Ancient DNA reveals the extent of Norse Greenland’s trade in walrus ivory
Analysis of DNA from up to 1100 year old walrus remains confirmes that walrus ivory was a driver for both the success and decline of the old Norse colony of Greenland.
The Norse colonies on Greenland exported objects like this, a walrus rostrum with tusks, to Europe for centuries. This particular rostrum can be dated to 1200-1400 CE, based on a runic inscription in Old Norse. Photo: Courtesy of Le musée Vert, Le Mans. (Source: titan.uio.no.)
Norwegian and British researchers have analysed DNA from up to 1100 year old walrus remains and confirmed that walrus ivory was a driver for both the success and decline of the old Norse colony of Greenland. They also revealed the shifting patterns of walrus ivory trade in medieval Europe and found traces of a major evolutionary split in the Atlantic walrus population.
Research publication: "Ancient DNA reveals the chronology of walrus ivory trade from Norse Greenland" by Bastiaan Star*, James H. Barrett§, Agata T. Gondek*, and Sanne Boessenkool* in Proceedings of the Royal Society (August 8th, 2018).
* Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES), Department of Biosciences, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway.
§ McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3ER, UK.