Arctic Field Projects

Project Title: RAPID Gardar Collaborative Rescue Project (Award# 1119354)

PI: McGovern, Thomas H (
Phone: (212) 772.5654 
Institute/Department: City University of New York, Hunter College, Department of Anthropology 
IPY Project?
Funding Agency: US\Federal\NSF\GEO\OPP\ARC\ASSP
Program Manager: Dr. Anna Kerttula (
Discipline(s): | Social and Human Sciences |

Project Web Site(s):

Science Summary:
This RAPID grant will support an intensive international multi-disciplinary effort to salvage critical organic remains from rapidly degrading cultural deposits at the unique site of Gardar E47 at modern Igaliku in the former Norse Eastern Settlement in Greenland. This site is unique in that it represents a church and manor farm from the 11th century, was the administrative and religious center for the first settlement of the Norse in Greenland, and remained thus until the extinction of the Norse ca 1450. As such, the Gardar site has the potential to provide unique insights into the changing structure and organization of Norse Greenland and its society response to climate change and culture contact at this time period. The site at Gardar is very rich in archaeofauna, which is the source of concern and the reason for this RAPID grant. When Gardar was assessed as part of an IPY project on how climate change was affecting cultural resources in the Arctic, it was highlighted as a highly endangered site. As recently as 1981 the site was shown to have great preservation of organic materials; unfortunately, the previously favorable conditions are rapidly changing due to changing climate conditions in the Arctic. The decrease in frozen ground is creating an unidentifiable "bone mush" out of much of the previously well preserved organic materials at the site. In addition to the changing environmental conditions, the local farmers have been cutting deep drainage ditches into the meadows surrounding the site in order to drain off the now standing water. These ditches have further destabilized the site exposing it to further melting and destruction of organic data. The site has been nominated by the Government of Greenland as a UN World Heritage Site because of its unique contribution to the cultural history of modern Greenland, making the threatened data and the scientific analyses and insights that could be gained all the more important. The field team has three objectives for the 2012 season: to 1) carry out an intensive season of rescue excavation and site documentation of the most endangered deposits; 2) ensure effective post-excavation curation and analysis of the rescued materials; and 3) leave the Nunatta Katersugaasivia Allagaaterqarfial/The Greenland National Museum & Archives (NKA) with an accurate digital site map and geophysical prospection results they will need to effectively manage this nominated World heritage site for the benefit o f the Greenlandic community.

Logistics Summary:
This RAPID grant will continue international, multi-disciplinary archeological excavations at the Gardar site in Southern Greenland begun under NSF IPY award #0732327. This site was the location of the bishops’ manor farm and is key to understanding the changing structure and organization of Norse Greenland and its societal response to climate change and culture contact. Due to warming in the arctic and exposure from recent drainage ditches, an international field team of 12 will travel to Narsarsuaq to conduct emergency rescue excavations during the summer of 2012. Four field team members will arrive via the Air National Guard (ANG) through Kangerlussuaq, the remaining field team will arrive commercially. The team will work closely with the Greenland National Museum & Archives (NKA) and excavations will follow North Atlantic Biocultural Organization (NABO) practice. At the end of the summer, US field team members will depart via the ANG and the remaining participants will depart commercially. Their efforts will provide a firm basis for further site management and heritage protection efforts by the NKA. Work continues on this project under NSF grant1202692.

CPS support includes ANG coordination for US participants and cargo/samples, KISS user days, commercial airfare and freight within Greenland, and camp support gear from CPS inventory, additional budget was included to augment tent requests. All other support will be paid for by the PI from the grant.
SeasonField SiteDate InDate Out#People
2012Greenland - Ilulissat07 / 12 / 2012 07 / 16 / 20121
2012Greenland - Kangerlussuaq07 / 11 / 2012 08 / 22 / 20124
2012Greenland - Narsarsuaq07 / 23 / 2012 08 / 20 / 20124
2012Greenland - Nuuk07 / 20 / 2012 07 / 23 / 20124

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