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Why Didn't the Vikings Stick Around in Greenland?

The Vikings' departure from Greenland is a tale of climate hardship, resource scarcity, and cultural isolation. As the Little Ice Age set in, survival became untenable. Their story is a testament to human resilience and adaptability in the face of environmental change. What lessons can we learn from their experience? Join us as we uncover the secrets of their exodus.

Despite its name, Greenland is not particularly green. In fact, it's downright cold, but that shouldn't have scared off people as tough as the Vikings, who established a settlement there in 985 A.D. Still, even though they had farmland and a stable population in Greenland, the Vikings took off in the early 1400s, and until recently, no one really knew why.

After spending several years collecting soil samples to establish a climate record spanning two millennia, researchers now believe that the Vikings faced one enemy they couldn't defeat: drought. "What we discovered is that, while the temperature barely changed over the course of the Norse settlement of southern Greenland, it became steadily drier over time," said Boyang Zhao, the study's lead author. Another potential problem was an increase of sea ice, which made marine hunting – something the Vikings had turned to for sustenance – much more difficult.The Vikings you don't know:

  • There's no evidence that Vikings ever donned horned helmets.

  • Despite a grungy image, findings suggest Vikings groomed themselves with everything from ear cleaners and tweezers to combs and razors.

  • The image of swashbuckling Vikings is an exaggeration; most Norsemen were farmers who raised livestock and grew grain.

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    • New research suggests that a drought could be to blame for the Vikings abandoning their settlement in Greenland.
      New research suggests that a drought could be to blame for the Vikings abandoning their settlement in Greenland.