Arctic Field Projects

Project Title: Comparative Island Ecodynamics in the North Atlantic (Award# 1202692)

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 grant seeks to improve scientific understanding of the complex interactions of human governance, climate change, human environmental impact, and world system effects on the diverging fates of two closely related Scandinavian communities in Greenland and Iceland. While the Icelanders survived centuries of adverse climate, volcanic eruptions, large-scale soil erosion, epidemic disease, and harsh world-system economic impacts to develop a modern society now ranking high in international assessments of quality of life, their relatives in Norse Greenland suffered complete extinction by the mid-15th century CE. Why did one northern community achieve sustainability on the millennial scale, while its near neighbor underwent genuine social-environmental system (SES) collapse despite centuries of successful adaptation and what we now recognize as comparatively resilient economic management? How can the lessons of these thousand year cases of long term human ecodynamics and their radically different outcomes be more effectively understood and interpreted for the wider effort to mobilize the past to serve modern efforts to secure a genuinely sustainable future? What lessons of survival and extinction can be learned and taught for both local northern community heritage and for global education for sustainability? These questions are not only relevant to Norse in the 14th -15th centuries but have the potential to inform research that can provide insights into social decisions that are key to the long-term sustainability of human and environmental systems on earth. The project combines the data and expertise of history, human bioarchaeology, zooarchaeology, archaeobotany, geoarchaeology, artifact distribution, stable isotopic analysis, geochronology, environmental modeling, and K-12 and college education professionals. It brings together teams of scientists, educators, and local residents from across the region and create genuinely transdisciplinary and genuinely transformative approaches to shared problems of human survival and sustainable adaptation in the north.

Logistics Summary:
Researchers on this grant continue excavations begun in Southern Greenland (at the Gardar site) with the PI’s NSF IPY award 0732327 and RAPID grant 1119354 (2012 only). In addition to continuing work, the PI will establish new and current sites in Iceland during this grant's field seasons of 2013 and 2014. Field programs in Iceland and Greenland will be run through the Archaeological Institute Iceland (FSI) and the Danish National Museum with close cooperation from the Greenland National Museum and Archives (NKA). Excavations will follow North Atlantic Biocultural Organization (NABO) practice. The Archaeological Institute of Iceland (FSI) will support international fieldwork in a series of inter-related, long-term research areas in north and west Iceland, including: Svalbaro, Siglunes, Hofstaoir, Skutustaoir, Eyjafjord area and Gufuskalar. All field team members will arrive and depart commercially in Iceland. For fieldwork in Greenland in 2013, four U.S. field team members will spend about two weeks in Greenland, arriving and departing commercially via Air Iceland. They will meet the remaining field team collaborators in Narsarsuaq. Based from there, the team will conduct boat/pedestrian surveys near the Gardar site in Southern Greenland. In spring 2014, the U.S. researchers determined no U.S. participants will work in Greenland. Instead, an international research team will spend about 5 weeks working on the island. They will travel to Narsarsuaq commercially, and base there for the main excavations. In 2015 the PI changed from McGovern to Hambrecht and the grant changed to NSF #1449616. Logistic details are available under the new grant number.

In 2013, CPS will support the Greenland-based research with New York Air National Guard (ANG) coordination between New York and Kangerlussuaq, KISS user days, commercial air flights and air freight between Kangerlussuaq and Narsarsuaq, lodging en route in Nuuk, and camp gear and safety equipment for a remote field camp, commercial air tickets to/from Narsarsuaq, routed via Iceland, will replace ANG travel coordination, comm air flights between Kangerlussuaq and Narsarsuaq, and travel-related user days in Kangerlussuaq and Nuuk. In 2014, CPS will support the Greenland-based research with allocations and air freight between Kangerlussuaq and Narsarsuaq. In both years, all other support will be paid for by the PI from the grant.
SeasonField SiteDate InDate Out#People
2013Greenland - Narsarsuaq07 / 16 / 2013 07 / 30 / 20134
2013Iceland - Reykjavik07 / 01 / 2013 07 / 15 / 20133
2014Greenland - Qaqortoq07 / 11 / 2014 07 / 30 / 20143

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