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Introduction: New Approaches to the Study of the Viking Age Settlement across the North Atlantic
T. Douglas Price

Journal of the North Atlantic, Special Volume 7 (2018): i–xii

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Journal of the North Atlantic T.D. Price 2018 Special Volume 7 i Introduction This volume concerns the results of new archaeological ideas and methods applied to questions about the Viking Age settlement of the North Atlantic. The papers were presented at a symposium held in Copenhagen several years ago to bring together archaeological scientists involved with these new methods and archaeologists, historians, geneticists, and others to discuss results and interpretation of the new approaches. Isotopic proveniencing of the first settlers of the North Atlantic lies at the core of this research and of the present volume. Isotopes of strontium, oxygen, and lead in human tooth enamel vary geographically and can hold signatures from the place of origin. Isotopic investigations of past diet, concerned largely with carbon and nitrogen in bone collagen, are also discussed and provide additional information on Norse lifeways. New methods of DNA investigations are also involved in these studies and mentioned in several of the papers in this volume of the Journal of the North Atlantic. The volume encompasses background information and the larger frame of the study of the settlement of the North Atlantic as well as the details of the approaches that are opening new windows on that past. This first chapter offers some overview of the historical and archaeological background to the Viking expansion. In the remainder of this essay I consider the historical and archaeological background to the studies that are described in the volume. Recent archaeological evidence from the Faroes is detailed in a paper by Simun Arge. The following paper in this issue by Niels Lynnerup considers demographic models for the colonization and its aftermath, focusing particularly on Greenland. Philippa Ascough and co-authors summarize recent light isotope studies of early Icelanders. Carolyn Chenery and co-authors offer an extraordinary case study from England, involving a mass grave with a number of headless Viking corpses and the search for their place of origin. In the next article, Janet Montgomery and colleagues summarize isotopic studies of the Viking inhabitants of Dublin and the islands of northern Britain, possible source areas for the colonists of the North Atlantic. I then introduce the application of isotopes in dietary and provenience studies, followed by a paper I authored with Elise Naumann examing isotopic research from Norway. A lengthy article by Price, Frei, and Naumann provides a discussion of background bioavailable strontium and oxygen at various locales around the North Atlantic. Recent archaeological evidence from Iceland is then detailed in a paper authored by Orri Vésteinsson and Hildur Gestsdóttir and one authored by myself with Hildur Gestsdóttir. That paper is followed by a study of the settlement of Greenland I conducted with Jette Arneborg. A concluding article briefly summarizes the results of the project and its implications for understanding the archaeology of the North Atlantic Islands. A Brief History of Settlement An extraordinary series of events began in the North Atlantic during the 8th century AD. Viking raiders, traders, and settlers from Scandinavia began expanding in all directions (e.g., Fitzhugh and Ward 2000, Sawyer 1971). In addition to parts of the Baltic region, Russia, and Normandy, these groups settled in the British Isles and Ireland (Clarke et al. 1999, Introduction: New Approaches to the Study of the Viking Age Settlement across the North Atlantic T. Douglas Price* Abstract – This volume presents the results of a symposium focused on a project of archaeological research concerned with the colonization of the North Atlantic using new methods of analysis. This introduction to the volume discusses the historical and archaeological background of the study and the major questions involved. The larger issues concern the settlement of a number of the islands of the North Atlantic by Vikings during the last quarter of the first millennium AD. Questions about the timing of this settlement and the place of origin of the settlers are still subject to debate and are important components in constructing the archaeology of the Vikings. More specifically, because these methods involve human remains, the study focuses primarily on Iceland and Greenland where Norse settlements contain substantial numbers of burials, in contrast to some other locations in the North Atlantic. Viking Settlers of the North Atlantic: An Isotopic Approach Journal of the North Atlantic *Laboratory for Archaeological Chemistry, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53706, USA; tdprice@wisc. edu. 2018 Special Volume 7:i–xii Journal of the North Atlantic T.D. Price 2018 Special Volume 7 ii Ritchie 1993), including the Northern and Western islands of Orkney, Shetland, the Hebrides, and Man (Graham-Campbell and Batey 1998, Sharples and Smith 2009, Wilson 2008). The nearer islands were settled sometime in the Mesolithic period, and the Shetlands by at least the Neolithic, with the earliest evidence from a multiple burial in a stone cist near Sumburgh, dated between 3500 and 3000 BC (Hedges and Parry 1980). More recent discoveries at West Voe have confirmed a Mesolithic presence on the Shetlands as well (Melton 2008). Viking settlement on the Shetland and Orkney Islands was well established by the mid-9th century or earlier. Viking colonists reached the Faroe Islands by AD 825 (Arge 1993, 2014 [this volume]; Thorsteinsson 1981), Iceland by at least AD 871 (Benediktsson 1968, Vésteinsson and McGovern 2012), and Greenland by AD 895 (Arneborg and Gulløv 1998, Mowat 1965). With the exception of the British Isles and Ireland, these places were largely uninhabited. Greenland held a native population of Palaeo-Eskimo Dorset people, at that time largely concentrated in the northwest of the island. The Vikings also settled briefly in North America at L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland, Canada, around AD 1000 (Wallace 2003). Thus, by the turn of the first millennium AD, a common language and culture stretched across Northern Europe and the North Atlantic to eastern Canada (Fig. 1). Because of the brief tenure of the Viking settlement in Newfoundland and the absence of human remains from that occupation, discussion in this issue will focus on the other colonies of the Vikings. This expansion across the North Atlantic was remarkable, given the distances involved and the danger of the journey. The Shetlands are centrally located with respect to Norway, Scotland, and the Faroes. The distance from Lerwick, the modern capital, to Aberdeen, Bergen, and Tórshavn is around 350 km. Shetland is 321 km (2 to 4 days’ sail) from the Norwegian coast, and Orkney lies just 97 km further to the south. Straight-line distances from Bergen, Norway, provide some indication of the scale of the voyages: Bergen to Aberdeen, Scotland, 550 km; to Tórshavn, Faroe Islands, 674 km; to Reykjavík, Iceland, 1464 km; to Nuuk, Greenland, 2888 km; and to St. Johns, Newfoundland, almost 4000 km. The average speed of Viking ships varied from ship to ship, but lay in the range of 5–10 knots per Figure 1. The Viking settlement of the North Atlantic. Journal of the North Atlantic T.D. Price 2018 Special Volume 7 iii hour (10–20 km/h), and the maximum speed of a longship under favorable conditions was probably ~15 knots (25 km/h); sailing times were highly variable and dependent on the weather and the fortunes of navigation (Brøgger and Shetelig 1971, Hale 1998). Englert (2007) deduced from a 9th-century account of voyages along the coasts of Norway and Denmark that a Viking ship had sailed from northern Norway to the mouth of the Oslo fjord in about a month. Ships on the open sea likely averaged around 50 km per day (Bately and Englert 2007, Bill 2008, Brøgger 1951, Bruun 1997, Heide 2014). Under ideal conditions, it may have been possible to sail from Bergen to Iceland in a few weeks. Historical documents make it clear, however, that two return voyages in the sailing season from May until September were exceptional (Vilhjálmsson 2005). The dangers of the voyage were pronounced. Erik the Red was reported to have sailed from Iceland to Greenland with some 25 ships, but only 14 arrived safely (Olsen and Bourne 1906). Explanations of the Viking expansion have invoked population growth, polygamy and primogeniture, political unrest at home, favorable climatic conditions, ship design, the wealth of Anglo- Saxon Britain, and an adventurous spirit, among other possibilities (e.g., Barrett 2008, Byock 2001, Jones 1986, Simek 2004). A generally accepted view at one time was that chieftains from West Norway immigrated to Iceland to escape the rising power of Norway’s first unifying king, Harald Fairhair (ca. 865– 930) (Smith 1995). Whatever the causes, the Viking colonization of the North Atlantic was a remarkable phenomenon. In the following pages, the discussion begins with the places of origin for the settlers and then focus turns to a region-by-region consideration of the colonization, with more detail on Iceland and Greenland. Of course, as in any archaeological or historical context, the actual body of evidence and its interpretation is much more complicated. Places of Origin The place of origin of the Viking colonists of the North Atlantic islands has long been controversial, sometimes caught up in debates surrounding relations between Scandinavian and Celtic populations in northern Britain and Ireland. Early studies, based almost entirely on 13th-century Icelandic histories and 19th-century place-name documentation, suggested nearly complete ethnic replacement in the Northern and Western Isles and assumed an overwhelmingly Nordic colonizing population in Iceland and Greenland. Assimilation models are more in favor today at the expense of these replacement perspectives. Both later documentary references and modern genetic studies indicate that many of the participants in each successive westward movement were drawn from previously settled islands—modern Icelanders have a strong genetic heritage from the British Isles, and the saga accounts suggest considerable ethnic diversity among the settlers of the North Atlantic islands (Årnasson 2003). Possible homelands or places of origin then for the settlers of Iceland and Greenland include the Faroe Islands, the northern British Isles and Ireland, and the west coast of Norway. In addition, it is possible that Sweden and Denmark, as part of the Viking homeland, might have supplied some settlers. Icelanders had contact with much of the then-known world (e.g., Vésteinsson 2010). The Icelandic sagas repeatedly mention a place called Heiðabær or Slésvík, pointing out its prominent geographical location at ancient Denmark’s southern border and the relationship of the site to significant political events in the area. From the sagas, we also hear of direct visits of Icelanders to that site (Hilberg and Kalmring 2013). In the following paragraphs, I consider some of the evidence for the origins of the settlers of the different regions of the North Atlantic. The Settlement of Britain and Ireland The Viking raids on England began in the late 8th century (e.g., Hall 2000, Loyn 1977). The attack on Lindisfarne monastery in AD 793 was a particularly significant moment, marking the start of frequent raids on coastal communities. Churches and monasteries were targeted for their wealth. The scale of raiding grew, and the Vikings began to overwinter in defended camps and extort payment for “protection”. Eventually, the Vikings settled permanently across eastern and northern Britain and Ireland (Fig. 2), controlling extensive areas (Roesdahl et al. 1981). Lincoln, Nottingham, Derby, Stamford, and Leicester became important Viking towns within the Danelaw (or “Scandinavian England”) (Hadley 2007, Richards 2004, Wilson 1968). York became the capital of a Viking Kingdom, which extended more or less across modern Yorkshire. In northern England, the Pennine Mountains marked the border between the northern “Norwegian” and eastern “Danish” Viking regions of Britain. The last major Viking battle, a defeat by the English King Harold Godwinson near York in 1066, is often taken to mark the end of the Viking period in England as their power and influence waned after that time (Rosedahl Journal of the North Atlantic T.D. Price 2018 Special Volume 7 iv et al. 1981). The Norman invasion in the same year certainly sealed that ending. Two interpretations of the Viking presence in Scotland have competed. The migration model suggests that large numbers of Scandinavians, primarily Norwegians, arrived in Scotland and overwhelmed the earlier inhabitants (e.g., Brøgger 1929, Crawford 1981, Wainwright 1964). The second, acculturation, model posits substantial continuity of native culture (e.g., Ritchie 1974, 1993) in the presence of a Viking elite and is widely accepted at present (e.g., Barrett 2003, Graham-Campbell and Batey 1998, Hunter et al. 1993, Sharples and Parker Pearson 1999). Scotland gradually took its present form, reclaiming territory from the Kingdom of Norway from the 13th to the 15th century. The Vikings arrived in the Northern Isles of Britain in the late 8th century looking for land and remained for the next 600 years. Shetland lies almost halfway between Norway and the British Isles and must have been an important base for Viking sailors and settlers (Fojut 2006). Hundreds of archaeological sites are known from this period including Old Scatness and Jarlshof (Dockrill et al. 2010). Shetlanders have almost identical proportions of Scandinavian matrilineal and patrilineal ancestry, suggesting that the islands were settled by both men and women in equal measure (Goodacre et al. 2005). The Shetlands belonged to the King of Norway until AD 1469 when they were given to the Scottish King as part of a dowry. The Orkney islands’ strategic position, off the northern coast of Scotland and at the center of the Viking “sea roads,” made them an obvious location for a base for further expansion and for raids into Scotland and Ireland (e.g., Bond 1998, Hunter et al. 1993). The extent of the early settlement is unclear. It is generally accepted that the Vikings only began moving to Orkney in significant numbers at the start of the 9th century, although there had probably been some contact between Orkney and Norway for some time—raiding, trading, or settling (Wickham-Jones 2007). There is substantial evidence for a Viking presence on Orkney after their arrival, including a number of major sites and cemeteries (e.g., Barrett et al. 2001b, Sellevold 2002). Early Viking trading and raiding was followed by settlement in the Outer Hebrides, and this area eventually became part of the Kingdom of Norway. Pagan period Viking burials testify to the presence of first- and second-generation Scandinavians in the Islands (Dunwell et al. 1995). House forms changed from circular to rectangular, seen most vividly in the Viking longhouses. Settlement mounds in South Uist have revealed, among other remains, a sequence of 3 large, high-status, rectangular buildings dating from the 7th to 13th century AD, with rich and wellpreserved floor deposits (Sharples et al. 2004). Viking raiders entered the Irish Sea by the end of the 8th century but did not take advantage of the strategic importance of the Isle of Man until the beginning of the 10th century (Wilson 2008). The Viking presence is marked on Man by traditional burial patterns, including warrior graves and boat burials (e.g., Fell et al. 1983). A number of houses and farms have been excavated, along with more substantial structures at places like Peel Castle. The Western Isles of Britain and the Isle of Man remained under Scandinavian control until 1266 (Andersen 1991, McDonald 1997, Sharples and Parker Pearson 1999). In Ireland, the Vikings conducted extensive raids beginning in AD 795 and, from AD 840, began establishing permanent bases along the coasts, including the present cities of Cork, Dublin, Waterford, and Limerick (e.g., Clarke et al. 1999, Larsen 2001, Ryan 1991, Smyth 1979). Dublin, the largest and most important of the Viking settlements, was a small independent state strengthened Figure 2. The major settlement areas (gray shading) of the Vikings in Britain and Ireland based on the distribution of burials, place names, and historical sources (Ritchie 1993). Journal of the North Atlantic T.D. Price 2018 Special Volume 7 v by its overseas trading connections and quickly became one of the wealthiest towns in northwest Europe (Ballin Smith et al. 2007, DownhM 2007, P.F. Wallace 1990). The close of the Viking period in Ireland is sometimes associated with the battle of Clontarf in AD 1014 and the victory of the native Irish (Valante 2008), although many would place the end later, even in the 12th century with the Anglo- Norman invasion (O. Vésteinsson, Department of Archaeology, University of Iceland, Reykjavik, Iceland, and J. Barrett, McDonald Institute of Archaeology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK, pers. comm.). The Settlement of the Faroes The Faroe Islands were traditionally thought to have been settled as part of the Viking expansion to the west after ca. A.D. 800, but there is now convincing evidence for an earlier human presence (Church et al. 2013). The homelands of the Viking settlers is unclear. The majority of literary evidence suggests that they largely came from Norway (Arge 1993, Arge et al. 2005). This view is supported by some modern genetic evidence collected by the People of the British Isles project (Winney et al. 2012). Archaeological and linguistic sources, however, suggest that the ancestors of the present-day population in the Faroe Islands may have their origins in several different regions of northwest Europe. Other genetic data supports this interpretation. Jorgensen et al. (2004) used markers on the Y chromosome to analyze genetic diversity in the modern Faroese population. A combination of genetic-distance measures and phylogenetic analyses revealed a high degree of similarity between the Faroese Y chromosomes and Norwegian, Swedish, and Icelandic Y chromosomes, but also some similarity with the Scottish and Irish Y chromosomes. Unfortunately, there are very few human remains from the Viking Age on the Faroes, so that isotopic and ancient DNA studies are limited. Current information on the settlement of the Faroes can be found in the paper by Símun Arge (this volume). The Settlement of Iceland The Viking arrival on Iceland colonized one of the last uninhabited places on earth. The Viking Age on Iceland is generally divided into a pagan or settlement period, from initial arrival round AD 870 until AD 1000, followed by what is sometimes called the Christian period. Historical sources and archaeological data provide substantial information, sometimes complementary and sometimes contradictory, on the process of settlement. With regard to the colonization of Iceland, the most important and verifiable pieces of information are the date of initial settlement, the rapidity of the settlement process, and that settlement had a deleterious effect on the environment (McGovern et al. 2007). There is considerable debate over the timing of the arrival of the first settlers, with some evidence suggesting a century or two earlier than the accepted date of ca. AD 874 (e.g., Einarsson 1994, Hermanns-Audardóttir 1991, Theodórsson 1998, Vilhjálmsson 2005). The Sagas reported that almost all of the colonists came during the first 60 years of settlement and very few thereafter, though this scenario is also an issue of uncertainty and discussion. The following paragraphs provide a brief introduction to the historical, archaeological, and genetic evidence for settlement. Recent archaeological evidence for the early settlement of Iceland is summarized by Vésteinsson and Gestsdóttir (this volume). Iceland is one of the best-known areas in terms of the Viking expansion, in large part because of a body of medieval literature that has long been a primary source for information (Olafsson 2000). There are several major historical sources on the settlement of Iceland—the Book of Icelanders, the Book of Settlements, and the Sagas of the Icelanders (Hreinsson 1997a, b). Friðriksson and Vésteinsson (2003) discuss in detail the tyranny of this medieval historical record in regard to an accurate understanding of the settlement history of Iceland. They argue that dependence on these sources has severely limited research. The general tendency has been to assume that the Viking period is adequately described in the medieval literature, which Friðriksson and Vésteinsson (2003) regard as a scholarly construct with little or no actual bearing on the 9th and 10th centuries AD. There is substantial disagreement about the settlement of Iceland, and questions persist about the homeland and nationality of the colonists, as well as the exact dates of their arrival. Norway is nominally taken as the homeland of the Vikings in the North Atlantic (Myhre 2000). The Sagas focus on the area of west Norway as the homeland for the first settlers, generally to the exclusion of other regions. The Sagas point specifically to the areas around Stavanger, Rogaland, Hordaland, Sogn, Fjordane, and Romsdal in southwest and western Norway as the homelands for the settlers. Some archaeologists have claimed a major northern Norwegian element among the first settlers (Einarsson 1994). Journal of the North Atlantic T.D. Price 2018 Special Volume 7 vi of settlement evidence beneath the “landnam” tephra deposits from an eruption in AD 871 (Vésteinsson and Gestsdottir, this volume), it is also clear that a few Viking people must have landed in Iceland before AD 870. Archaeological fieldwork in the last 20 years has revealed the staggering scale of the colonization that took place after AD 871. Vésteinsson and McGovern (2012) estimate that a minimum of 24,000 people were transported to Iceland in less than 20 years during the earliest period of colonization. Evidence from sites like Sveigakot (McGovern et al. 2006) indicate that even marginal, less desirable, interior areas in Iceland were settled very early. Biodistance measures of Icelandic and Irish populations suggest 10–40% non-Norwegians among the Iceland colonists (Hallgrimsson et al. 2004). Modern genetic information has been used in several studies to examine the heritage of the Icelanders. Goodacre et al. (2005) provide a fascinating perspective on the early inhabitants through the lens of modern genetics. They explore the nature and extent of the genetic legacy in the North Atlantic using modern Y-chromosomal and mtDNA, from males and females, respectively. Their study suggests, for example, a Scandinavian ancestry of ~44% in Shetland, ~30% for Orkney, and ~15% along the north and west coast of Scotland. In these places, both males and females moved in equal numbers and contributed to the gene pool. A different pattern emerges elsewhere. With distance from the Scandinavia homeland, the contribution of Viking females to the genetic pool decreases and males predominate. Goodacre et al. (2005) note, for example, that largest component of Iceland's ancestry is Scandinavian at 55%, but only about one-half the contribution comes from Norse females compared to males. Recent DNA analysis of the modern Icelandic population suggests a strong element from Scotland and Ireland, especially visible in maternally transmitted mtDNA (Hallgrimsson et al. 2004; Helgason et al. 2000, 2001). The same pattern is observed in the Faroes (Jorgensen et al. 2004), with a greater Viking male contribution to the gene pool that appears to contain ~87% Scandinavian genetic material. This dominance of males among the early Vikings can also be seen from cemeteries on the Isle of Man, where the grave goods suggest mainly Norse males along with females from the indigenous population (Cunliffe 2001, Wilson 2008). These data suggest that the settlement of Iceland included both Scandinavian couples and a number of lone males who took wives from native British populations. The Sagas also note the role of Gaelic, or Irish, people. Some colonists almost certainly came from the northern British Isles and Ireland. Archaeological evidence suggests a complex mix of peoples, including Picts, Irish, Scots, and Northumbrian Anglians along with Viking invaders, resided in Scotland and Ireland (e.g., Barrett 2003, Clarke et al. 1998). Recent work in Scotland (B. Crawford 1987, I. Crawford 1981) has documented clear differences between the economic strategies of the Viking colonists and late Iron Age British, with an intensification of fishing and marine resource use (and probably cereals), reflected in both zooarchaeology and carbon isotope signatures in Viking skeletons (Barrett 2003, Barrett et al. 2001a, Bond 1998, Morris and Rackham 1992). There is some additional evidence in the Sagas to suggest that people from the Hebrides, Ireland, and the west coast of Scotland settled in Iceland (e.g., Loyn 1977, Smyth 1975). The frequency of Celtic personal and place names originating with “Westmen” (Irish) has been noted in western Iceland (Friðriksson and Vésteinsson 2003, Sigurðsson 2000). There are also reports of slaves and women being brought to the North Atlantic settlements from outside the Viking homeland. Based on the Sagas, Jacobsen (1990) makes a compelling case that many of the women who went to Iceland were Celtic wives or mistresses of Norwegian males. Various lines of evidence indicate that the peopling of the North Atlantic was never a solely Scandinavian enterprise. Some archaeologists use architectural features to suggest a highly diverse colonizing population including Slavic and other eastern Baltic elements (Urbancyzk 2002). The absence of cremation graves in Iceland, common among the West Norse in Norway, has been taken as evidence that the settlers had originally come from the East Norse region of Denmark and Sweden, and settled on the west coast of Norway before coming to Iceland (Guðmundsson 1967). Byock et al. (2005) reported the discovery of the first cremation burial in Iceland in the Mosfell Valley in the southwest of the island and discussed the significance of this find in terms of the origins of the settlers. Recent archaeological evidence of the early settlement of Iceland is summarized by Vésteinsson and Gestsdóttir (this volume) and Vésteinsson and McGovern (2012). The discovery of the island came before the Vikings. There is now an accepted historical account by the Irish scholar Dicuil from the 820s, about a voyage made around AD 800 by a small group of Irish monks to a place that must have been Iceland (Tierney 1967). Based on the location Journal of the North Atlantic T.D. Price 2018 Special Volume 7 vii constructed by a stratified medieval society. The bishop’s herd contained more than 100 cattle, while most farms had only 2 or 3 head. Trading ships from Iceland and Norway traveled to Greenland every year or so. The Greenlanders produced ivory from walrus tusks, walrus skin rope, and animal hides in exchange for iron tools, wood, especially for boat building, and some foods. In 1261, Greenland formally joined the Norwegian Kingdom (McGovern and Perdikaris 2000). Historical records foreshadow the extinction of the Greenland colonies and the onset of the Little Ice Age (Buckland et al. 1996, Lynnerup 2002, McGovern 2000). A letter from Pope Alexander VI in 1492 suggested a ship should be sent to Greenland, since, “because of the very infrequent sailings which were wont to be made to the aforesaid country due to the severe freezing of the seas, no ship is believed to have put in to land there for eighty years.” This lack of interest in maintaining trade contacts with Greenland might also have been spurred by the traumatic political conditions caused by the Black Death of AD 1348 and other plagues and famines. Ívar Bárðarson’s historical account for the Bishop of Bergen described the abandonment and destruction of the Western Settlement by the Skraeling in the middle of the 14th century. However, radiocarbon dates from several burials indicate a date around AD 1400 for the final abandonment of the Western Settlement (Gulløv 2000, McGovern and Perdikaris 2000). An historical event provides a probable end date for the larger Eastern Settlement. A Christian wedding between Sigrid Bjornsdottir and Thorstein Olafsson at the Hvalsey Church in the Eastern Settlement in A.D. 1408 was recorded in Iceland a few years later. This is the last historical note from Viking Greenland. Historians believe that it is likely the Eastern Settlement was abandoned shortly after this date (Ekrem and Mortensen 2003). Radiocarbon dates for clothing found in graves at the Eastern Settlement, however, indicate that life continued there at least until the middle of the 15th century (Arneborg 1996). The Settlement of North America Two Icelandic Sagas describe the attempts of Viking Greenlanders to settle the land to the west of Greenland, identified as Vinland (Magnússon and Páisson 1965). These accounts were thought by many to be fictional as no evidence of a Viking presence in North America had been found. That situation changed dramatically in 1960 when the Ancient DNA studies have also contributed to our understanding of the genetic ancestry of the settlers of the North Atlantic. Helgason et al. (2009) extracted aDNA from the tooth dentin of 95 pagan burials and reliably sequenced the mtDNA control region for 68 individuals. They argue that the ancient DNA better preserves the ancestral gene pool of the first settlers than the modern DNA in their descendants, which has changed through genetic drift. The mtDNA sequences in the samples of the early settlers provided a higher estimate of 65% ancestry from Scotland and Ireland from individuals who were predominantly females. These genetic data contradict the Sagas and indicate that there were multiple homelands for the settlers, not just Western Norway. The Settlement of Greenland Several small islands off the west coast of Greenland were apparently sighted by Gunnbjörn Ulfsson when he was blown off course sailing from Norway to Iceland, probably in the early 10th century (Arneborg 1996). Later explorers from Iceland and Norway, lead by Erik the Red, arrived on mainland Greenland and settled on the southwest coast. The establishment of the colony is dated in the Icelandic sagas to AD 985 (Grove 2009). This date fits nicely with a radiocarbon determination ca. AD 1000 from the early settlement at Brattahlid (Arneborg 2001), although there are now a few earlier dates as well. Other settlers followed Erik and colonized 2 areas of rich pasture at the heads of major fjord systems on the southwest coast of Greenland. There was a large “Eastern” settlement in the south and a much smaller “Western” settlement farther north near the modern town of Nuuk. Archaeological data indicate that the landscape was settled rapidly, with the Eastern and Western settlements founded about the same time (Arneborg 1996). The Eastern settlement was substantially larger; almost 500 sites have been found in that area. Ruins of approximately 95 sites have been found in the Western settlement. Estimates of population for Viking Greenland range from 3,000 to around 6,000 inhabitants (Gulløv 2005). Lynnerup (1998, 2014 [this issue]), on the other hand, suggests an average population of about 1400 individuals for the 2 settlements, rising to about 2000 at its peak. With an average of ~10 individuals per farm, approximately 200 farms must have been occupied during this peak period. Viking settlement on Greenland lasted almost 500 years. By the 14th century AD, Greenland hosted a monastery and nunnery as well as some of the largest stone churches in the North Atlantic, Journal of the North Atlantic T.D. Price 2018 Special Volume 7 viii determined Norwegian explorer Helge Ingstad discovered the settlement of L’Anse aux Meadows at the northernmost tip of Newfoundland, Canada (Ingstad 2001). Excavations conducted there for almost a decade by Ingstad, his archaeologist wife Anne Stine Ingstad, and a Canadian team uncovered a series of houses and workshops of unquestionable authenticity (Wahlgren 2000; B.L. Wallace 1990, 2003). The remains of 8 sod buildings were uncovered along with a number of artifacts. The buildings included residences as well as workshops for blacksmithing, carpentry, and boat repair (Davis et al. 1988). The artifacts included a number of typical Viking objects such as an oil lamp of stone, a whetsone, and knitting needle and spindle for making thread or yarn. Dating to around the year 1000, L’Anse aux Meadows is the only known Viking site in North America proper and represents the farthest known extent of Viking exploration and the first European settlement of the New World (Fitzhugh and Ward 2000). The Newfoundland settlement does not appear to have witnessed lengthy occupation; perhaps only a few years of use are represented. The settlement at L’Anse aux Meadows probably served as an exploration base and winter camp for expeditions heading south (Wallace 2003). The sagas suggest that the Vinland occupation eventually failed because of conflicts both among the Vikings themselves and with the native people they encountered. While the Greenland Vikings may have continued to visit mainland North America for several centuries, there is no indication of long-term settlement yet discovered. Research Questions Given this historical background and the potential places of origin for the settlers, several as yet unanswered, general questions arise that provide the focus for much of the following discussion in this volume: 1. Do we understand the colonization of the North Atlantic from an historical perspective? What are the major problem areas that remain? Can we settle the who, when, and where questions? 2. Do we understand the colonization from an archaeological perspective? What are the major problem areas that remain? Where does this work need to concentrate? 3. Are the problems and questions regarding early colonization the same for the Orkneys, Shetlands, Faroes, Iceland, and Greenland? What kinds of differences do we need to be concerned about? What do these differences tell us? 4. When did the first Viking setters actually arrive in the Faroes, Iceland, and Greenland? There are also more specific questions that archaeological science can pursue and that are the focus of the research discussed herein: 1. Where did the early colonists come from? 2. Did migration to Iceland and Greenland continue after the initial period of colonization? 3. Are there gender, age, and/or status differences among the migrants? 4. What are major questions, concerns, or problems about the isotopic data? Strontium? Oxygen? Lead? Carbon? Nitrogen? 5. Where do isotopic and genetic research need to focus in the future? We will return to some of these questions at the conclusion of this issue. The colonization of the North Atlantic remains a fascinating and rather mysterious subject. As has been noted, much of the evidence employed in the debate comes from historical, philological, and archaeological sources, along with some preliminary genetic studies. Some sources of evidence are not directly contemporary with the Viking settlement period (13th-century Icelandic texts, place-name documentation, modern genetic data) and inevitably suffer from problems of inference when applied to the actual prehistoric settlement era (Vésteinsson 1999, 2000). Artifacts, ecofacts, and structures datable to the settlement period provide more direct evidence, but they do not yet present any clear and unambiguous signature of ethnic affiliation or regional origin. Isotopic studies provide direct evidence for place of origin from the skeletal remains of individuals who lived and died on the distant islands. The potential of such studies is substantial, as demonstrated in this volume. Literature Cited Andersen, P.S. 1991. Norse settlement in the Hebrides: What happened to the natives and what happened to the Norse immigrants. Pp. 131–147, In I. Wood and N. Lund (Eds.). People and Places in Northern Europe, 500–1600. Boydell Press, Woodbridge, UK. 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