UMass team hopes Greenland sediment yields clues on Vikings’ exit

Published in The Boston Globe April 11 print

What happened to the Vikings?

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst hope to help answer that question by studying sediment records in Greenland to learn whether climate change caused Norse settlers to abandon their farmsteads by the 15th century.

Geosciences professors Raymond Bradley and Isla S. Castañeda were awarded about $350,000 from the National Science Foundation to reconstruct climate change over the past 1,500 years in Greenland, the university said Monday.

The Norse arrived in southern Greenland in 985, but by the 15th century they had left the icy territory, Bradley said.

“Although climate change is often cited as the reason, the evidence for that is quite limited and not very convincing,” Bradley said in a statement. “We hope to find out more.”

They will generate new, high-resolution, quantitative records of temperature and hydrology in the region. The researchers will share their findings on a website and explain climate change and migration in the area. Doctoral student Greg De Wet will join Bradley in the field, the university said.

Climate in southern Greenland could be key to seeing patterns of climate change in the northern hemisphere, the researchers said. Sea water circulation could be a reason why the settlements were abandoned, Castañeda said.

Earlier this month, researchers announced that satellite technology had found evidence of a long-elusive prize in archeology — a second Norse settlement in North America, farther south than ever known. The site is on the southwest coast of Newfoundland, 300 miles south of L’Anse aux Meadows, the first and so far only confirmed Viking settlement in North America, discovered in 1960.




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