Greenland Wasn’t Just Clever Marketing

Vikings grew barley in Greenland a thousand years ago and it still isn't warm enough for barley to grow there now.

Vikings grew barley in Greenland, when they lived there between 950 and 1350.

The Arctic Circle map of Greenland. Most of Greenland is covered in glaciers. It snows a lot in Greenland.

Source of map

It was warm enough to grow barley and farm cows when the Vikings lived there between 950 and 1350. Then it got too cold. They moved away or died out. Greenland became very cold during the Little Ice Age. Glaciers advanced in Greenland and many places in the world.

The Little Ice Age was a colder time sandwiched between the warmer Medieval Warm Period and the Modern Warm Period. This Medieval Warm Period is when the Vikings lived and farmed Greenland.

And the Modern Warm Period started in the 1750s to the 1850s depending on the source one uses.

No one has explained why the Little Ice Age began or ended. Some think it was a big volcano that kicked it off. Others theorize that it could be the output of the sun or the changing orbit of the earth or… It is something we just don’t know yet and may never know. We do know that Greenland and Iceland had very rough times during the Little Ice Age because they were surrounded by far more ice than before or after.

“Excavating a rubbish heap at a Viking farm in Greenland. Peter Steen Henriksen is in the excavation hole, while archaeologist Caroline Polke Paulsen works outside. One of the sample bags contains the barley remains that the researchers found. (Photo: Inge Kjær Kristensen).”

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These researchers found barley at the bottom of Viking garbage dumps. They believe that it had to be grown in Greenland because if it had been transported by ship, it would have been turned into flour rather than brought as whole grains.

It isn’t warm enough to grow barley in Greenland now.

Scientists think that as Greenland warms it may be able to support forests like the kind that grow in Alaska now.

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