Greenland Norse/Inuit Collapse

By: Alex Lambrinos and Brittany Barber


The cause of Greenland's Norse/Inuits' collapse may have been caused by climate change, lack of resources and clash with the local Inuit

Climate Change

One possible reason that may have caused the collapse of Greenland Norse/Inuit was the dramatic climate change to extreme cold weather. What was called a “cold snap” and a rise of sea ice led researchers to believe the cold temperature and ice that formed was a reason of disappearance. Nothing is said to be 100% true however the idea that when the Ice Age hit, it may have driven the Vikings out of Greenland. Greenland consisted of mainly Vikings so when they left, the civilization became “dead.” This was a serious problem because Greenland relied on the interaction between the Norse and Inuit, for resources and such and without people living in Greenland to do this trading and communication, Greenland fed off of nothing. Researchers came up with this reason that the collapse of Greenland and Norse based on ice cores taken from lakes, said by the National Academy of Sciences. On the other hand, during the Ice Age when Norse starved to death, the Inuit thrived. Though Greenland had sort of a gradual collapse, Inuit held strong for some time after. This was also said to be because the Inuit were much more well prepared for when the ice age hit.


One of the major reasons that the Norse’s society collapsed was because of their massive deforestation problem. When they first arrived in Greenland, they stripped away their area of trees and plants leaving them empty handed for wood fire and fields for crops. During the winter they were brutally unprepared and struggled to stay warm. They also struggled with finding foods, they had a limited diet of dairy cattle, local cod and herring. They refused to eat fish from the rivers because they believed that it was “Inuit food”. This left them with minimal options which caused the food to become scarce and hunted. In addition to this, a short time after there was the “Medieval Little Ice Age”, during this period, the Norse starved to death while the Inuit survived simply because they were more connected and resourceful with their surroundings.

Clash with the Local Inuit

Another major reason that the Norse failed as a colony was because of clash with the local Inuit. Despite the trading between the two, there were numerous instances of hostile contact between the inuit and the Norse and during these times there were many Norse killed and even a few brought into slavery. They would trade meat and fur but had little to no interest in the other Inuit possessions that allowed them to survive and thrive in the brutal conditions.Also, during recent research and findings, scientists have seen many Inuit possessions in Norse territory and Norse possessions in Inuit territory. This shows that they were clearly integrated on some level although this, but there were some instances in which they would come into clash and hurt each other. Overall, the clash and integration between the two of these tribes definitely helped contribute to the downfall of the Norse because of raids, wars, and false reliability on each other.
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Map of Greenland

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The "Ice Age" that hit Greenland and Norse

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One of Greenland's most common animals


Bryner, Jeanna. "Vanished Vikings: Climate Change May Have Killed Greenland Group." LiveScience. TechMedia Network, 20 June 2011. Web. 02 Mar. 2014. <>.

Slack, Alexandra. "Why Did Norse Greenland Fail as a Colony?" York University, n.d. Web. 3 Mar. 2014. <>.

Diamond, Jared M. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. New York: Viking, 2005. Print.

"The Fate of Greenland's Vikings - Archaeology Magazine Archive." The Fate of Greenland's Vikings - Archaeology Magazine Archive. Dale Mackenzie Brown, n.d. Web. 28 Feb. 2014. <>.

Marsh, Kevin. "Inuit." World History: Ancient and Medieval Eras. ABC-CLIO, 2014. Web. 4 Mar. 2014. Http://

Mahlberg, Nora. "Why Did the Greenland Norse Die Out, While the Inuit Thrived?" Carlton University, 8 Nov. 2005. Web. 3 Mar. 2014. <>

Diamond, Jared M. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. New York: Viking, 2005. Print.