Western Settlement

Map of the Western Settlement of the Norse in medieval Greenland, in the modern municipality of Sermersooq. The known farms (red dots) and churches are identified, as well as some probable geographical names. "The farm under the sand" is more commonly known as "GUS" from its Danish name "Gården under sandet".

The Western Settlement (Old Norse: Vestribygð) was a group of farms and communities established by Norsemen from Iceland around 985 in medieval Greenland. Despite its name, the Western Settlement was more north than west of its companion Eastern Settlement and was located at the head of the long Nuup Kangerlua fjord (inland from Nuuk, the present Greenlandic capital).[1]

Much less is known about the Western Settlement than the Eastern Settlement, as there is very little mention and no direct description of it in any of the medieval sources on Greenland. At its peak, the Western Settlement probably had about 1,000 inhabitants, about a quarter of the size of the Eastern Settlement, owing to its shorter growing season. The largest of the Western Settlement farms was Sandnæs. Ruins of almost 95 farms have been found in the area.[2]

The Western Settlement was last mentioned by Ivar Bardarson (Ivar Bårdsson), a Norwegian cleric who was sent to Greenland in 1341 to serve as superintendent of the bishop's seat at Gardar in the Eastern Settlement. After the death of Bishop Árni in 1347 or 1348, Greenland was without a Bishop until Bishop Álfur was ordained in 1365 and arrived in 1368. Ivar Bardsson served as principal of the diocese during the interim period. In his voyage to the Western Settlement, he found only vacant farms. He subsequently wrote to the Bishop of Bergen to describe conditions he observed. By 1360 he had returned to Bergen to serve as a Canon of Bergen Cathedral.[3][4]

The demise of the Western Settlement coincides with a decrease in summer and winter temperatures commonly known as the Little Ice Age. A study of North Atlantic seasonal temperature variability showed a significant decrease in maximum summer temperatures beginning in the late 13th century to early 14th century—as much as 6-8 °C lower than modern summer temperatures.[5] The study also found that the lowest winter temperatures of the last 2000 years occurred in the late 14th century and early 15th century.

See also[]


  1. ^ Carol S. Francis (2011). "The Lost Western Settlement Of Greenland, 1342" (PDF). University of California. Retrieved October 17, 2015.
  2. ^ "Greenland History".
  3. ^ Magnus Stefansson. "Ivar Bårdsson, Geistlig". Norsk biografisk leksikon. Retrieved October 17, 2015.
  4. ^ "Ivar Bårdsson". Store norske leksikon. February 15, 2009. Retrieved October 17, 2015.
  5. ^ William P. Patterson, Kristin A. Dietrich, Chris Holmden, and John T. Andrews (2010) Two millennia of North Atlantic seasonality and implications for Norse colonies

Other sources[]

Coordinates: 64°26′N 50°26′W / 64.433°N 50.433°W / 64.433; -50.433