"On the windy edge of nothing": A historical human ecology of the Faroe Islands

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In the context of the North Atlantic arena, the histories and landscape evolution of the Faroe Islands are comparatively less known. The position of the archipelago astride cyclonic tracks and the predominantly rugged terrain with meagre woodland and limited high quality agricultural land, conspired to produce an environment which might be thought to have severely challenged early colonizers. Those settlers, whether Norse/Vikings, or earlier Irish monks, had access to the vital resources of bird cliffs, rivers, and the sea to supplement the produce of their domestic animals and crops. The lack of apparent crises is a function both of the richness of the resources provided by the Faroe Islands, and of the development of appropriate land management practices such as outfield grazing and soil augmentation to counteract any detrimental effects arising from, for instance, reductions in the bird population, soil and slope erosion, the lack of naturally fertile soils, and any climatic downturn. From the research contained within this volume, it seems likely that there have always been sufficient resources available for an enterprising human population and that the Faroes did not exceed their carrying capacity during the Norse period.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)585-596
Number of pages12
JournalHuman Ecology
Publication statusPublished - 2005


  • Faroe Islands
  • human ecology
  • paleoenvironments
  • Norse
  • Gaelic ancestry


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