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Published on Dec 5, 2012
The west coast of Greenland was the site of a thriving Viking colony for hundreds of years. Originally settled by explorers who had bravely sailed across the treacherous North Atlantic from their homes in Scandinavia, the Greenland outpost grew into a farming community of thousands. And then something went terribly wrong. Visitors in the 1400s reported that the inhabitants had simply vanished, leaving no bodies and few clues about what could have happened.
Speculation has long centered on suddenly adverse weather conditions or possibly a war with local Inuit people, but in this documentary, an installment of PBS's Secrets of the Dead set, a team of archaeologists, forensic anthropologists, and botanists visit a desolate and remote stretch of the Greenland coast and solve the mystery of the lost Vikings.
The archaeological record, combined with the scant written accounts of how the settlers lived, begin to reveal some surprising evidence. And a complicated story involving a "mini ice age" emerges. The compelling theory indicates that worsening conditions, coupled with strict religious beliefs that kept the Greenland Vikings from adapting by learning the ways of the natives, sealed their fate. This is a captivating look at a little-known mystery. --Robert J. McNamara