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Large archaeofaunal collections recovered from Viking Age and Medieval sites in Iceland and Greenland during intensive collaborative fieldwork over the past decade have demonstrated a diverging pattern in sheep and goat (caprine) management after ca. 1200 CE in the two Norse communities. Since Landnám (first settlement), flocks in both places contained a mixture of sheep and goats and survivorship profiles suggest a very mixed milk-meat-wool production strategy. By the late 13th century Icelandic herds were nearly all sheep, and zooarchaeological evidence suggests an increasing focus on wool production. Greenlandic archaeofauna indicate that farmers maintained the old Viking Age pattern down to the abandonment of the settlement in the mid-15th century. The Icelandic pattern appears to relate to intensified wool production aimed at creating a marketable surplus, while Greenlandic archaeofauna seem to reflect a sustained subsistence focus. Does this divergence reflect differential participation in an early Pax Mongolica proto-world system, responses to early LIA climate change, or local subsistence requirements?


This work was originally published in "Long-Term Human Ecodynamics in the North Atlantic: An Archaeological Study," edited by R. Harrison & R. Maher (Lexington Publishers)


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