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Durham University

Department of Archaeology


Publication details for Professor Mike Church

Dugmore, A J, Church, M J, Buckland, P C, Edwards, K J, Lawson, I T, McGovern, T H, Panagiotakopulu, E, Simpson, I A, Skidmore, P & Sveinbjarnardóttir, G (2005). The Norse landnám on the North Atlantic islands: an environmental impact assessment. Polar Record 41(1): 21-37.

Author(s) from Durham


The Norse colonisation or landnám of the North Atlantic islands of the Faroes, Iceland and Greenland, from the ninth century AD onwards, provides opportunities to examine human environmental impacts on ‘pristine’ landscapes of an environmental gradient from warmer more maritime conditions in the east to colder more continental conditions in the west. In this paper we consider key environmental contrasts across the Atlantic and initial settlement impacts on the biota and landscape. The modes of origin of the biota, which resulted in boreo-temperate affinities, a lack of endemic species, limited diversity and no grazing mammals on the Faroes or Iceland, are crucial in determining environmental sensitivity to human impact and in particular the impact of introduced domestic animals. Gathering new data, understanding their geographical patterns and changes through time is seen as crucial when tackling fundamental questions about human interactions with environment that are relevant to both understanding the past and planning for the future.