Mysteries of the Xiongnu Empire and the Viking escapes from Greenland

A 40,000-year-old fragment of animal bone about 11cm long found at an archaeological site near Barcelona fragment shows how prehistoric Western Europeans made clothes. The artefact, full of small man-made indentations, was probably used as a punched board for leather. According to archaeologists from the University of Bordeaux, while working, the bone lay under the animal leather and the craftsman, using it, made holes in the material for seams.

An international team of scientists has completed genetic studies at two cemeteries along the western border of the Xiongnu Empire in present-day Mongolia. This empire was established in the 4th century BC and dominated the steppes of East Asia for several centuries, threatening imperial China enough that it decided to expand the Great Wall. Researchers sequenced the genomes of 17 individuals buried in the aforementioned cemeteries and discovered an “unusually high” level of genetic diversity. The empire was thus multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-lingual. Of the individual graves examined, those with the highest status belonged to women, who probably played a particularly important role in Xiongnu.

Why did the Vikings suddenly disappear from Greenland in the mid-15th century, some 400 years after their arrival on the island? According to researchers from Harvard University and Pennsylvania State University, rising sea levels, up to 3 m since the establishment of the Viking settlement in Greenland in 985, were responsible for this. For about four centuries, 204 km2 of coastal land went underwater, and Nordic communities were more vulnerable to storms, coastal erosion and the loss of fertile lowlands.

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