W&M geologist studies Iron Age Vikings for lessons on adapting to climate change

Popular culture has it that Vikings in their heyday loved to go Viking take to their longships to rove, settle or pillage from North America to Asia.

But a driving force behind those Norse voyagers wasnt just the lust for treasure or power or exploration. In some cases, it may have been climate change.

An international research team is looking into the environmental challenges and, specifically, a change in sea level that appear to have pushed some Vikings living in the Lofoten Islands along the northern coast of Norway to abandon their boathouses and relocate to another part of the coast.

Theres a lot of research looking at Viking civilization and, in particular, their expansion and impacts on other parts of the world, said paleoclimatologist Nick Balascio of the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg. But our research is really looking at the paeloenvironmental aspects of this or how environmental changes may have influenced their society and, in particular, during this important period of development.

The period is known as the Viking Age, roughly 800 A.D. to 1050 A.D., which overlaps the tail end of the Iron Age.

Balascio is part of a team of archaeologists, climate scientists and students studying what remains of some of those coastal settlements by extracting core samples from the bottoms of glacial lakes. Their work is an extension of his previous research to understand past natural climate fluctuations.

William D'Andrea/ HANDOUT

Members of the team carry a bo....

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