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1 October 2009 Parishes and Communities in Norse Greenland
Orri Vésteinsson
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The isolation of the two Norse Greenlandic settlements, from each other as well as from the rest of the world, is a well rehearsed topic. Ideas about communications within the two settlements are, on the other hand, not much developed. One way of looking at intra-settlement communication is through the parish system. The parishes arguably reflect the community structure, but they also provided the framework for much of the social interaction in the everyday lives of ordinary Greenlanders.

The parish system can be reconstructed by analysing the different types of churches and their spatial and chronological distribution in relation to the location of farm sites. Based on fleldwork in southern Greenland as well as comparisons with Icelandic data, a reconstruction of parishes in Eystribyggð is proposed. This analysis reveals significant differences between the structure of Greenlandic and Icelandic parishes, the former being more centralized but also much larger with correspondingly less pastoral care available to each household. These differences highlight the particular nature of Norse Greenlandic society and may help to explain why that society came to an end in the late middle ages.

Orri Vésteinsson "Parishes and Communities in Norse Greenland," Journal of the North Atlantic 2(sp2), 138-150, (1 October 2009).
Published: 1 October 2009
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