Age of Viking settlement revealed using trees and astrophysics

Originally published at: Age of Viking settlement revealed using trees and astrophysics | Boing Boing


Fusa Miyakea discovered that couple of tress

I think you meant trees

I read this story the other day, and it’s a wonderful example of how science can span multiple disciplines and bring together seemingly disparate information to form a reasonable, logical conclusion based on the evidence.


Seth Meyers Reaction GIF by Late Night with Seth Meyers

Humans in the past were really just as mobile as we are today… just it took them more time to get places…

Nothing Can Stop Us Vikings GIF




Ugh - no thank you. The local grocery store has a campaign to this song with changed lyrics and it has been beaten to death.


I was just reading about how most empires and cultures tended to span their area of influence east/west instead of north/south because people like staying in the same kind of climate where their culture developed.

Imagine how differently European colonization of the Americas might have gone if Vikings enjoyed the tropics.


If you go with Jared Diamand et al, it’s not just “liking”, but because your techniques are adapted to certain latitudes. Adapting to new ones requires a lot more work or learning from/exploiting people familiar with these latitudes already.


The very good youtube channel Fall of Civilizations has an episode on the Viking experience in North America. While Columbus’ brutality is well documented, lets not hold Vikings in too high of esteem. They were certainly dicks in their own special way.


If only they’d carried on down the coast. They might have brought back tacos, which would have made the menu at IKEA kind of interesting.


As much for medieval history in America.

So the KLF beat them by about 28 years.

The lyrical Prophet just can’t stop it
The way I drop it and change the topic
Get hyped to the tongue of a native
So creative - KLF made it
We came a long time ago
Nine Nine Two - but you did not know
So if you think that the going gets tough
Just remember
What Time is Love


norsemen-norse-wooden hands


I wonder how those novel European diseases would have changed history if the Vikings had ventured far enough south to introduce European diseases 500 years before the Spanish conquistadors brought viruses that killed off most of the people living on the American continents.

Would that early exposure have just doomed the native populations sooner? Or would indigenous populations have had enough time to recover with the hard-won antibodies that might help them better survive the later colonists?


That is a very good question. Disease took out ~80% of the population, it is believed. Would larger numbers have prevented the repeated steps of treaty and settlement and forced removal?

Another good “what if” is if the French had won the French and Indian war. The French (while no means saints) treated Native Americans much differently. In the Great Lakes Region, when formally French forts became British, it was a 180 in how they were treated. The British were much more adversarial and refused to trade with them , nor ply them with customary gifts. (ETA - ,refused to ply them with customary gifts, offered less favorable trade, and would refuse to trade for guns or powder at times.)

Maybe the outcome would have been the same, or maybe France would have adopted a less Manifest Destiny policy in the end.


That is very cool. But…

Scientists who study cosmic rays used to think that these particles arrived in a relatively constant barrage, meaning that the ratio of carbon 14 to carbon 12 in the atmosphere has largely remained steady over time.

Apart from the solar-generated spikes that the story draws on, we’ve had more recent, artificial spikes from the dawn of the atomic age.

More recently, we’ve managed to create a trend of falling atmospheric C-14 concentrations, not because the amount of C-14 is falling, but because we’re filling the atmosphere with really, really old carbon that been underground so long it’s all C-12 and C-13.

So future carbon dating is going to get harder.


Where was anyone doing that? No one imagines that the Vikings were not often brutal raiders. Anyone with even a passing understanding of Viking history knows that.

But they indeed had an outpost in North American centuries prior to Columbus, and know we know when they did that. That shows that Columbus was not the first, so it’s historically inaccurate to say he was the first European in North America. :woman_shrugging:


The Norse settlers of Greenland were undone by their inability to adapt to changes in the marginal conditions of the island. They remained a pastoral society even as the climate deteriorated. They appear to have adopted none of the hunting skills of the native Inuit, instead relying on grazing and dairy for large parts of their diet. When the climate collapsed in the Little Ice Age, they starved to death.


First, “viking” was a job description. A “viking” was a person who participated in that activity, where the root was vík = “bay, inlet” (As in Reykjavík = “Bay of smoke”). To be a viking meant actively travelling to a place in order to steal things. Once they settled there, they weren’t vikings any more. (Until the next raiding season, of course.)

Second: There were “vikings” (see point one, but I know what you meant) who enjoyed warmer weather. First off there were the Scandinavians who travelled east and up the rivers instead of west and out to sea. They became the Rus’ as they passed through eastern Europe, and some turned up in Byzantium where they got a sweet gig as the Emperor’s guard (like the Swiss Guard for the Pope crossed with the Praetorian Guard), known as the Varangian Guard (from a Norse word meaning something like “pledged warband”). So there were Vikings in the Eastern Roman Empire.
And coming around the other way, the Normans were the Norðmenn, the North Men, Vikings who settled in Frankia and learned French. When the Crusades were in full swing, the Normans were really enthusiastic about it. And they tended to set themselves up in their own kingdoms along the way. The Kingdom of Sicily was a Norman state. They pushed into southern Italy, where they still identified as “Norman”, and from there, they had a strong influence on the Crusader states in the Holy Land.


As any Icelander will tell you, the first person of European descent born in North America was Snorri Þorfinnsson, son of Þorfinnur Karlsefni and Guðríður Þorbjarnardóttir.

Snorri’s mother is legendary; today she is known as Gudrid Víðförla which means ‘Gudrid the Traveller’. According to the Vinland Sagas, she was born in Laugarbrekka in Western Iceland. She and her father joined Erik the Red’s expedition to found the Greenland colonies, she married one of Erik’s sons who died after an unsuccessful journey to Vinland.

At this point a ghost tells her she will marry an Icelander and would have a long and happy life together, but she would outlive him and travel widely before returning to Iceland and founding a church. It’s a saga, you have to expect ghosts, magic rings and supernatural swords to make an appearance long before Tolkien filched them for his books.

Guðríður met Þorfinnur Karlsefni a trader and the two of them lead a massive expedition to Vinland where Snorri was born. Shortly afterwards, there was conflict between the settlers and the native people who they called ‘skrælingjar’ - wretches. The family return to Iceland.

Þorfinnur died and Guðríður worked their farm, during which she became a Christian convert. When her son came of age, Guðríður travelled first to Norway and then to Rome. Some accounts say that she met the Pope before returning to Iceland. In the meantime, Snorri had built a church (fulfilling the prophecy of the ghost) where Guðríður retired and lived the rest of her life as a nun.

There is a small statue to Guðríður at Laugarbrekka on gorgeous Snæfellsnes - worth looking for if you ever want to pay respects to an extraordinary woman.

And if you want to read part of her story in the Sagas, there are workable versions at:

where it is in Eiríks saga rauða

The Saga of the Greenlanders isn’t in English in that collection, but I’m sure everyone here speaks fluent Icelandic!


And lawyers.