Arctic Field Projects

Project Title: Comparative Island Ecodynamics in the North Atlantic (Award# 1449616)

PI: Hambrecht, George N (
Phone: (646) 641.9053 
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. Roberto Delgado (
Discipline(s): | Social and Human Sciences |

Project Web Site(s):

Science Summary:
This project 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 archaeological excavations by international researchers begun in Southern Greenland under NSF grant 1202692 (McGovern). The work 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, one in Greenland (which suffered extinction in the mid-15th century) and one in Iceland (which did not). The Archaeological Institute of Iceland (FSI) and the Danish National Museum will manage field programs in Iceland and Greenland with close cooperation from the Greenland National Museum and Archives (NKA). In the summers of 2015 and 2016, excavations will follow North Atlantic Biocultural Organization (NABO) practices. International fieldwork in Iceland will occur as a series of efforts in inter-related, long-term research areas in north and west Iceland, including: Svalbaro, Siglunes, Hofstaoir, Skutustaoir, Eyjafjord area and Gufuskalar. For the 2016 field work in Greenland, 10 researchers will visit Narsarsuaq, traveling via a combination of commercial air and Air National Guard (ANG). They will establish a tent camp near excavation sites and remain for field work (on a staggered schedule) through August.

CPS support is for travel in Greenland only. In 2015, CPS will provide camping and communications equipment, and the cost of shipping between Kanger and Narsarsuaq. In 2016, CPS will provide ANG coordination for U.S. participants and cargo/samples, KISS user days, commercial airfare and freight in Greenland, and camp support gear from CPS inventory. All other logistics will be organized by the researcher and paid through the grant.
SeasonField SiteDate InDate Out#People
2015Greenland - Kangerlussuaq06 / 25 / 2015 08 / 22 / 201510
2015Greenland - Narsarsuaq06 / 27 / 2015 08 / 20 / 201510
2015Iceland - Reykjavik07 / 11 / 2015 07 / 30 / 20153
2016Greenland - Kangerlussuaq06 / 26 / 2016 08 / 19 / 20161
2016Greenland - Narsarsuaq06 / 21 / 2016 08 / 30 / 20168
2016Iceland - Reykjavik07 / 11 / 2016 07 / 30 / 20163

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