New geochemical research by the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada shows that Norse settlers in 9th century Greenland and Iceland faced enormous challenges. The study followed temperature changes through analysis of mollusk shells.
“We’re aware from written documents of the kinds of things that people faced in the North Atlantic over the last 1,000 years,” said William Patterson. “This is a way to quantify the experiences they had.”
The project does not, however, prove the demise of the colonies through famine mentioned in Icelandic sagas. The mollusk temperature record is “all tremendously interesting,” said Astrid Ogilvie, an Arctic historian at the University of Colorado at Boulder, “but there is a caveat — we can’t be 100 percent sure that climate was involved” in the famine.