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1 October 2012 An Isotopic Analysis of the Diet of the Greenland Norse
D. Erle Nelson, Jan Heinemeier, Niels Lynnerup, Árný E. Sveinbjörnsdóttir, Jette Arneborg
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Our understanding of the Norse dietary adaptations to their Greenlandic home comes primarily from sparse historical records, from what is known of the Norse dietary economy in other North Atlantic lands, and from zooarchaeological examinations of the animal bones found in the various excavations of Norse Greenlandic sites which have taken place over the past century. To obtain more detailed information on the diets of the Norse settlers in Greenland, measures of the stable carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) values of human bone collagen have been made for 80 individuals from an existing collection of Norse skeletal material. The material is from five churchyards in the Norse Eastern Settlement and two churchyards in the Western Settlement. These data are interpreted with the aid of similar data obtained for the wild fauna of Greenland, for the Norse domestic animals and for a number of Thule Culture individuals of about the same time period. It is clear that application of the isotopic dietary method to Greenland is complex, but even so, it can provide very useful information. It is also clear that the isotopic method provides reliable information on Greenlandic diet even at the level of the individual. For the two Norse settlements taken as a whole, the basic dietary economy was based about as much on hunting as it was on their domestic animals. We see no evidence for real differences between the diets of men and women or between individuals of different ages. The large individual differences are then likely connected to status or circumstance, but not to sex or age.

D. Erle Nelson, Jan Heinemeier, Niels Lynnerup, Árný E. Sveinbjörnsdóttir, and Jette Arneborg "An Isotopic Analysis of the Diet of the Greenland Norse," Journal of the North Atlantic 2012(sp3), 93-118, (1 October 2012).
Published: 1 October 2012
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