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Vatnahverfi was an inland district of the medieval Norse East Settlement situated in an area between Igaliku Fjord to the north and Agdluitsoq Fjord to the south. The countryside there is beautiful, with many lakes and rivers, and most of the area has rich vegetation with much grass, birch and willow scrub. Vatnahverfi was – and still is – an attractive settlement area for sheep farming, and to some extent for agriculture too. In medieval times there was quite a dense population of Norsemen, who settled practically anywhere they could make a living as farmers, with horses, cattle, sheep, goats and pigs. The Norsemen also lived by land and sea hunting and fishing, as demonstrated by the archaeological excavations.
Vatnahverfi has been known to scholars for more than two hundred years, and at the end of the nineteenth century G. Holm and D. Bruun carried out topographical-archaeological investigations in the area. But it was not until 1939 that the first extensive excavations took place (Vebæk 1943). The work at Vatnahverfi was interrupted by the War, but in 1948 the so-called "Mounted Expedition"to Vatnahverfi carried out comprehensive topographical studies in the area. Thanks to some local sheep farmers in particular, a number of previously unknown Norse farms had been registered, and we selected some which looked promising for excavations. These excavations were then carried out in 1949-50, at the localities Ø 70 – a smallish, remote farm in the mountainous part of Vatnahverfi; Ø 71 (Russip Kuua), comprising two separate farms at the eastern end of one of the very large, long lakes in the northern part of Vatnahverfi; and finally Ø 167, the biggest farm known in Vatnahverfi so far, situated at a small lake in central Vatnahverfi. The archaeological results must be said to have been good. We made some very important observations as regards the layout of farms and construction of buildings, and found many objects – some of them never encountered before. We also found a large number of animal bones (including skeletal parts of 110 mice trapped in a large wooden barrel). The most remarkable find of all was parts of the skeleton of a Norseman found in the passage of the largest building at Ø 167. We must assume that this was the last inhabitant, not only of the farm, but of the whole area, since he had not been buried.
With this publication, I and my collegues and fellow scholars – the runologist Marie Stoklund, the anthropologists N. Lynnerup, V. Alexandersen and J. P. Hart Hansen, and the zoologist T. H. McGovern – hope to make a contribution to the study of the medieval Norsemen in Greenland.
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