It is perhaps a truism to state that the further north the community, the more the diet is likely to be dominated by animal products. Whilst barley (bygg) was grown in the Northern Isles, the Faroes and Iceland (Fenton 1978;Fridriksson 1960),cultivation declined in many parts of the region through the late medieval period. Wild lyme grass (Leymus arenarius) was harvested and eaten as a cereal in parts of Iceland (Guomundsson 1996).Most Norse Greenlanders, however, knew no bread, as a fourteenth century source, the King's Mirror (KM 17, Larson 1917)notes, and as Erik the Red's Saga implies (Magnusson and Palsson 1965, 92), beer was also unknown, a factor which may have been more important in a chieftains' society. Contemporary documentary sources in Iceland stress the importance of the secondary products of milk, cheese and whey, prepared from sheep as well as cow's milk, in basic subsistence (Aoalsteinsson 1991),supplemented by some domestic animal meat and fish,with seal in coastal regions (Amorosi 1996). The Norse Greenlanders appear to have made the most extensive use of wild resources, exploiting a combination of seal and caribou rather than fish, yet their settlement pattern strongly indicates the determining role of the scattered pasture plant communities that provided fodder for their small herds and flocks (McGovern 1992). Faroese, Shetlanders and Orcadians exploited varying combinations of domestic, marine and some terrestrial wild resources, but secondary products from both cows and sheep remained a key element in basic subsistence (cf. Bigelow 1985;Aoalsteinsson 1991; McGovern 1992). This paper examines the sources and politics of fodder on the North Atlantic islands, and considers some of the palaeoecological signatures of the material. Cereal growing has never been a vital component of fodder production over much of these northern areas and it is little considered here. The exploitation of heathlands, doubtless of great importance to Norse settlers (cf. Kaland 1986), would merit a paper in its own right and is a topic which must be neglected likewise.

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