Scandinavian historical sources describe several waves of emigration from Norway to Iceland in the 7th and 8th centuries, extending to Greenland in 982 under the leadership of Erik the Red. There are two main areas of Norse settlement in the west (Vesterbygden) and in the south (Østerbygden). The Norse lived here for around 450 years, leaving behind a number of cultural monuments that are still visible in the landscape today.
Norse dwellings were longhouses with a large, elongated hearth in the middle for heating and cooking. All indoor life took place here. This is where people slept, cooked, ate, cured skins, sewed and made many different kinds of tools. Other buildings were built separately to the longhouse, which had been used throughout Scandinavia throughout most of the Viking Age.
During the Norse period, stables were key buildings since animal products provided variety in the marine diet. People treated their livestock well, something reflected in the care they took in building stables. The stables were often well insulated by thick peat walls with a space allocated to each animal, often indicated by either a stall stone or tethering post.
Norse church buildings varied hugely. The main differences can be attributed to the social status of the settlers, but there were also developments over time with small wooden churches with peat walls being replaced by large stone built churches. The image here shows a reconstruction of a small church found near Qassiarsuk, a church that might have been built at the time of Erik the Red and has therefore been called the Church of Thjohilde after his wife. Larger church buildings were built in places like Igaliku, Qassiarsuk and Qaqortukulooq.
The centralised Farmstead
The centralised farmstead was most common in the western settlement, where this drawing also comes from (farm V53C in the Austmanna Valley). The many different rooms are individual dwellings built closely together to insulate each other and share warmth. This also meant that the Norse settlers could move between the different buildings without having to go outside.
The Norse had to kinds of storage buildings. The first was the farm's storeroom for keeping provisions in various stages of processing during winter. The other was a warehouse for storing goods to be shipped to Iceland and Europe. Both were drystone constructions, so the walls are still standing in some places. The drystone construction secured good ventilation, which meant that provisions lasted longer. The main difference between the two types of storage buildings is that the former is built inland, whereas the latter is found close to the coast.