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The Case of the Greenlandic Assembly Sites

Alexandra Sanmark

In the early 20th century, scholars identified two possible Greenlandic assembly sites at Brattahalíð and Garðar respectively. Later scholars, with one exception, have neither refuted nor corroborated this, and research on this topic has therefore not significantly moved forward in the last 100 years. In this article, the two proposed assembly sites are examined in the light of recent research. It is demonstrated that there are striking similarities between the Greenlandic and Scandinavian and Icelandic assembly sites, which strongly support the identification of the former as assembly sites. Further archaeological fieldwork is, however, needed in order to clarify the issues raised in this paper as well as providing new evidence, particularly for dating. In the early 20 century, two “booth” sites in Greenland were identified, one at Brattahlíð (Qassiarsuk) and another at Garðar (Igaliku), which, after some debate, were accepted by leading scholars as the remains of thing (assembly) sites (Clemmensen 1911, Nørlund 1929, Nørlund and Stenberger 1934). Later scholars, with the exception of H.C. Gulløv (2008), have avoided discussing the function of these sites, and, as a result, the early reports have not been properly evaluated. The existence of a thing organization is inferred by a letter dated 1389 mentioning an alþing (general assembly) in Green- land, although without further specification (Barnes 1974:383, Huitfeldt-Kaas et al. 1919:29–31, Seaver 1996:62). There are also written references to thing sites and thing-related activities at both Brattahlíð and Garðar.

Click here to read this article on Academia.edu