Was it for walrus? Viking Age settlement and medieval walrus ivory trade in Iceland and Greenland

Karin M. Frei, Ashley N. Coutu, Konrad Smiarowski, Ramona Harrison, Christian K. Madsen, Jette Arneborg, Robert Frei, Gardar Guðmundsson, Søren M. Sindbæk, James Woollett, Steven Hartman, Megan Hicks, Thomas H. McGovern

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Walrus-tusk ivory and walrus-hide rope were highly desired goods in Viking Age north-west Europe. New finds of walrus bone and ivory in early Viking Age contexts in Iceland are concentrated in the south-west, and suggest extensive exploitation of nearby walrus for meat, hide and ivory during the first century of settlement. In Greenland, archaeofauna suggest a very different specialized long-distance hunting of the much larger walrus populations in the Disko Bay area that brought mainly ivory to the settlement areas and eventually to European markets. New lead isotopic analysis of archaeological walrus ivory and bone from Greenland and Iceland offers a tool for identifying possible source regions of walrus ivory during the early Middle Ages. This opens possibilities for assessing the development and relative importance of hunting grounds from the point of view of exported products.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-28
Number of pages28
JournalWorld Archaeology
Volume47
Issue number3
Early online date20 Apr 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Keywords

  • archaeology

Cite this