Did Elephants doom the Norse in Greenland?





A new article is examining the theory that Greenland's medieval Norse settlements were ruined by the collapse of the trade in walrus tusks, after ivory from elephants became more easily accessible for artisans in Europe.

In her article, "Desirable teeth: the medieval trade in Arctic and African ivory," Kirsten Seaver criticizes that idea, and puts forward her own theory about why the Norse settlers mysteriously vanished from Greenland sometime during the 15th century.

In 1998, Danish archaeologist Else wrote an article which suggested that in the beginning of the fourteenth century, a surplus of reasonably priced elephant ivory from Africa caused ivory from walrus tusks to lose its market share, which were so catastrophic that it eventually led to the collapse of the entire Norse Greenland colony.


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