Insect fossils and irrigation in medieval Greenland

Eva Panagiotakopulu, Malcolm Greenwood, Buckland Paul

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Initial European, Norse, settlement in south-west Greenland lasted from the late tenth to the fifteenth century, with an economy largely based on secondary products from sheep, goats and cattle, supplemented by caribou and marine mammal hunting. Sustainable subsistence farming required acquisition of sufficient fodder, principally hay, to feed stalled animals through extended subarctic winters. At the cathedral site of Garðar, the modern sheep farm of Igaliku, artefact scatters and geoarchaeological evidence show that infields were improved by manuring, and systems of ditches have been interpreted as evidence for controlled irrigation in an area liable to a potential water deficit. Further palaeoecological evidence, largely from insect remains, is presented which indicates the build up of thick plaggen soils as a result of large-scale manuring with animal, domestic and structural waste, perhaps supplemented by pared turf. It is suggested that the technique of irrigated hayfields was utilized principally to provide fodder for the large numbers of cattle maintained on the bishop's farm. The system appears to have been abandoned abruptly in the late medieval period, when wetland takes over from irrigated hayfield.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)531-548
Number of pages18
JournalGeografiska Annaler: Series A, Physical Geography
Issue number4
Early online date21 Aug 2012
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2012

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • caddis flies
  • Greenland
  • hayfields
  • insects
  • irrigation
  • manure
  • medieval


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