Photo: Outdoorlife Norway
Fjord Tours Articles / 7 Aug 2020

How the Medieval Warm Period Changed Norway Forever

Did you know the oldest human skeleton found in Norway was carbon-dated to 6,600 BC? The history of Norway has been influenced to an extraordinary degree by the terrain and the climate of the region.

Following the retreat of the great inland ice sheets, early inhabitants migrated north into a territory that we today know as Norway. Early settlers traveled steadily northwards along with the coastal areas, warmed by the Gulf Stream, where life was more bearable. In order to survive, they fished and hunted. Between 5,000 BC and 4,000 BC, the earliest agricultural settlements appeared around the Oslofjord with tools and techniques from farther south as people in the north began to travel on basic wooden skis and use slate tools.

As farming gradually spread, fertile areas around the Oslofjord, Trondheimsfjord, Lake Mjøsa (near Lillehammer), and Jæren (near Stavanger) began to create wealth for these emerging farming communities.

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Photo: © B-Nature AS

The Medieval Warm Period (MWP) was a time of warm climate from about 900–1300 AD when global temperatures were somewhat warmer than at present. The effects of the warm period were particularly evident in Europe, where grain crops flourished, alpine tree lines rose, many new cities arose, and the population more than doubled.

The Vikings took advantage of the climatic shift to colonize southern Greenland in 985 AD when the milder climates allowed favorable open-ocean sailing conditions for navigation and fishing.

The population of Norway increased from 150,000 in 1000 to 400,000 in 1300 with more and more land being cleared for agriculture. While in the Viking Age all farmers owned their own land, by 1300 seventy percent of the land was owned by the king, the church, or the aristocracy. This was a gradual process that took place because farmers would borrow money in poor times and be unable to repay their debts. In the 13th century, about twenty percent of a farmer's yield went to the king, church, and landowners.

Read More about The Vikings

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The Fascinating and Violent History of the Vikings

Let’s be honest, most people have quite an unsavoury impression when it comes to the Vikings and most educational resources tend to portray the Scandinavians as fearsome, ruthless, and dangerous.

Facts / 7 Oct 2019
How Vikings Created Modern Democracy

When most people think about democracy, they tend to go straight to ancient Greece. However, what many people are not aware of is the fact that fans of modern democracy can actually thank Vikings for its creation.

Articles / 8 Nov 2019
What is the Viking Honor System?

When most people think about the Vikings that once wandered the Norwegian fjords, they tend to picture chaotic and violent warriors that lived by no one's rules. However, the reality is that they had a complex honor system that they lived by.

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Photo: Outdoorlife Norway

This time around, as we see the climate shifting once more. Researchers expect the changes to be larger and affect us more strongly in the future. Climate change will have major consequences for global resources and agriculture.

The Norwegian Climate Service Center forecasts a temperature increase, fewer days of snow, more rain, and a 60 percent increase in flood size at the end of this century if greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced.

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Photo: Go2Lofoten AS

Throughout history, fishing has been a major industry in Norway. Norway’s geographical characteristics, the long coastline together with climatic factors have made the country extremely well suited for this industry. Thus, Norway is a major European fishery nation and has been for centuries.

Since medieval times, Norwegian cod has been a staple part of the weekly diet in many Catholic European countries. Cod, fished in the northern areas, dried and/or salted in south Norway, was exported in large quantities to central and even more to southern Europe. In later years, some African countries have found dried cod from Norway to be cheap and healthy food.

Norwegian fishery was initially a very coastal affair with small vessels and activity based on the seasonal migration of fish. As the demand grew sharply in the 1900s, in 1970, Norway introduced aquaculture of salmon which has grown to be an important supplement to traditional fisheries, and also a major export commodity.

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Norway was once at risk of losing much of its forests. After centuries of logging for timber and firewood, the country had consumed much of this previously vast natural resource.

All that has changed. Today, Norway has triple the amount of standing wood in forests than it had 100 years ago. The annual harvest of wood only takes about half the amount that grows each year, so overall the forests are growing. This forest growth is enough to offset roughly 60% of the country's annual greenhouse gas emissions.

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Photo: Viking Biking