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January 25, 2023 / philosophermouseofthehedge

Die. Diet. Die

Couple. Man and wife sitting. 1920. ill. Walter Crane (USPD,, artist life/

“A three hour tour you said.”(USPD/

Fishy stink with deadly links.

Would you eat to keep from starving or choose to keep the faith?

A dilemma.

Greenland’s Vikings might have consciously made that choice…or not.

(Oddly the Vikings may have something in common with dinosaurs and the Aztecs. You know, that freezing and starving to death thing due to uncontrollable catastrophe. Maybe…)

Around 1,000 A.D. a group of Vikings from Iceland invaded or immigrated to Greenland. (Depending on your view point. “Indigenous” often means “those who got there before you did and managed to stay alive and thrive.) 

Viking moving day was a during the Medieval Warm Period (about 900-1300) when the sea ice had decreased so sailing from Scandinavia to Greenland was much less tricky. 

Once there, they didn’t really show any plans to return home. For about 400 years they were happy with longer growing seasons with plenty of meadows and grazing lands along Greenland’s southwest coast for cattle, sheep, and goats. Maybe it felt  like simply recreating the medieval European lifestyle in a new location. . 

Suddenly and mysteriously, the whole lot disappeared.

THREE FISH. 1908 Bilibin (USPD,artist life/

No, no sign of sleeping with the fishes.(USPD/

No one really knows why, but there are theories: Like they starved to death.

  • Poor land management? (Overgrazing could have cause soil erosion ending agricultural bounty.)
  • A better offer from Aliens Spaceships?
  • Some strict religious concept?
  • Climate change?
  • A combo of just bad luck?

They couldn’t build new ships for a return to their homelands since Greenland has very few trees: slender birches and willows.

Viking ship. Summer in the Greenland ooast circa year 1000. (Carl Rasmusssen 1874 painting/ USPD pub.,date, artist life, reprod of PD art/

Note to self: always book with a reputable travel agent who guarantees a return trip and makes sure the cruise line doesn’t feature an open boat. (USPD/

Then worse luck: a mini-Ice Age arrived just like with the Aztecs.

Freezing weather possibly caused by a volcanic explosion on the other side of the world.

Greenland didn’t have enough trees, or even excess wooden home furnishings, to burn and stay warm.

Now here’s a creative theory: they starved to death while surrounded by bountiful sea’s fish, because they would not eat seafood.

(Many parents have worried / threatened their children who turn up their noses at fish dinners, but a whole starving society?)

Why do researchers think so?

They point to the odd fact that there are no remnants of fishbones anywhere around the settlements, homes, or their garbage dumps.

Does anyone actually think think people would gather up their fish leftovers, then haul the stinky mess off on some sort of maritime garbage scow/raft to be towed out to sea and dumped? (Only  advanced, civilized, sophisticated societies do that, right?)

There is no trace of fishbones anywhere.

Not even fish bone ornaments, needles or other useful implements that can be made from fish bones.

Although it has pointed out that the bones could have been crushed and used for crop fertilizer or animal food. 

Fish of stained glass window, CHurch oif St. Peter and St Paul (Evelyn Simak/

Symbolic fish of stained glass feed the soul, but that may not be enough.(Evelyn Simak/

One grim, uncomfortable theory suggests the Vikings might have decided that fish were untouchable – perhaps to be worshiped. A revered fish god? 

Starve to death or eat and be damned? Really?  That’s a choice? (Said from a modern perspective…)

Most archeologists don’t seriously consider the “starve rather than break the faith” theory

It’s more likely the Greenland Vikings were either wiped off the face of the earth due to some sort of climate catastrophe (accompanied by angry polar bears or seals looking for revenge or hors d’oeuvres?) or were overrun by the Inuits. (Source) 

(Inuits? Hmm, Now, where did they come from…”Indigenous”? Or greedy territory invaders themselves?)

There’s just so much you can swallow.

Fisheman and wife who sits in house.Russiaan Empire illustration 1902 (USPD. artist life/

Determined to become self sufficient. Why can’t he just give up and call Pizza Hut? Stupid “experience vacation!” (USPD/

Why do whole groups of people suddenly decided to “eat this and not that”? They couldn’t all be worried about an approaching swimsuit season.

The Scottish Pictish are another such puzzle.

According to researchers, the Pictish inhabitants thrived with farms period during 550 to 700 A.D. and ate a diet primarily of barley, beef, lamb, pork and venison. Serious meat-eaters with fresh and saltwater fish oddly missing from their diet.

It wasn’t from lack of skill or knowledge: Pictish sea power is well documented from archaeological remains of naval bases, their surviving records discuss their ships, and obviously, sea people know how to fish.

One explanation is the Picts did not eat fish for cultural and spiritual reasons.

“We … know from Pictish stone carvings that salmon was a very important symbol for them, possibly derived from earlier superstitious and folklore beliefs that include stories about magical fish, such as the ‘salmon of knowledge,’ believed to have contained all the wisdom in the world,” explains researcher Curtis-Summers. “It’s likely that fish were considered so special by the Picts that consumption was deliberately avoided.” (Source)

Your guess is as good as theirs.

Sea life desisgn. 1890. Seder (USPD, artist life, reprod of PD art/

Sea life design: Like life, complex and inter-related. (USPD/

Another one: the Britons

For some reason about 5,000 years ago, it looks like Britons suddenly tossed out their regular diet of fish and shellfish in exchange for what became the standard European meal of meat and high carbohydrates.

Since it is true that people are what they eat; bone bare facts reveal diet. By measuring and comparing carbon isotope ratios of Neolithic human bones and comparing them to Mesolithic /Middle Stone Age bones (Around 9000 to 5,200 years to those 5,200 to 4,500 years ago.), results suggest that the Middle Stone Age people ate more seafood.  

So what do you think caused that switch?

  • Easier to go get the cow or lamb rather than risk, rough unpredictable seas – and possibly Viking marauding sea people – just for fish sticks?
  • Shift from hunter-gatherer existence to a more settled, agricultural way of life?

Or the basic, universal human motivation: Keeping up with the elites or the presence of picky kids in the house. “Mum, not fish stew again! Nobody eats fish stew anymore. Henry’s family has guided swans or lamb chops. Only poor people eat fish….or Catholics. Fish stinks!”  

Fishes in design. 1908 Ivan Bilibin (USPD., artist life/

Fishes in design by design. (USPD/

Mysteries are easy to get hooked on. (With human behavior, that quickly becomes a trotline.)

“Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.”

(Henry David Thoreau)

“Memory is a net: one finds it full of fish when he takes it from the brook, but a dozen miles of water have run through it without sticking.”

(Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.)

“It has always been my private conviction that any man who puts his intelligence up against a fish and loses had it coming.”

(John Steinbeck)

Mom always said “Fish is brain food.”

Phil, the Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge



Leave a Comment
  1. Kate Crimmins / Jan 25 2023 7:42 am

    I’d like to meet the first person who ate crab. Can’t imagine trying that without knowing it won’t kill you! Or lobster. Must have been hungry.

    Liked by 1 person

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jan 25 2023 10:43 am

      There’s got to be more to this story – Shrimp! Oysters!
      The mystery sort of reminds me of Roanoke.
      Got a chuckle from the crab comment. SO true. Thanks for frying up an image to leave.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. shoreacres / Jan 25 2023 7:52 am

    There’s a lot of interesting history here that I didn’t know one thing about. Some great artwork, too. And didn’t I laugh at that “experience vacation”! That absence of fish bones and other fishy artifacts does seem odd. Then again, as the saying goes, “There just ain’t no accountin’ for folks.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jan 25 2023 10:37 am

      Talk about diving down rabbit holes – see what strange information arrives to explore when you do…all started with thinking about finding sea fossils in tank clay banks on the farm up near Dallas. (and the Inuits apparently came across and down from the arctic – from Siberia…DNA tracking evidence…and ancient people who had resistance to Black Plague which started in Russia?…Hmmm, more looking into all that needed. Intriguing history is out there….not in schools, sadly)
      Not one dog snagged a piece of fish and dragged it off – leaving a trail? It is odd indeed.
      Hope your bird feeders and plants managed that storm yesterday…we kept waiting for the “green tinge” and train. Made me smile how amazed the media was to see ordinary people already at work instead of waiting for FEMA. Wouldn’t expect anything else from Deer Park and Pasadena.
      Now off the wash and dry the muddy dog towel and mop the muddy paw prints across the living room…again…before the next downpour series.Plants are grateful for a couple sunny days.
      Thanks for fishing wound for a comment to leave

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Helen Devries / Jan 25 2023 7:57 am

    I have a tin of sardines. I will survive.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. SusanR / Jan 25 2023 9:32 am

    PBS has been running a fascinating series on the Vikings. All kinds of stuff I didn’t know (or had forgotten?). Funny how interesting history gets once you’re well beyond the classroom.
    BTW, are you okay? Saw that a tornado hit on your side of Houston yesterday.

    Liked by 1 person

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jan 25 2023 10:24 am

      Appreciate the heads-up one the series – I may have to turn the TV back on!
      The stories of ordinary people and their lives are the easiest way to enjoy and gain intriguing insights and the best way to explore/learn history…the education system has it all wrong. (but then again there’s more and more concern that the schools really aren’t interested in expanding student’s knowledge base or understanding…only training in “call and response” and regurgitating approved “answers”)

      Yesterday was weather busy. It was similar to a hurricane with rains and wind which hit as the cool were letting out. We are OK but were alert as 1 tornado was NW of us (moving NE) and the bigger one that ran across some 19 miles was also a few miles north of us. They were calling street names ahead of it. Really did some damage. Knocked over a train, big trucks. Walls/roof/trees blown everywhere. Assisted living center evacuated with roof damage – but no one hurt
      .Took the roof off Pasadena’s new-ish animal shelter, but their “adoption facility next door was untouched. Staff and volunteers were in the kennel area when the roof ripped off. Animals were moved rapidly to the adoption area, only a couple of animals were slightly injured – but terrified. The call went out immediately for crates, volunteers, and fosters – and people immediately responded – there was a line of people waiting to help. Houston SPCA took 30 cats; Pet Set was quickly there with bus and said they could take 50-60 dogs. Animals being moved to where there is room. A couple of big pits with attitudes/don’t play well with others were still in the adoption center last night – but are and warm.
      Of course, this are is familiar with disasters/flooding. People were out as soon as it passed with chain saws, going up and down streets checking on neighbors. During a news conference the police chief said neighbors were already clearing streets, “clearing” houses, and getting things righted and back to normal before his officers even arrived. As one guy said, “we’ve done this before. We know what to do.” He and others immediately went in one Senior who lived alone and found he had been in a recliner when it hit and the wind blew him over sideways ( and took part of a roof off). They got him up, called his daughter ( who was already on the way), and secured his house after he was driven to family – all long before police/rescue arrived.
      Here, nobody waits for the government. People just move into action. That’s what the whole country used to be like
      Sometime it takes Mother Nature to remind people. Self reliance and strength to go on – needed in Greenland and here and now?
      (5 inches of snow in Lubbock…glad not to have to worry about cattle care right now! Stay warm – and smile – good snow means defense against summer wild fire- should be a nice wild flower Spring)
      Thanks for breezing though!


  5. Bruce @ walkingoffthechessboard / Jan 25 2023 11:13 am

    I am really picky about the seafood I will eat, though I have no idea why. Lobster, shrimp, scallops, crab all get passing grades, but oysters and mussels just get passed by. Fish…swordfish and salmon yes please…others not so much. Glad to hear you were not impacted too much by the storms. We had flurries here January 23rd. First time all season we’ve seen any snow at all. Weather be weird.

    Liked by 1 person

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jan 25 2023 1:38 pm

      I’m with you on mussels and raw oysters. One real benefit living close to the shore is being able to go directly to the docked boats/fish markets and see what’s fresh.
      Hard for me to believe Vikings wouldn’t toss a hook and line off the boat. But if nothing else, people do weird things.
      Thanks for floating a comment to dock here ( and good vibes to encourage rebuild after the storm)

      Liked by 1 person

  6. The Coastal Crone / Jan 25 2023 12:37 pm

    Interesting theories! From the title I thought it might have been about “the custom of the sea” – cannibalism. Now I think I would draw the line at that but who knows what one would do. I will east most any seafood as long as it is well done.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. disperser / Jan 25 2023 12:57 pm

    I remember not eating animal flesh on Fridays (“fish flesh” was OK . . . I guess they either aren’t animals or aren’t made of flesh . . . oh, wait).

    Then again, it was a religious thing, so it didn’t make any more sense than all the other religious ‘rules’.

    Eventually, the church bowed to pressure, and suddenly (after centuries of it being frowned upon), it was no big deal . . . except during Lent.

    Actually, the church still ‘advises’ abstinence from animal flesh on Fridays, even outside of Lent, and some say that includes fish flesh.

    I guess, reluctantly, admitting fish might be animals . . . as opposed to, say, rocks.

    As for the Vikings, I’m always suspicious of things we infer from stuff we dig up . . . here’s how we might one day be seen:

    That’s based on “The Motel of the Mysteries”, which is easily found — and well worth finding — in PDF form online.

    Liked by 1 person

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jan 25 2023 2:31 pm

      What I remember about the no meat on Fridays is how bad the school cafeteria smelled from fish sticks. Nobody wanted to buy a lunch that day. The meaning/purpose was pretty much lost on kids – we just shrugged…and kept a close eye on our apple and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that day.
      Sometimes I run across such odd pieces of information I can’t help tossing them out into the area to see what others think about them.
      Does it seem that archeologists sometimes seem like frustrated fiction writers? Bad detective novels probably. Geology and tree rings seem more possible and realistic.
      Thanks for the suggestion of Motel of Mysteries – I can use a bit of distraction and waiting room material.
      Appreciate you jumping on the raft over here.

      Liked by 1 person

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jan 25 2023 2:45 pm

      Oh, that video is priceless! “Only seen from outer space” (That sounds familiar)
      Just too much fun (Will definitely look for the rest)
      Thanks for the grin

      Liked by 1 person

  8. sustainabilitea / Jan 25 2023 4:29 pm

    Interesting facts and speculation, Phil. “A three hour tour” always brings a smile to my face. I love the first and last of your quotes.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. robstroud / Jan 25 2023 11:50 pm

    Fascinating. I’ve long been intrigued by the disappearance of the Norse settlers in Greenland. After several centuries of successful settlements. The Inuit arrived after the island had been colonized by the Europeans… but they were better adapted to life in the increasingly cold environment.

    My personal thought is that after suffering years of declining harvests (and population) — and all but deserted by Europe — the surviving families headed for Vinland. How many reached the shores, and what reception they experienced are certainly lost to history.

    As for not eating fish… I think you comment about utilizing even the waste elements (bones, etc.) makes great sense in a land with so few natural resources.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Curt Mekemson / Jan 26 2023 4:06 pm

    I confess I am not big on eating fish. Too bad, they are supposed to be packed full of goodies. But I can’t think of an edible fish (or other seafood) I wouldn’t eat if it kept me from starving. Even oysters. Yuck. I’d probably come to love them. As for stinky, it may not be all that bad. Check with your dog. America’s great symbol of freedom, the bald eagle, relishes past-their-prime dead salmon. Just don’t smell their breath.
    On another note, my grandfather’s brother wrote a popular book about the Vikings’ trek to Iceland and Greenland in the 1950s, called, originally enough, The Vikings. It was turned into a movie called, wait for it, The Vikings, starring Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis, Ernest Borgnine, Janet Leigh, and Orson Welles.

    Liked by 2 people

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