted to grow grain (Larsen 1917); something that may yet be substantiated following the recent finds of charred barley (Hordeum) remains in the earliest layers of a midden at Ø35 in the Qorlortop valley (Henriksen 2012), which may be set beside the finds of Hordeum-type pollen at, for instance, Tasiusaq (Edwards et al. 2008) (and see below). It therefore does not seem unreasonable, given the finds of millstones and potential grain-drying ovens, that there may have been attempts at arable agriculture in the Vatnahverfi region. Marginality Conversely, there are indications that Vatnahverfi may have been a more marginal area for Norse settlement. Soil erosion, a commonly cited problem in Norse Greenland (e.g., Massa et al. 2012a) and more widely in the North Atlantic region (Dugmore et al. 2005), is suggested to have been particularly severe in this region. Such views can be traced to the early archaeological work of Vebæk (1943), who discovered that ruin group Ø64c (Fig. 1C), in the northeast of Vatnahverfi, had been buried under 4 m of sand, a phenomenon which he linked at that time to poor Norse agricultural practices. Examination of soils in the region by Jacobsen (1987:503) led him to conclude that “a close relation exists between the land use of the Norsemen in the Vatnaverfi area and the establishment of rather extensive areas of soil erosion” (sic.). Observation of enhanced mineral magnetic signatures, which are often accepted as representing soil erosion, only serve to reinforce this picture over the settlement period at Søndre Igaliku (Sandgren and Fredskild 1992). Furthermore, a study of sheep dentition following excavation at Ø71 revealed striated microwear patterns indicative of sand ingestion, suggesting that overgrazing and related soil erosion may have been widespread from as early as the 11th–12th centuries AD (Mainland 2006). All of these studies point towards a Norse role in destabilizing a fragile landscape. This interpretation has, however, been disputed by Kuijpers and Mikkelsen (2009), who argued that the observed erosion can be linked to increased wind strength both prior to and during the Norse period. Further hints of marginality are present in the striking find of unburied human remains in the corridor of a large building at Abel’s Farm (ruin group Ø167; see Fig. 1), which Vebæk (1992) interpreted speculatively as the last resident of the farm, and perhaps the entire region. Radiocarbon dating of this individual (710 ± 50 BP; K-5889) implies the abandonment of this farm occurred between AD 1220–1390 (2σ range; calibration performed using Calib 6.0 and the INTCAL09 curve of Reimer et al. [2009]) and therefore possibly over a century earlier than the remainder of the Eastern Settlement (Vebæk 1992). Of further interest is the δ13C value of -19.1‰ for this individual, suggesting a terrestrial diet without an evidently major marine component (cf. Arneborg et al. 1999, 2012; McGovern 1985). Objectives and research questions There appear then to be arguments for Vatnahverfi having been both a desirable region for early Norse settlement, or not so. This paper seeks to examine which, if either, of these arguments can be validated using palynological data. Exploration of this question proceeds along four main avenues of enquiry: • The pre-landnám environmental baseline; is there evidence for extensive woodland resources in the Vatnahverfi region, a factor that might encourage settlement across this region? • The timing of landnám; how do the dates for the establishment of individual farms in Vatnahverfi compare with the AD 985 landnám? Early settlement dates may be indicative of the region being very attractive for colonization. • The cultural landscape; is there evidence for extensive hay fields, high stocking densities, or arable agriculture? • Timing of abandonment; what is the timing of the abandonment of individual farms, and is there any evidence for declining viability of farming following the widely inferred shift from terrestrial to marine food sources towards the end of the settlement period? Journal of the North Atlantic P.M. Ledger, K.J. Edwards, and J.E. Schofield 2014 Special Volume 6 33 Methods Study locations Peat and soil profiles were examined from six locations (Fig. 1C). The majority of these sequences are from mires or other small depositional environments <100 m from a Norse ruin group (summarized in Table 1), providing highly localized records of vegetational and environmental change at the targeted Norse farms (cf. Jacobsen and Bradshaw 1981). Only two of the sequences are more distant from Norse ruins. Nimerialik (Ø196) is ≈400 m from the nearest ruins, as suitable material was otherwise unavailable. Lake Vatnahverfi (authors’ name) was sampled beyond the vicinity of a Norse ruin group (see Table 1) in order to obtain a record of vegetational and landscape change in areas outside of the direct influence of Norse agricultural practices. Pollen analysis Small samples, typically 1 cm3, were prepared for pollen analysis using standard NaOH, acetolysis, and flotation procedures (Moore et al. 1991, Nakagawa et al. 1998). Lycopodium tablets were added to each sample to allow the calculation of absolute pollen concentrations (Stockmarr 1971). Samples were suspended in silicone oil, mounted on slides, and examined using a Nikon E600 light microscope at 400x magnification, and then pollen grains were counted until a sum in excess of 500 TLP (total land pollen—the sum of pollen from trees, shrubs, and herbs, and excluding aquatics) Table 1. Details of the pollen core sites in Vatnahverfi featured in this paper. Distance to nearest Site name and Depositional context known Loss-on- Elevation Latitude, ruin group # and sedimentary basin ruins (m) Simplified lithology ignition (m asl) longitude Atikilleq (Ø65) Samples derived from an 25 Sandy soil with bone and ≈10–20% 10 60°51.831'N, eroding anthrosol/midden charcoal 45°26.138'W deposit adjacent to Igaliku Fjord. The Mountain Farm (Ø70) Core from a Sphagnum- 55 Sandy moderately humified ≈25–40% 260 60°50.762'N, Cyperaceae mire measuring peat 45°17.478'W approximately 110 x 46 m which surrounds two lakes with no inflowing streams. Topography steeply rises around the basin. Saqqaa (Ø71) Core taken from an area of 60 Gyttja and moderately ≈25–50% 25 60°50.888'N, a Carex rostrata reed swamp humified peat 45°21.973'W measuring approximately 40 x 95 m located ≈10 m from a small stream. Surrounding topography is undulating. Saqqaata Tasia (Ø71a) Core from a Cyperaceae 90 Gyttja ≈13–23% 30 60°50.716'N, mire surface at the margin 45°24.388'W of Lake Saqqaata Tasia, which measures approximately 250 x 100 m and has a single small inflowing stream. The surrounding topography is typically undulating. Nimerialik (Ø196) Core from a Sphagnum mire 400 Slightly sandy moderately ≈30–70% 5 60°46.115'N, dissected by a small stream to well humified peat 45°34.961'W which flows into an approximately 300- x 200-m lake ≈50 m to the west of the sampling location. Immediate topography is undulating. Lake Vatnahverfi Core from a Sphagnum 1500 Slightly sand fibrous peat ≈20–60% 25 60°50.188'N, girgensohnii-Eriophorum to humified peat 45°25.662'W angustifolium mire at the margin of Lake Vatnahverfi, which measures approximately 250 x 320 m. The lake has two inflowing streams and the surrounding topography is undulating. Journal of the North Atlantic P.M. Ledger, K.J. Edwards, and J.E. Schofield 2014 Special Volume 6 34 had been achieved. Pollen and spores were identified with the aid of the key and descriptions given in Moore et al. (1991) and the reference material held at the Department of Geography and Environment, University of Aberdeen. Pollen and spore nomenclature follows Bennett et al. (1994) and Bennett (2012), with additional taxa as in Moore et al. (1991). We separated Betula pollen into tree and shrub varieties using grain-size diameter measurements (cf. Fredskild 1973, Mäkelä and Hyvärinen 1998, Schofield and Edwards 2011). Cereal-type pollen grains were evaluated under phase-contrast at 1000x magnification and categorized them following the recommendations of Andersen (1979). Only limited palynological data sets are presented here. Plant nomenclature follows Böcher et al. (1968). Calculation of pollen-accumulation rates (PAR), or influx data, followed Hicks and Hyvärinen (1999). Coprophilous fungi Coprophilous fungal spores were identified during pollen analysis using the photographs and notes presented in van Geel et al. (2003). Sporormiellatype (HdV-113) is the only taxon discussed here. These spores grow on animal dung and have been demonstrated to increase in abundance at landnám following the introduction of domesticated herbivores (Schofield and Edwards 2011). Care must be taken in the interpretation of this proxy, however, as small numbers of coprophilous spores have also been shown to be present in the landscape of southern Greenland both before and after Norse occupation (e.g., Gauthier et al. 2010, Schofield and Edwards 2011). Microscopic charcoal Microscopic charcoal is produced by the incomplete combustion of plant material in fires which may have both natural and anthropogenic causes (Patterson et al. 1987). It is measured here in order to reconstruct past fire histories that may be linked to Norse settlement activities (e.g., cooking and domestic heating) and perhaps land-management practices (Dugmore et al. 2005, Edwards et al. 2011a). We enumerated the area covered by microscopic charcoal in pollen residues as described in Edwards et al. (2008), except in the case of samples from the Mountain Farm (see Ledger et al. 2013). Radiocarbon dating and age-depth modelling AMS 14C dating was undertaken at the SUERC Radiocarbon Laboratory, East Kilbride, Scotland. Measurements were undertaken on terrestrial plant macrofossils with the exception of the samples from the Mountain Farm (Ø70) where two age-estimates are based on dating of the humic acid fraction extracted from 1-cm3 peat samples. A total of 38 AMS 14C dates make up the chronologies for the sites discussed. We pursued age-depth modelling using a combination of classical and Bayesian methods and present the models in Figure 3. Classical age modelling (CLAM; Blaauw 2010) was emplyed where the density of dates per core made a Bayesian approach unviable, and the Bayesian approach offered by BACON (Blaauw and Christen 2011) was used where the dating density was higher. In both of these approaches, we calibrated 14C age determinations using the INTCAL09 curve (Reimer et al. 2009). All dating estimates presented here are modelled ages with 2-sigma age ranges. Where events in the pollen record are assigned a single date in the text, this is the maximum a posteriori probability in the case of Bacon, and the best-fit model for CLAM with the 2-sigma age range presented in parentheses. The Pre-landnám Environment Pollen-analytical data covering the pre-landnám period in Vatnahverfi are available from six sites across the region (Fig. 4). These data broadly indicate a two-fold separation of the region between the inland valleys and fjord margins; not an unexpected pattern considering the relative shelter of the valleys compared to the more exposed fjord margins. In general, the fjord-side locations such as Atikilleq (Ø65) and Nimerialik are more open, with the vegetation dominated by herbs. Further inland, the pollen spectra are very different, being dominated by scrub and woodland species, a group comprising Betula pubescens (downy birch), Betula glandulosa (dwarf birch), and Salix (willows). At Atikilleq, a site exposed to winds blowing across Igaliku Fjord, 20% of the mean pre-landnám TLP consists of arboreal pollen (AP; pollen from trees and shrubs). The pattern is slightly different further south at Nimerialik (30% AP), perhaps reflecting the more sheltered nature of the site, which is protected somewhat from strong winds by steeply rising slopes to the north, east, and west. In the sheltered valleys of inland Vatnahverfi, the difference is clear. At Saqqaa, the mean AP is 45%, of which B. pubescens accounts for ≈21%. A similar situation is recorded at the regional pollen site of Lake Vatnahverfi, where AP accounts for 49% TLP, with B. pubescens comprising ≈24% TLP. Indeed, in a single, probably pre-landnám, sample from Saqqaata Tasia, AP comprises 58% of the assemblage, with B. pubescens accounting for 26% TLP. The steep-sided hills in this central valley may have sheltered vegetation from the desiccating effects of strong foehn Journal of the North Atlantic P.M. Ledger, K.J. Edwards, and J.E. Schofield 2014 Special Volume 6 35 sheltered areas, such as towards the head of Eriksfjord, does it reach values approaching those seen in central Vatnahverfi. At Qinngua, pollen from scrub and woodland was found to comprise up to 40% of the pre-landnám assemblage (Schofield and Edwards 2011), with a contribution of ≈20% from B. pubescens. However, total values here are still some 10% less than the values from the heart of Vatnahverfi. AP at Lake Igaliku reaches 50% (Gauthier et al. 2010), but at ≈35 ha, this site is much larger than the sites in Vatnahverfi and records a more regional pollen signal. Therefore, the pre-landnám landscape of the inland valleys Vatnahverfi would appear to have been considerably more wooded than the previously studied areas of the Eastern Settlement. This finding suggests that Vatnahverfi was a region with an abundance of woodland, relative to elsewhere. Scrub and woodland resources may therefore have made the region attractive for settlement. The Impact and Timing of Landnám Landnám in Vatnahverfi is clearly visible in the palaeoecological record. Pollen diagrams covering three different environments from the region—the winds blowing off the ice sheet, thereby enabling the development and survival of scrub and woodland in the area. This situation was perhaps comparable with that of the Qinngua-dalen valley today, where luxuriant stands of birch up to 10 m tall are reported (Feilberg and Folving 1990). High values for scrub and woodland taxa are even recorded at altitude in Vatnahverfi during the pre-landnám period. Data from the Mountain Farm (Fig. 5) indicate 33% AP, of which 6% is from B. pubescens. Pollen from the latter is almost certainly not of local origin given that the Mountain Farm is located around 260 m asl, while the altitudinal limit of B. pubescens in Greenland is currently ≈200 m asl (Eurola et al. 1990). Pollen from this taxon is therefore probably sourced from B. pubescens growing in the lowland valleys. To put these patterns into perspective, it is necessary to relate them to pollen data from elsewhere in the Eastern Settlement. Generally scrub and woodland accounts for 20–30% of the pollen in pre-settlement contexts from comparable profiles studied across the region (see Buckland et al. 2009; Edwards et al. 2008, 2011; Fredskild 1973, 1978; Gauthier et al. 2010; Golding et al. 2011; Schofield and Edwards 2011; Schofield et al. 2008). Only in Figure 3. Age-depth models for the sites discussed in the paper. Nimerialik (A) and Lake Vatnahverfi (B) were generated using Bacon (Blaauw and Christen 2011) while the Mountain Farm (C), Atikilleq (D), and Saqqaa (E) were generated using CLAM (Blaauw 2010). Journal of the North Atlantic P.M. Ledger, K.J. Edwards, and J.E. Schofield 2014 Special Volume 6 36 an increase in herbs, likely reflecting the clearance of existing vegetation for the creation of hayfields. Alongside these shifts, there was the appearance of Rumex acetosella (sheep’s sorrel), a Norse introduction (Fredskild 1973), and there was an increase, or first appearance, of the coprophilous fungus Sporormiella- type (HdV-113), reflecting the presence of increased numbers of grazing herbivores in the landscape (Schofield and Edwards 2011, van Geel et al. 2003). These patterns compare favorably with those elsewhere in the Eastern Settlement (Edwards et al. 2011a), although there are some differences. The character of the Sporormiella-type signature is very different, with values between two and four times higher at Saqqaa and the Mountain Farm, respectively, than was found at other sites (Edwards et al. 2008, Schofield and Edwards 2011). This difference may indicate that stocking densities were greater in Vatnahverfi; however, current research does not yet allow direct translation of spore abundance into fjord margins (Atikilleq), inland valleys (Saqqaa), and the uplands (the Mountain Farm)—each show subtly different impacts associated with landnám (Fig. 5). A rise in microscopic charcoal is observed at all sites and most likely reflects fires associated with domestic activities (Edwards et al. 2008, 2011a). The only exception to this pattern may be at the Mountain Farm, where there is a very intense peak in microscopic charcoal associated with landnám, and macroscopic charcoal remains were found at 93–92 cm concurrent with this peak. This finding may reflect the localized burning of vegetation to stimulate the expansion of grasslands for the grazing of animals at this upland site. This practice has been inferred in the Western Settlement (Fredskild and Hulme 1991, Iversen 1934), but is somewhat less certain in the Eastern Settlement (Edwards et al. 2008). Contemporaneous with the rises in charcoal, the pollen from trees and shrubs declined and there was Figure 4. Mean pollen percentages for trees (Betula pubescens), dwarf shrubs (Salix spp. and Betula glandulosa), and herbs at six pollen sites over the pre-landnám timeframe, ca. cal AD 650–985. Note the smaller proportion of woodland/scrub along the fjord margins compared to the inland valleys. Journal of the North Atlantic P.M. Ledger, K.J. Edwards, and J.E. Schofield 2014 Special Volume 6 37 numbers of animals (cf. Raper and Bush 2009). Within small catchments, such as those analyzed here, it is also possible that high Sporormiella-type values relate to the spread of manure to increase soil fertility. Radiocarbon dating allows the timing of landnám to be (generally) well constrained in the Vatnahverfi region (Fig. 6), with estimated dates for landnám having been modelled for five of the six sites investigated. The modelled age ranges for farm establishment show significant overlap (Fig. 6), with all but a single site likely to have been occupied by the late 10th century. Landnám in Vatnahverfi therefore appears to agree with historical accounts and is seemingly contemporaneous with dates found over much of the Eastern Settlement. Unsurprisingly, the easily accessible coastal locations, such as Atikilleq, cal. AD 1000 (975–1095) and Nimerialik, cal. AD 970 (775–1015) were settled early. Indeed, the latter site is approximately 1.8 km northwest of Ø78, the favored location for the farm of Hafgrim (a contemporary of Erik the Red) who is believed to have first claimed Vatnahverfi (Ingstad 1966, Vebæk 1943). Radiocarbon results from Saqqaa and Lake Vatnahverfi, ≈4 km inland from Igaliku Fjord, are similarly early. Respective landnám dates of cal. AD 880–1000 and cal. AD 990 (830–1030) indicate that landnám in the heart of Vatnahverfi was contemporary with Erik the Red’s farm Brattahlið. Given the interior location, and relative inaccessibility of these sites, this finding is perhaps surprising, but again suggests that this landscape was highly attractive for settlement. The first convincing palynological evidence for farming at the Mountain Farm is dated slightly later. Although subtle indications of human impact are registered in the pollen diagram from ca. cal. AD 995 (cal. AD 945–1055), these are interpreted as reflecting regional activity contemporary with that in the lowland valleys (cf. Edwards et al. 2008, Schofield and Edwards 2011). Indications of burning, significant modification of vegetation communities, and perhaps substantial numbers of animals at this site, are present from ca. cal. AD 1090 (cal. AD 1050–1150), and these findings are taken to reflect the establishment of buildings and the onset of human activity on-site, i.e., the “local” landnám (Ledger et al. 2013). The evidence suggests widespread occupation of this upland landscape may not have been achieved until at least a century after the AD 985 landnám. Farming and the Cultural Landscape The question of how agriculture in Vatnahverfi differed, if at all, from elsewhere in the Eastern Figure 5. NW–SE transect across Vatnahverfi (indicated on Fig. 1) illustrating the variation in relief from the fjord margins through the inland valleys and into the interior uplands. Pollen diagrams from Atikilleq, Saqqaa, and the Mountain Farm present selected taxa and summarize the changes in vegetation before, during, and after Norse settlement. Journal of the North Atlantic P.M. Ledger, K.J. Edwards, and J.E. Schofield 2014 Special Volume 6 38 an indication of how other factors such as climate may more widely affect vegetation productivity. Pre-landnám influx data are available for four sites in the region: Nimerialik, Saqqaa, the Mountain Farm, and Lake Vatnahverfi (Fig. 7). All of these sites show a reasonably low pollen influx of approximately 200–450 grains cm-2 yr-1, suggesting that grass pollen productivity was relatively uniform between the upland and lowland valleys prior to landnám. Influx values above this “baseline” can then be considered as attributable to Norse farming activities. Further weight is lent to this assumption when the Poaceae influx through the Norse period at Lake Vatnahverfi is considered. Productivity at this site, assumed to be little affected by anthropogenic activity, remains constant in the range of 200–450 grains cm-2 yr-1 throughout the Norse period, suggesting that the assumed baseline values are reasonably accurate. The only variation from this is a slight increase to approximately 300–550 grains cm-2 yr-1 from ca. cal. AD 950 until the middle of the 13th century before it declines back to 200–450 grains cm-2 yr-1. The impact of landnám and the introduction of farming in the Vatnahverfi region are starkly evident in the Poaceae influx data. Sharp rises to ≈3000 grains cm-2 yr-1 are noted at both Nimerialik and Saqqaa from ca. cal. AD 985. These increases set a trend for both of these sites, with the respective mean influx values for Nimerialik and Saqqaa being ≈3200 grains cm-2 yr-1 and 2500 grains cm-2 yyr-1 over the following ≈250 years. Influx then falls dramatically around the beginning of the 13th century, which may reflect the abandonment of these sites (discussed further in the next section). Similar Settlement is of key importance in understanding the rationale for settlement in the area. We explore this through an examination of palynologically based evidence for pastoral and possible arable activities. Pastoral activity A useful way to investigate the development of hayfields and animal grazing is through the calculation of pollen accumulation rates (PAR or influx data). This is a measure of the number of palynomorphs deposited and incorporated annually into a unit area of deposit (entities [e.g., pollen and spores] cm-2 yr-1; cf. Erlendsson and Edwards 2009, Hicks and Hyvärinen 1999). This calculation provides an absolute measure of vegetation productivity that allows direct inter-site comparisons (Faegri and Iversen 1989). Figure 7 presents influx data for Poaceae (grass) and Sporormiella-type from Vatnahverfi. These data are compared with Poaceae influx data from two sites in the wider Qassiarsuk district: Tasiusaq (Ø2) and Qinngua (Ø39) (Edwards et al. 2008, Schofield and Edwards 2011). Influx data for these two types of microfossils potentially allow conclusions to be drawn regarding the past productivity of hayfields and grazing areas (using Poaceae; cf. Golding et al. 2011), and levels of grazing intensity—or the relative numbers of herbivores—at and immediately around any location within the landscape (using Sporormiella-type; cf. Raper and Bush 2009). Before an assessment is undertaken of how grass influx varied through the Norse period, it is instructive to review patterns of Poaceae influx prior to landnám. In addition, the values for Poaceae influx at the regional control site of Lake Vatnahverfi provide Figure 6. Modelled ages for landnám at five of the sites studied in the Vatnahverfi region. “n” denotes the number of 14C age determinations used to construct each model. Grey circles indicate the median probability and black errors bars the 2σ range. Journal of the North Atlantic P.M. Ledger, K.J. Edwards, and J.E. Schofield 2014 Special Volume 6 39 suggests Norse farming activity resulted in a very significant increase in the productivity of grasses around the immediate vicinity of each of the farms. Of course, this result is to be expected given that the areas adjacent to the farm buildings are where the hay-growing homefields are concentrated, but in order to address the question of whether Vatnahverfi was a more productive landscape than elsewhere, it is necessary to place these values within a wider Eastern Settlement perspective. Poaceae influx data are available from four Norse farm ruins, the first of which—Qinngua—was perhaps the largest farm in the entire Eastern Settlement (Guldager 2002; although this claim has been questioned by Edwards et al. 2010). Influx data are available for the majority of the Norse period at this site (from landnám to cal. AD 1380) and is consistently high. At the time of landnám, values reach ≈5000 grains cm-2 yr-1 before fluctuating around a mean value of ≈3000 grains cm-2 yr-1 for the remainder of the settlement period. These values are higher than all but one of the Vatnahverfi farms studied—the high influx observed at the Mountain Farm, between ca. cal. AD 1225–1300 being the major exception. The Mountain Farm is considered to have been a shieling (Vebaek 1992), and it is possible that the values presented for this site represent Poaceae influx related to extensive areas of upland pastures akin to those found in Iceland (McGovern et al. 2007). Given the exposed, upland aspect of this site, it is also likely that some of this influx relates to Poaceae pollen blowing in from patterns are noted at the Mountain Farm from ca. cal. AD 1050, when influx climbs to ≈2500 grains cm-2 yr-1 before declining towards the end of the 12th century. The apparent synchronicity of these events around the beginning of the 12th century along with a similar lull at Nimerialik and Lake Vatnahverfi, and the beginning of decline at Saqqaa may indicate a common cause. It is tempting to invoke climatic cooling, for which there is evidence in the DYE-3 ice core data (Fig. 7; Vinther et al. 2010) and marine cores from Igaliku Fjord (Jensen et al. 2004, Lassen et al. 2004, Roncaglia and Kuijpers 2004) rather than a conscious land-management decision. However, it should be noted there are indications of decreased farming intensity, such as a decline in Poaceae and increase in Cyperaceae, at Qinngua (Schofield and Edwards 2011) and Lake Igaliku (Gauthier et al. 2010, Massa et al. 2012b) around this time. Nevertheless, any such decline is short-lived at most sites, and by the beginning of the 13th century, the influx at the Mountain Farm begins to increase rapidly, reaching values of approximately 3500–4500 grains cm-2 yr-1 by the latter half of the century and peaking at ≈10,000 grains cm-2 yr-1 around cal. AD 1340. Mean Poaceae influx from farms in the Vatnahverfi region over the Norse period is therefore approximately 2000–2500 grains cm-2 yr-1 (although variations between individual farms are apparent). When compared to the mean Poaceae influx at Lake Vatnahverfi through most of the Norse period (approximately 300–550 grains cm-2 yr-1), this finding Figure 7. Poaceae and Sporormiella-type influx data from sites in the Vatnahverfi region compared with Poaceae influx data from sites in the Qassiarsuk district (data after Edwards et al. 2008, Schofield and Edwards 2011). Significant events are highlighted with landnám plotted at AD 985 and the Hvalsey wedding at AD 1408. Exaggeration curves, where present, are 5x. Journal of the North Atlantic P.M. Ledger, K.J. Edwards, and J.E. Schofield 2014 Special Volume 6 40 elsewhere in the region. However, it seems likely that a substantial proportion of this increase in grass influx is related to the initiation of hay growing at the site and perhaps the development of this site into a permanently occupied farm. Poaceae pollen represents 55% TLP in this period, which compares favorably to findings from the margins of modern hayfields in southern Greenland (Schofield et al. 2007). The remainder of the farms are typical mediumsized farms common throughout the Eastern Settlement (Roussell 1941). At Tasiusaq, only a partial record is available, encompassing the first century of settlement and indicating Poaceae influx of approximately 1000–1750 grains cm-2 yr-1 with a peak of 2500 grains cm-2 yr-1 (Edwards et al. 2008). Lower values of approximately 500–1200 grains cm-2 yr-1 are registered at Qorlortop Itinnera (Ø34; Schofield et al. 2008), and influx of approximately 1000–1250 grains cm-2 yr-1 have been found in the far south at Sandhavn (Ø221; Golding et al. 2011). These medium- sized farms can be viewed as comparable in size to the farms at Saqqaa and Saqqaata Tasia, with the influx data suggesting that the farms of Vatnahverfi were more productive. Poaceae influx in Vatnahverfi is generally double that of similarly sized farms in the wider Eastern Settlement region and is almost as high as grass influx at Qinngua (see Edwards et al. 2010, Guldager 2002). It would therefore appear that there may be some truth in Vebæk’s (1992:5) assumption that “Vatnahverfi was—and still is—an attractive area for sheep farming”. Norse farming in Vatnahverfi may have been more productive than elsewhere in the Eastern Settlement. Whether this increased productivity is due to the fact that the farms were inland, which consequently led to an emphasis on farming over hunting, is unclear. What is clear is that there are valuable resources in Vatnahverfi, such as the abundance of freshwater offered in the large lakes running through the valley, that would have undoubtedly favored farming. The need for irrigation in Norse Greenland is shown to have been acute, with droughts perhaps occurring in 11% of years (Adderley and Simpson 2006), and the ease of access to abundant freshwater may have been an important factor in enhancing hay yields in Vatnahverfi (cf. Buckland et al. 2009). To date, no postulated irrigation structures have been identified in Vathahverfi, which may suggest that water stress was not as severe as elsewhere in the Eastern Settlement (cf. Edwards and Schofield 2013). Evidence for arable agriculture Whether Vatnahverfi supported arable agriculture is much more uncertain. Cereal-type pollen grains provide direct indicators for growing of crops (Behre 1981), but difficulty arises in the process of separating cereal pollen grains from other (wild) members of the Poaceae family (Andersen 1979, Tweddle et al. 2005). Measurements of the pore diameter and mean size of the grain are the primary determinants in deciding whether Poaceae pollen falls into a cereal-type category. Annulus diameter must be over 8 μm and the mean grain size must be larger than 37 μm before a Poaceae grain can be classified as Hordeum-type (the smallest of the cereal-type grains; Andersen 1979). However, even if these measurements are met, it does not fully discount the possibility of that grain being from a wild grass species. A total of 14 out of ≈30,000 fossil Poaceae pollen grains counted in this study were classified as Hordeum-type. Of these, 10 were from the Mountain Farm (with all records dating to the 13th century), two were from Atikilleq, and single Hordeum-type grains were found in samples from Saqqaa and Saqqaata Tasia, with both occurrences dating to the early to mid-11th century AD (Table 2). Classification as Hordeum-type does not necessarily indicate that these grains were produced by the cereal Hordeum vulgare. Within the Hordeum group, there are two wild grass species recorded among the modern flora of Greenland (Böcher et al. 1968): Elymus repens (syn: Agropyron repens [couch grass]) and Elymus arenarius (lyme grass). Elymus repens is not mentioned in the vegetation survey of south Table 2. Measurements of Poaceae pollen grains that were classified as Hordeum-type, with comparative measurements from modern populations of Hordeum vulgare and Elymus arenarius (the latter are based on data in Andersen [1979]). Mean Estimated size of Annulus cal AD age A and B size State of (modelled) axes (μm) (μm) preservation Site The Mountain Farm 1210 44.41 8.30 Excellent 1230 37.35 8.30 Folded 1260 39.84 8.72 Folded 39.84 9.96 Folded 1275 40.67 9.13 Folded 1290 39.01 8.72 Folded 38.18 8.72 Folded 38.18 9.96 Folded 37.35 8.30 Folded 1310 37.35 8.30 Folded Atikilleq 1050 38.60 9.96 Folded 37.35 8.30 Folded Saqqaa 1000 38.18 8.30 Degraded Saqqaata Tasia 1050 41.50 9.50 Degraded Modern populations Hordeum vulgare N/A 37.29 8.23 N/A Elymus arenarius N/A 43.86 8.88 N/A Journal of the North Atlantic P.M. Ledger, K.J. Edwards, and J.E. Schofield 2014 Special Volume 6 41 Greenland by Feilberg (1984), which suggests that it is rare and may have been found only in isolated locations, such as around ports, where it was possibly a 20th-century introduction. If E. repens had been a Norse plant, then given suitable habitats, it would probably have had a wider distribution today and might be expected to be common around Norse ruins. Hordeum vulgare or Elymus arenarius would be the probable candidates for any Hordeum-type pollen grains recorded in this region of Greenland. Lyme grass is quite common today in south Greenland, favoring sandy or stony habitats, and it is also frequent around several Norse ruin sites such as those at Garðar and Sissarluttoq. Beug (1961) also suggested that cereal pollen can be separated from wild grasses on the basis of pore and annulus measurements. This idea was further developed by Küster (1988), who suggested that a large annulus relative to pore size, along with a sharp outer boundary to the annulus, could be used as a determinant for distinguishing cereals from wild grass species. Tweddle et al. (2005) combined elements of the keys of Andersen (1979) and Küster (1988) (Table 2). Applying these additional determinants to the fossil pollen grains from Vatnahverfi (Table 2) suggests that the grains from the Mountain Farm probably represent Elymus arenarius, as the annuli of Hordeum-type grains from this site are both indistinct and small relative to the size of the pore (Fig. 8). The single finds of cereal-type grains from Saqqaa and Saqqaata Tasia are too poorly preserved to assess with any certainty. However, two grains found in early landnám-era deposits from Atikilleq are more likely to be Hordeum vulgare than Elymus arenarius given the distinct annuli, which are more than twice the size of their >3-μm pores (cf. Tweddle et al. 2005). Obviously, such measurements cannot definitively determine if these grains represent Hordeum vulgare, but they do add to a slight, but growing, corpus of ecofactual evidence that Norse Greenlanders may have made attempts at growing cereals. The Timing of Abandonment The abandonment of farming is clearly evident in the pollen diagrams from the farms in Vatnahverfi and compares favorably to the pattern elsewhere in the Eastern Settlement. This event is recognized in the pollen record through a decline in Poaceae pollen and is typically followed by a recovery in dwarfshrub taxa (Fig. 5), reflecting hayfield abandonment and reinvasion by natural vegetation communities (Edwards et al. 2011a). Often there is a concurrent Figure 8. Photographs of possible cereal pollen grains: (A and B) 35 cm at Atikilleq and dated ca. cal AD 1050—note the strong surface sculpturing, distinct annulus and relatively small pore; (C) a typical example of Hordeum-type from the Mountain Farm; this microfossil is from a depth of 86–85 cm dating to ca. cal AD 1275—note the indistinct sculpturing, annulus, and relatively large pore; (D) 69 cm at Saqqaata Tasia—note the degraded nature of the grain making it difficult to classify. Journal of the North Atlantic P.M. Ledger, K.J. Edwards, and J.E. Schofield 2014 Special Volume 6 42 of the Hvalsey wedding of AD 1408. Perhaps the most striking observation in these data is the apparently “early” abandonment of Nimerialik, Atikilleq, and Saqqaa (North farm). A cessation of charcoal influx and a clear decline in Poaceae and Sporormiella- type influx (Fig. 7) at Nimerialik points to abandonment at ca. cal AD 1215 (1115–1300), with similar evidence at Atikilleq indicating an abandonment date of ca. cal. AD 1285 (1235–1320). Saqqaa is somewhat different, with evidence of a sharp decline in human impact from as early as ca. cal. AD 1210 (1160–1250) but with a continuation of a weak signature for human impact thereafter. This dampened signal could reflect the abandonment of what Vebæk (1992) referred to as the “North farm” at Saqqaa and a shift in the focus of farming towards another cluster of buildings ≈100 m south. A similar pattern has been proposed by Edwards et al. (2008) for Tasiusaq, where distancing of the locus of farming from the depositional site may have resulted in a weakened palaeoecological signal for human impact during the later stages of the settlement period. Following these potentially early dates, the abandonment of the remaining farms appears to have been broadly contemporaneous within the 14th century (Massa et al. 2012b). There are hints of a progressive abandonment of the farms (Fig. 9); however, this decline in Sporormiella-type and Norse apophytes such as Rumex acetosella, indicating a reduction in numbers of grazing herbivores, although this is not always the case (see Schofield et al. 2008). A decline in microscopic charcoal influx, assumed in part to reflect the intentional use of fire, domestic or otherwise, is a further important factor in identifying abandonment (Edwards et al. 2011a). For the sites under assessment here, abandonment is defined through a sustained decline in Poaceae, Norse apophytes, and Sporormiella-type, but most importantly a decline of microscopic charcoal to pre-landnám (baseline) levels. Using the near-disappearance of microscopic charcoal as the main measure of abandonment is a conservative approach as it might be assumed to reflect the absence of people from the local area rather than simply a decline in farming intensity. The latter might occur, for example, were the emphasis on subsistence to have shifted in favor of seal hunting (cf. Arneborg et al. 2012, Dugmore et al. 2012). Modelled abandonment dates from all of the farms studied in Vatnahverfi are presented in Figure 9 alongside the radiocarbon dates of Vebæk (1992). These data indicate that all of the farms in the Vatnahverfi area had probably been abandoned by the beginning of the 15th century, and by the time Figure 9. Modelled ages for abandonment at all of the sites studied in the Vatnahverfi region. “n” denotes the number of radiocarbon dates used to construct the age model for the site. Grey circles indicate the median probability and black errors bars the 2σ range. The grey diamond indicates a single 14C age determination on bone from Abel’s Farm (first reported by Vebæk [1992]). Journal of the North Atlantic P.M. Ledger, K.J. Edwards, and J.E. Schofield 2014 Special Volume 6 43 the Eastern Settlement—and perhaps open woodland immediately prior to landnám is certainly present, at least in the northern valley of Vatnahverfi (the areas around the lakes Skyggesø, Saqqaata Tasia, and Tasersuaq; Fig.1). Wood was an essential resource to early Norse settlers (Church et al. 2007, Trbojević et al. 2011), and it is likely this would have led to the landscape being viewed as attractive, despite the obvious impediment it represented to settlement. Palynological evidence at Saqqaa and Lake Vatnahverfi suggest early settlement dates in the heart of the region, and would seemingly confirm that Vatnahverfi was viewed as a good place to settle. Whether or not the early settlers had also judged the landscape as a potentially fertile farming region is less clear. The plentiful supplies of freshwater in this valley may suggest that this was a consideration. Cereal-type pollen, dating to the 11th century at two lowland sites, implies the possibility of early attempts at grain cultivation and may suggest that the early Norse viewed this landscape favorably. Modelled ages for landnám also hint at a staged expansion of settlement, with landnám at the Mountain Farm not beginning until the late 11th and early 12th century, although this may be more a reflection on the site’s upland location (see Ledger et al. 2013 for discussion). Poaceae pollen influx is in many cases double that of comparable farms elsewhere in the Eastern Settlement and points to Vatnahverfi having been a productive farming district, at least initially. Despite the obvious benefits of Vatnahverfi, it may have became a more difficult landscape to live in. Abandonment of the farms was probably underway by the mid-13th century (or at least farms began to be consolidated from this point forward), a transition that, if isotopic data have wider applicability, may have been contemporaneous with shifts to marine food (Arneborg et al. 2012). There is also evidence for short-term intensification or expansion of farming around this period at the Mountain Farm, which may reflect land-management decisions to intensify in some areas while reducing environmental pressure in others. The process of farm abandonment then gathered pace into the mid-14th century and was potentially complete by the beginning of the 15th century. Acknowledgments The Leverhulme Trust and the University of Aberdeen are thanked for funding support. The comments of two anonymous referees and Emilie Gauthier were very useful for improving the paper. possible pattern is something that cannot be easily confirmed without higher resolution dating, which would allow for the reduction of modelling errors (Blaauw, 2010, Blaauw and Christen 2012). Norse society in Greenland is often assumed to have operated along similar lines to contemporary Iceland, whereby large areas of land were held by a chieftain at a large magnate farm with a network of smaller tenant farmers (Vesteinsson et al. 2002). This system is assumed to have developed either from the subdivision of larger estates (claimed at landnám) as the need for new farms arose (Keller 1989), or alternatively as a direct result of the impoverishment of smaller farmers resulting from climatic or environmental challenges, which led to increased reliance on a larger magnate farmer (Dugmore et al. 2012). This arrangement resulted in the smaller farms being subject to the management decisions of their landlord (McGovern et al. 1988). Early farm abandonments at sites such as Saqqaa North, Nimerialik, and Atikilleq, may then reflect the consolidation of decentralized smaller farming units into single larger farming estates (Vésteinsson et al. 2002). The timing of these developments around the time of Greenland’s incorporation into the Norwegian Kingdom (ca. AD 1260) could reflect political centralization. It could equally reflect the ecological stresses of the encroaching LIA (Barlow et al. 1997). Shortened growing seasons and reduced fodder yields (Amorosi et al. 1997) perhaps stretched smaller tenant farmers to the limit, leading to further dependence on magnate farmers. This shortage of resources may have led to a chieftain forcing the abandonment of smaller, less productive farms to allow others to thrive. Thus, the ecological stress of the LIA may have led landowners to make conscious management decisions to reduce the pressure on the landscape. Such mechanisms are known from contemporary Iceland (Simpson et al. 2001), which had complex law codes for managing resource use (Karlssson 2000). In such a scenario, the abandonment and consolidation of single farms into larger ones may have allowed landowners to continue farming, perhaps at lower stocking levels. Conclusions This paper set out to address the question of whether Vatnahverfi was the green and pleasant land suggested by a number of authors (Ingstad 1966, Seaver 2010, Vebaek 1992) and to investigate if Norse settlers viewed Vatnahverfi as a favorable or more marginal location for settlement. Evidence for an abundance of scrub—relative to elsewhere in Journal of the North Atlantic P.M. Ledger, K.J. Edwards, and J.E. Schofield 2014 Special Volume 6 44 Church, M.J., A.J. Dugmore, K.A Mairs, A.R. Millard, G.T. Cook, G. Sveinbjarnardóttir, P.A. Ascough, and K.H. Roucoux. 2007. Charcoal production during the Norse and early Medieval periods in Eyjafjallahreppur, Southern Iceland. Radiocarbon 49:659–672. Dugmore, A.J., P.C. Buckland, K.J. Edwards, I. Lawson, T.H. McGovern, E. Pangagiotakopulu, I.A. Simpson, P. Skidmore, and G. Sveinbjardóttir. 2005. The Norse landnám on the North atlantic islands: An environmental impact assessment. Polar Record 41:21–37. Dugmore, A.J., T.H. McGovern, O.Vésteinsson, J. Arneborg, R. Streeter, and C. Keller. 2012. Cultural adaptation, compounding vulnerabilities and conjunctures in Norse Greenland. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences109:3658–3663. Edwards, K.J., and J.E. Schofield. 2013. Investigation of proposed Norse irrigation channels and dams at Garðar/Igaliku, Greenland. Water History 5:72–92. Edwards, K.J., P.C. Buckland, A.J. Dugmore, T.H. Mc- Govern, I.A. Simpson, and G. Sveinbjarnardóttir. 2004. Landscapes circum-Landnám: Viking settlement in the North Atlantic and its human and ecological consequences – a major new research programme. Pp. 260–271, In R.A. Housley and G. Coles (Eds.). Atlantic Connections and Adaptations: Economies, Environments and Subsistence in Lands Bordering the North Atlantic, Oxbow Books, Oxford, UK. 288 pp. Edwards, K.J., J.E. Schofield, and D. Mauquoy. 2008. High resolution palaeoenvironmental and chronological investigations of Norse landnám at Tasiusaq, Eastern Settlement, Greenland. Quaternary Research 69:1–15. Edwards, K.J., Dugmore, A.J., Panagiotakopulu, E., Simpson, I.A., Schofield, J.E., Golding, K.A. and Casely, A.F. 2009. Footprints on the edge of Thule: a major new research programme. Journal of Northern Studies 2:115–127. Edwards, K.J., J.E. Schofield, and J. Arneborg. 2010. Was Erik the Red’s Brattahlið located at Qinngua? A dissenting view. Viking and Medieval Scandinavia 6:83–99. Edwards, K.J., E. Erlendsson, and J.E. Schofield. 2011a. Is there a Norse “footprint” in North Atlantic pollen records? Pp. 65–82 In S. Sigmundsson, A. Holt, G. Sigurðsson, G. Ólafsson and O. Vésteinsson (Eds.) Viking Settlements and Society: Papers from the Sixteenth Viking Congress, Reykjavík and Reykholt, 16–23 August 2009. Hið íslenska fornleifafélag and University of Iceland Press, Reykjavik, Iceland. 511 pp. Edwards, K.J., J.E. Schofield, J.R. Kirby, and G.T. Cook. 2011b. Problematic but promising ponds? Palaeoenvironmental evidence from the Norse Eastern Settlement of Greenland. Journal of Quaternary Science 26:854–865. Erlendsson, E., and K.J. Edwards. 2009. The timing and causes of the final pre-settlement expansion of Betula pubescens in Iceland. The Holocene 19:1083–1091. Eurola, S., K. Laine, and F.E.Wielgolaski. 1990. Nutrient ecology, vegetation and biomass of two South Greenlandic birch forest sites. Meddeleser om Gronland, Bioscience 33:63–75. Literature Cited Adderley, P., and I. Simpson. 2006. Soils and palaeoclimate evidence for irrigation requirements in Norse Greenland. Journal of Archaeological Science 33:1666–1679. Amorosi, T., P. Buckland, A. Dugmore, J.H. Ingimundarson, and T.H. McGovern. 1997. Raiding the landscape: Human impact in the Scandinavian North Atlantic. Human Ecology 25:491–518. Andersen, S.T. 1979. Identification of wild grass and cereal pollen. Danmarks Geologisk Undersøgelse, Årbog 1978:69–92. Arneborg, J., J. Heinemeier, N. Lynnerup, H.L. Nielsen, N. Rud, and A.E. Sveinbjörnsdóttir. 1999. Change of diet of the Greenland Vikings determined from stable carbon isotope analysis and 14C dating of their bones. Radiocarbon 41:157–168. Arneborg, J., N. Lynnerup, and J. Heinemeier. 2012. Human diet and subsistence patterns in Norse Greenland AD c. 980–AD c. 1450: archaeological interpretations. Journal of the North Atlantic 3:119–133. Barlow, L.K., J.P. Sadler, A.E.J. Ogilvie, P.C. Buckland, T. Amorosi, J.H. Ingimundarson, P. Skidmore, A.J. Dugmore, and T.H. McGovern. 1997. Interdisciplinary investigations of the end of the Norse Western Settlement in Greenland. The Holocene 7:489–499. Behre, K.E. 1981. The interpretation of anthropogenic indicators in pollen diagrams. Pollen et Spores 23:225–245. Benediktsson, J. 1986. Ed: Íslensk fornrit I – Landnámabók. Hið íslenska fornritafélag. Reykjavík, Iceland. Bennett, K.D. 2012. Catalogue of pollen types. Available online at http://www.chrono.qub.ac.uk/pollen/pc-intor. html. Accessed March 2012. Bennett, K.D., G. Whittington, and K.J. Edwards. 1994. Recent plant morphological changes and pollen morphology in the British Isles. Quaternary Newsletter 73:1–6. Beug, K.E. 1961. Leitfaden der pollenbestimmung. Gustav Fischer Verlag, Stuttgart, Germany. Blaauw, M. 2010. Methods and code for “classical” agemodelling of radiocarbon sequences. Quaternary Geochronology 5:512–518. Blaauw, M., and J.A. Christen. 2011. Flexible palaeoclimate age-depth models using an autoregressive gamma process. Bayesian analysis 6:457–474. Bruun, D. 1896. Arkæologiske Undersøgelser i Julianehaabs Distrikt. Meddelelser om Grønland 16:171–461. Buchwald, V.F. 2001. Ancient iron and slags in Greenland. Meddelelser om Grønland, Man and Society 26:3–92. Buckland, P.C., K.J. Edwards, E. Panagiotakopulu, and J.E. Schofield. 2009. Palaeoecological and historical evidence for manuring and irrigation at Garðar (Igaliku), Norse Eastern Settlement, Greenland. The Holocene 19:105–116. Böcher, T.W., K. Holmen, and K. Jakobsen. 1968. The Flora of Greenland. P. Hasse and Son, Copenhagen, Denmark. 312 pp. Journal of the North Atlantic P.M. Ledger, K.J. Edwards, and J.E. Schofield 2014 Special Volume 6 45 Faegri, K., and J. Iversen. 1989. Textbook of Pollen Analysis, 4th Edition. John Wiley and Sons, Chichester, UK. 320 pp. Feilberg, J. 1984. A phytogeographical study of South Greenland. Vascular Plants. Meddelelser om Grønland, Bioscience 15:15–69. Feilberg, J., and S. Folving. 1990. Mapping and monitoring of woodlands and scrub vegetation in Qinguadalen, South Greenland. Meddeleser om Gronland, Bioscience 33:9–20. Fredskild, B. 1973. Studies in the vegetational history of Greenland. Meddelelser om Grønland 198:1–245. Fredskild, B. 1978. Palaeobotanical investigations of some peat deposits of Norse age at Qagssiarssuk, south Greenland. Meddelelser om Grønland 204:1–41. Fredskild, B. 1992. Erosion and vegetational change in South Greenland caused by agriculture. Geografisk Tidsskrift 92:14–21. Fredskild, B., and L. Hulme. 1991. Plant remains from the Norse farm Sandnes in the Western Settlement, Greenland. Acta Borealia 1:69–80. Gauthier, E., V. Bichet, C. Massa, C. Petit, B. Vannière, and H. Richard. 2010. Pollen and non-pollen palynomorph evidence of medieval farming activities in southwestern Greenland. Vegetation History and Archaeobotany 19:427–438. Golding, K.A., I.A. Simpson, J.E. Schofield, and K.J. Edwards. 2011. Norse-Inuit interaction and landscape change in southern Greenland? A geochronological, pedological, and palynological investigation. Geoarchaeology 26:1–31. Guldager, O. 2002. Brattahlið reconsidered. Some thoughts on the social structure of Medieval Norse Greenland, and the location of Brattahlið. Archaeolgica Islandica 2:74–97. Guldager, O., S. Stummann Hansen, and S. Gleie. 2002. Medieval Farmsteads in Greenland: The Brattahlid Region 1999–2000 Danish Polar Center Publications 9, Copenghagen, Denmark. 212 pp. Henriksen, P.S. 2012. Agriculture on the edge: the first find of cereals in Norse Greenland. Pp. 174–177, In H.C. Gulløv, P.A. Toft, and C.P. Hansgaard (Eds.). Northern Worlds Challenges and Solutions. National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen, Denmark. Hicks, S., and H. Hyvärinen. 1999. Pollen influx values measured in different sedimentary environments and their palaeoecological implications. Grana 38:228–242. Ingstad, H. 1966. Land Under the Pole Star. Jonathan Cape, London, UK. 381 pp. Iversen, J. 1934. Moorgeologische Untersuchungen auf Grönland. Meddelelser fra Dansk Geologisk Forening 8:341–358. Jacobsen, G.L., and R.H.W. Bradshaw. 1981. The selection of sites for palaeovegetational studies. Quaternary Research 16:80–96. Jacobsen, K. 1987. Studies on soils and the potential for soil erosion in the sheep farming areas of southern Greenland. Arctic and Alpine Research 19:498–507. Jensen, K.G., A. Kuijpers, N. Koç, and J. Heinemeier. 2004. Diatom evidence of hydrographic changes and ice conditions in Igaliku Fjord, South Greenland, during the past 1500 years. The Holocene 14:152–164. Karlsson, G. 2000. Iceland’s 1100 Years: History of a Marginal Society. Mál of Menning, Reykjavik, Iceland. 432 pp. Keller, C. 1989. The Eastern Settlement Reconsidered. Some analyses of Norse Medieval Greenland. Ph.D. Dissertation. University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway. 372 pp. Krogh, K.J. 1967. Viking Greenland. The National Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark. 187 pp. Kuijpers, A., and N. Mikkelsen. 2009. Geological records of changes in the wind regime over south Greenland since the Medieval Warm Period: A tentative reconstruction. Polar Record 45:1–8. Küster, H. 1988. Vom warden einer kulturlandschaft: vegetationsgeschichtliche studien am auerberg (Südbayern). Acta Humaniora, Weinheim, Germany. 112 pp. Larsen, L. 1917. The Kings Mirror – translation. American Scandinavian Foundation, New York, NY, USA. 389 pp. Lassen, S.J., A. Kuijpers, H. Kunzendorf, G. Hoffmann- Wieck, N. Mikkelsen, and P. Konradi. 2004. Late Holocene Atlantic bottom water variability in Igaliku Fjord, South Greenland, reconstructed from foraminifera faunas. The Holocene 14:165–171. Ledger, P.M. 2013. Norse landnám and its impact on the vegetation of Vatnahverfi, Eastern Settlement, Greenland. Ph.D. Dissertation. University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK. 287 pp. Ledger, P.M., K.J. Edwards, and J.E. Schofield. 2013. Shieling activity in the Norse Eastern Settlement: palaeoenvironment of the “Mountain Farm” Vatnhaverfi, Greenland. The Holocene 23:810–822. Ledger, P.M., K.J. Edwards, and J.E. Schofield. In press. A multiple profile approach to the palynological reconstruction of Norse landscape in Greenland’s Eastern Settlement. Quaternary Research. Mainland, I. 2006. Pastures lost? A dental microwear study of ovicaprine diet and management in Norse Greenland. Journal of Archaeological Science 33:238–252. Massa, C., V. Bichet, E. Gauthier, B.B. Perren, O. Mathieu, C. Petit, F. Monna, J. Giraudeau, R. Losno, and H. Richard. 2012a. A 2500-year record of natural and anthropogenic soil erosion in South Greenland. Quaternary Science Reviews 32:119–130. Massa, C., B.B. Perren, E. Gauthier, V. Bichet, C. Petit, and H. Richard. 2012b. A multiple proxy evaluation of Holocene environmental change from Lake Igaliku, south Greenland. Journal of Paleolimnology 48:241–258. Mäkelä, E., and H. Hyvärinen. 1998. Holocene vegetation history at Vätsäri, inari Lapland, northeastern Finland, with special reference to Betula. The Holocene 10:75–85. McGovern, T.H. 1985. Contributions to the paleoeconomy of Norse Greenland. Acta Archaeologica 54:73–122. McGovern, T.H., G.F. Bigelow, T. Amorosi, and D. Russell. 1988. Northern Islands, human error and environmental degradation: A Preliminary Model for social and ecological change in the medieval North Atlantic. Human Ecology 16:45–105. Journal of the North Atlantic P.M. Ledger, K.J. Edwards, and J.E. Schofield 2014 Special Volume 6 46 McGovern, T.H., O. Vésteinsson, A. Friðriksson, M.J. Church, I. Lawson, I.A. Simpson, A. Einarsson, A.J. Dugmore, G. Cook, S. Perdikaris, K.J. Edwards, A. Thomson, W.P. Adderley, A. Newton, G. Lucas, R. Edvardsson, O. Aldred, and E. Dunbar. 2007. Landscapes of settlement in Northern Iceland: Historical ecology of human impact and climate fluctuation on the millennial scale. American Anthropologist 109:27–51. Moore, P.D, J.A.Webb, and M.E. Collinson. 1991 Pollen analysis. Blackwell Press, Oxford, UK. 216 pp. Nakagawa, T., E. Brugiapaglia, G. Digerfelt, M. Reille, J.L. De Beaulieu, and Y. Yasuda. 1998. Dense-media separation as a more efficient pollen extraction method for use with organic sediment/deposit samples: comparison with the conventional method. Boreas 27:15–24. Nörlund, P. 1930. Norse ruins at Gardar. Meddelelser om Grønland 76:1–170. Nörlund, P., and M. Stenberger. 1934 Researches into Norse culture in Greenland. Brattahlid. Meddelelser om Grønland 88:131–136. Patterson, W.A. III, K.J.Edwards, and D.J. Maguire. 1987 Microscopic charcoal as a fossil indicator of fire. Quaternary Science Reviews 6:3–23. Perren, B.B., C. Massa, V. Bichet, E. Gauthier, O. Mathieu, C. Petit, H. Richard. 2012. A paleoecological perspective on 1450 years of human impacts from a lake in southern Greenland. The Holocene 22:1025– 1034. Raper, M., and D. Bush. 2009. A test of Sporormiella representation as a predictor of megaherbivore presence and abundance. Quaternary Research 71:490–496. Reimer, P.J., M.G.L. Baillie, E. Bard, A. Bayliss, J.W. Beck, P.G. Blackwell, C. Bronk Ramsey , C.E. Buck, G.S. Burr, R.L. Edwards, M. Friedrich, P.M.Grootes, T.P. Guilderson, I. Hajdas, T.J. Heaton, A.G. Hogg, K.A. Hughen, K.F. Kaiser, B. Kromer, F.G. McCormac, S.W. Manning, R.W. Reimer, D.A. Richards, J.R. Southon, S. Talamo, C.S.M. Turney, J. van der Plicht, and C.E. Weyhenmeyer. 2009. INTCAL 09 and MARINE09 radiocarbon age calibration curves, 0–50,000 years Cal BP. Radiocarbon 51:1111–1150. Roncaglia, L., and A. Kuijpers. 2004. Palynofacies analysis and organic-walled dinoflagellate cysts in late Holocene sediments from Igaliku Fjord, southern Greenland. The Holocene 14:172–184. Roussell, A. 1936. Sandnes and the neighbouring farms. Meddelelser om Grønland 88:74–81. Roussell, A. 1941. Farms and churches in the Mediaeval Norse settlements of Greenland. Meddelelser om Grønland 89:1–342. Sandgren, P., and B. Fredskild. 1992. Magnetic measurements recording Late Holocene man-induced erosion in S. Greenland. Boreas 20:315–331. Schofield, J.E., and K.J. Edwards. 2011. Grazing impacts and woodland management in Eriksfjord: Betula, coprophilous fungi and the Norse settlement of Greenland, Vegetation History and Archaeobotany 20:181–197. Schofield, J.E., K.J. Edwards, and A.McMullen. 2007. Modern pollen-vegetation relationships in subarctic southern Greenland and the interpretation of fossil pollen data from the Norse landnám. Journal of Biogeography 34:473–488. Schofield, J.E., K.J. Edwards, and C. Christensen. 2008. Environmental impacts around the time of Norse landnám in the Qorlortoq valley, Eastern Settlement, Greenland. Journal of Archaeological Science 35:1643–1657. Schofield, J.E., K.J. Edwards, E. Erlendsson, and P.M. Ledger. 2013. Palynology supports “Old Norse” introductions to the flora of Greenland. Journal of Biogeography 40:1190–1130. Seaver, K.A. 2010. The Last Vikings. I.B. Tauris, London, UK. 304 pp. Simpson, I.A., A.J. Dugmore, A.M. Thomson, and O.Vésteinsson. 2001. Crossing the thresholds: Human ecology and historical patterns of landscape degradation. Catena 42:175–192. Stockmarr, J. 1971. Tablets with spores used in absolute pollen analysis. Pollen et spores 13:615–621. Trbojević, N., D.E. Mooney, and A.J. Bell. 2011. A firewood experiment at Eriksstađir: a step towards quantifying the use of firewood for daily household needs in Viking age Iceland. Archaeologica Islandica 9:29–40. Tweddle, J., K.J. Edwards, and N.R.J. Fieller. 2005. Multivariate statistical and other approaches for the separation of cereal from wild Poaceae pollen using a large Holocene dataset. Vegetation History and Archaeobotany 14:15–30. van Geel, B., J. Buurman, O. Brinkkemper, A. Aproot, G. van Reenen, and T. Hakbijl. 2003. Environmental reconstruction of a Roman Period settlement site in Uitgeest (The Netherlands), with special reference to coprophilous fungi. Journal of Archaeological Science 30:873–883. Vebæk, C.L. 1943. Inland farms in the Norse east settlement: Archaeological investigations in Julianehaab district, summer 1939. Meddelelser om Grønland 90:1–110. Vebæk, C.L. 1991. Church topography of the Eastern Settlement and the excavation of the Benedictine Convent in Uunartoq Fjord. Meddelelser om Grønland, Man and Society 14:1–71. Vebæk, C.L. 1992. Vatnahverfi: an inland district of the Eastern settlement in Greenland. Meddelelser om Grønland, Man and Society 17:1–132. Vinther, B.M., P.D. Jones, K.R. Briffa, H.B. Clausen, K.K. Andersen, D. Dahl-Jensen, and S.J. Johnsen. 2010. Climatic signals in multiple highly resolved stable isotope records from Greenland. Quaternary Science Reviews 29:522–538. Vésteinsson, O., T.H. McGovern, and C. Keller. 2002. Enduring impacts: Social and environmental aspects of Viking age settlement in Iceland and Greenland. Archaeologica Islandica 2:98–136.