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The Last Vikings
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Late in the tenth century, the Norse Vikings embarked on a voyage of no return. Leaving Iceland first for Greenland, from there they sailed onwards to North America, setting foot on its shores five hundred years before Columbus' first journeys of discovery. But by about AD 1500 their settlements were abandoned and the Norse Greenlanders and their explorations of the New World receded into the realms of myth. What happened between these momentous events? How did the Vikings really live - and die - and why have so many myths and legends grown up around this mysterious people of the sea? Eirik the Red. The Davis Strait. The Vinland Map. The very names conjure up an atmosphere of ice and romance and there is much that it is evocative and romantic about the story of the Norse people - explorers who broke through existing frontiers in hostile and difficult conditions. Yet for this very reason the Viking story has often been distorted, even to the present day. Sweeping aside the myths and misinterpretations in this authoritative new history of the greatest Viking adventurers, Kirsten A. Seaver brilliantly demonstrates that the truth is every bit as compelling as fiction and offers a uniquely complete portrait of the Viking experience. Honest sailors or ruthless pirates? Market traders or epic poets? Questing explorers or committed home-makers? The Vikings led varied and complex lives, both at home and through their extensive trade networks abroad. Drawing on her deep knowledge of the culture and history of the region as well as the most up to date evidence from archaeology, medieval history and the evocative Sagas, Seaver weaves together a compelling and authoritative history. Alongside their spectacular achievements and discoveries, she also vividly evokes the last Vikings' daily lives and explains why their apparent departure in 1500 was not quite such a dramatic schism in the historical record as is often assumed. This vivid history of a people living at the fringes of the known world offers an illuminating entree into the world of the Norse Greenlanders which will captivate all who have ever wondered about the fate of the Vikings and will stand as the definitive work for years to come.
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Table of Contents

Introduction Chapter 1: No forwarding address Physical description of Greenland The push westwards Additional source material Modern voices of gloom and doom. Chapter 2: Eirik the Red knew where to go Medieval geographical knowledge Eirik the Red goes west Norse navigation A daring real estate venture Dividing up a new land Eirik the Red settles in Establishing homes in the wilderness Brattahlid then and now. Chapter 3: Forging a new homeland A new society takes shape Putting food on the table The role of domestic animals Adapting to Greenland Cows versus sheep and goats Cultural distinctiveness Fuel Slaves and hired hands Social structure Voyages to the High Arctic Missing resources. Chapter 4: Leif Eiriksson explores another new land No game of chance The men in charge Reaching the other side Life at L'Anse aux Meadows Discovering Vinland grapes Follow-up voyages Encountering Vinland natives The aftermath. Chapter 5: The fictional Norse in North America Prince Madoc of Wales Earl Henry Sinclair of Orkney The Westford stone The Newport Tower The Kensington Rune Stone The Spirit Pond stones The Vinland Map Norumbega. Chapter 6: Who were the Skralings? The spherical world picture Monstrous races of the Far North The West had finally met the East Norse interaction with Arctic natives. Chapter 7: Relations with Church and Crown Geographical independence Christianity reaches the Northwest Atlantic Imported from The British Isles Organized Christianity Greenland becomes a diocese Greenland priests Royal pressure from Norway The sea was still the highway Small royal impact on Greenland Tithes and taxes increase Ivar Bardarson's mission No more resident Gardar bishops Did the Greenlanders lose their Christian faith? Chapter 8: Foreign trade Marketable Greenland commodities Walrus ivory kept its value Early markets and trade routes Consolidation of the European markets The Hanseatic League Norse Greenland and Norwegian trade legislation The art of 'drifting off.' Chapter 9: Contact with Iceland Disease: an unwelcome travel companion Norwegian politics in Iceland End of the Icelandic commonwealth Iceland under the new rule Bjorn Einarsson 'Jerusalem-Farer' and his circle Sigrid Bjornsdaughter The Black Death Thorstein Olafsson plans his future Leaving Greenland in 1410 From Norway to Iceland Another transfer of royal power. Chapter 10: The English in the North Atlantic English focus on Iceland King Eirik comes to power Thorstein Olafsson's circle and the English Moving westwards Where was Thorstein in 1419- 1420? Tantalizing archaeological evidence In Iceland meanwhile - - A further sea change Sharpened conflict with the English The English tighten their grip Passing the generational torch The English encounter a headwind. Chapter 11: Where did the Norse Greenlanders go? Papal laments Other end game scenarios Changes in animal husbandry Choices Greenland and the North Atlantic economy John Cabot's successors The early cartographic record Claudius Clavus Larsen's fantasy Portuguese experience and the 1502 'Cantino' map English experience and the 1507/08 Ruysch map Joao Fernandes, llavrador Joao's Bristol contacts Tracing Joao Fernandes and Richard Warde. Chapter 12: Who went looking for them? Erik Valkendorf's Greenland plans Erik Valkendorf and Ivar Bardarson Ivar's wider sphere of influence The 'new' Greenland emerges Misplaced, but not forgotten Early post-Valkendorf attempts to reach the Norse Concerted efforts by Christian IV Claus Christoffersen Lyschander (1558- 1624) Changing priorities Hans Egede (1686-1758) Last efforts Confronting a harsh world. Reference notes Works cited Maps Other illustrations Texts to illustrations

About the Author

Kirsten A. Seaver is an independent historian who has taught at the University of Stanford. She has also worked as a novelist and a translator and her work has been published extensively in both English and Norwegian. A Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, London, her previous publications include 'Maps, Myths, and Men: The Story of the Vinland Map' and 'The Frozen Echo'.

Reviews

'A fascinating investigation into one of the most elusive mysteries of the far North. Kirsten Seaver brings to life a wonderful cast of Saga heroes, the Norse at their most outlandish and compelling.' Joanna Kavenna, author of The Ice Museum 'The Last Vikings is an impressive work by a highly experienced writer. The primary and secondary sources are handled with clarity and confidence and interpretations are given and opinions expressed about numerous controversial matters. The writing is efficient, sharp and with touches of striking phraseology and the pace is always maintained; this author knows exactly what she wants to communicate. And despite the remoteness of Greenland from most people's consciousness, there is an important element of topicality, given the strategic role of the ice-cap in modern climatological studies. In that sense, everyone ought to be better informed about the story of medieval Greenland and in particular the causes of the colony's decline.' Howard Clarke, Professor Emeritus of Medieval History, University College Dublin 'Kirsten Seaver has scoured all the important archives in her hunt for coherence over the five hundred years of Norse Greenland society. She presents a 'moveable' Norse society, in contrast to the earlier idea of a rather static society, and provides an especially fascinating and clear overview of the cartography of the North Atlantic area. The Last Vikings is compact but filled with up to date insights, both archaeological and historical. She goes right to the core of the subject and her theories are always backed up by thorough analysis and presented in a clear and understandable way. The Last Vikings is an exciting and accessible book, infused with the author's joy of explaining this intriguing but not yet fully explained world.' Joel Berglund, former Vice Director of the Greenland National Museum & Archives

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