Lost Viking Settlements: 1. Introduction

In search of ruins, and why they crumbled.
Bodie ghost town, U.S.A. (Source: Flickr/Holly Lay).

Lost settlement. Ghost town.

The first image that comes to my mind is a wooden saloon. Its painted name barely visible, its sign creaking in the wind. Tumbleweed rolling erratically across a dirt road. And all around is a warm, eerie silence.

Okay, scrap that visual. Forget the American Wild West.

Church ruins at Hvalsey, Greenland (Source: Grida.no/Peter Prokosch).

Imagine a bay covered in grey skies and brown mountains. Stone ruins sit on a green slope near the shore. A fog drifts in from the sea, and the air takes on a cold silence.

Then there’s a shout. Voices in the distance.

You walk from the beach up to the ruins. As you turn the corner of the first building, you see a large trench in the ground and people walking around with shovels and brushes in their hands. You are at the excavation of a lost Viking settlement.

Or, so I imagine… (joining an archaeological dig is still on my bucket list!).

But did you know the Vikings had a Western Frontier, too?

(Source: Pixabay/James DeMers).

Lost Viking farmsteads and ruins of settlements were found in Canada and Greenland, but also elsewhere from the Atlantic and Europe to the East.

Why were they lost?

What made the people abandon their homes? Did they leave, were they evicted, or did something else happen? Did the weather turn for the worst due to changing climate conditions? Or perhaps economies failed, disease struck, or violent overlords struck?[1]

Whatever the reason, villages, farmsteads and winter camps disappeared under layers of earth or in the depths of lakes, rivers or seas.

Dublin (Source: Pixabay/StockSnap).

Sometimes, settlements continued to thrive. Names of villages still hint to a Viking origin, such as Thwaite or Whitby.[2] And several cities founded in the Viking Age still exist today such as Dublin, Ireland.

But in this new series, it’s all about the lost Viking settlements. The ones found, as well as the ones never found, mentioned only in mediaeval texts.

References


  1. Christopher Dyer, ‘Where history happened: the villages that disappeared.’ HistoryExtra. Last Accessed 11 May 2018. https://www.historyextra.com/period/medieval/in-case-you-missed-it-the-villages-that-disappeared/.
    Maiya Pina-Dacier, ‘7 Abandoned Medieval Villages Seen From The Air (And One From Under The Sea).’ DigVentures. First posted 27 April 2017. Last Accessed 16 May 2018. https://digventures.com/2017/04/7-abandoned-medieval-villages-seen-from-the-air-and-one-from-under-the-sea/ ↩
  2. Jorvik Viking Centre, ‘Viking Place Names.’ Last Accessed 16 May 2018. https://www.jorvikvikingcentre.co.uk/the-vikings/viking-place-names/ ↩

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