Lessons of the Norse Greenlanders (4) — how the past informs the present

Thomas McGovern, archaeologist

In this final in a series of four linked Bifrost Insights, archaeologist Thomas McGovern discusses the well known but imperfectly understood case of the Norse Greenlanders and the role that climate change and other factors played in the curious fate of their society. The Norse settled in Greenland with a significant population at the tail end of the Viking Age. Their society developed to support more than one settlement and eventually saw the establishment of a Bishopric. But just 500 years after its founding the society ended mysteriously. It is a story with unexpected turns and multiple dimensions that are unpacked in a series of four Insight installments. Thomas McGovern reflects on what object lessons can be drawn from the case of the Norse Greenlanders and how an understanding of their successes and failures can help to inform the challenges we face in the 21st century with a dramatically changing climate.


Bifrost gratefully acknowledges the leadership of the sustainability education project Svartarkot Culture Nature and the research networks NIES and NABO for all their valuable support and work behind the scenes that helped make the interview excerpted in this video possible. Grateful acknowledgment is also made to the Kiðagil Guesthouse, where the interview was filmed.

Credit: Hartman, Steven, Peter Norrman, Anders Birgersson and Thomas McGovern. Lessons of the Norse Greenlanders (4) — how the past informs the present. Originally published in bifrostonline.org, 12 February 2017 (CC BY-SA 2.0)