• Investigating the Norse Harbour of Igaliku (Southern Greenland) Using an Integrated System of Side-Scan Sonar and High-Resolution Reflection Seismics

    Natascha Mehler (see profile)
    Archaeology, Historical Archaeology, History
    Archaeology, Archaeology and history
    Item Type:
    Historical archaeology
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    This study presents the results of a marine geophysical survey performed in the Igaliku fjord in southern Greenland in order to understand the harbour setting of the former Norse settlement Garðar (modern Igaliku). The aims of the survey were (a) to reconstruct the former coastline during the first centuries of the Norse settlement period (c. 11/12th centuries) and (b) to search for archaeological remains on the seabed connected to maritime traffic and trade. In order to approach these goals, we used an integrated marine survey system consisting of a side-scan sonar and a reflection seismic system. The system was designed for lightweight transport, allowing measurements in areas that are logistically difficult to access. The side-scan sonar data revealed no remains of clear archaeological origin. Bathymetric data from seismic seabed reflection and additional Differential GPS height measurements yielded a high-resolution bathymetric map. Based on estimates of Holocene relative sea level change, our bathymetry model was used to reconstruct the shift of the high and low-water line since the early Norse period. The reconstructed coastline shows that a small island, which hosts the ruins of a tentative Norse warehouse at the mouth of the present harbour, was connected to the shore at low tide during the early Norse period. In addition, reflection seismics and side-scan sonar images reveal a sheltered inlet with steep slopes on one side of the island, which may have functioned as a landing bridge used to load ships. We also show that the loss of fertile land due to sea level rise until the end of the Norse settlement was insignificant compared to the available fertile land in the Igaliku fjord and is thus not the reason for the collapse of the colony.
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    4 years ago
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