Send by email

your name: email to: message:
Username: Email: Password: Confirm Password:
Login with
Confirming registration ...

Edit your profile:

Country: Town: State:
Gender: Birthday:
Email: Web:
How do you describe yourself:
Password: New password: Repite password:

Saturday, March 31, 2018

The volcano that turned Iceland to Christianity

Por Nina

At the end of the first millennium, Iceland suffered a volcanic eruption so terrible that the Vikings who inhabited the island renegade Odin, Thor, Balder and other Nordic gods and embraced the Christian faith. That is what sustains an investigation that has managed to date the exact date of the eruption. With that dating, the study throws light on diverse historical events happened in as distant places as Sicily, China, Egypt or the own Iceland.

A group of scientists and historians led by the University of Cambridge, in the United Kingdom, managed to establish exactly the date on which the largest volcanic lava eruption recorded in the history of Iceland occurred. It is the eruption of the Eldgjá volcano, which occurred in the 10th century.

Using information contained in layers of ice and tree rings they concluded that it began in 939 and lasted more than a year. But beyond the date, experts discovered another surprising fact associated with the volcano: that its eruption seems to have been a key factor in the conversion of the Vikings to Christianity. Clive Oppenheimer, a volcanologist at the University of Cambridge who led the study, said the date of the explosion coincides with the era in which lived "the first two or three generations of Icelandic settlers." "It is possible that some of the first waves of migrants to Iceland, which were brought as children, have witnessed the eruption," Oppenheimer said. According to the conclusions of the study, the devastating event could have been interpreted as an act of God.

The eruption produced what is known as a lava flood, something that is rare. It is a prolonged eruption during which a huge flow of magma covers the entire landscape and fills the air with sulfuric gases. Iceland - a country that was formed on volcanoes - has a high incidence of this type of event. But the explosion of the Eldgjá had no equal: it is estimated that the crater threw about 20 cubic kilometers of lava, enough to cover an entire country the size of England.

Once the researchers were able to determine when the eruption occurred, they focused on studying its consequences. On the one hand, they inquired about its effects on the climate. And they discovered that the phenomenon not only affected the Viking and Celtic settlers who had been living in Iceland for a century. The cloud of sulfuric dust generated by the Eldgjá also weakened the effects of the Sun in countries such as Ireland, Germany and Italy, as recorded in chronicles of the time. Thus, in 940 - the year following the beginning of the eruption - the coldest European summer was recorded in 1,500 years, with temperatures 2 ° C lower than the average.

"The effects of the Eldgjá eruption must have been devastating for the young colony in Iceland, it is likely that the land ware abandoned and the famine was severe," said study co-author Andy Orchard, a professor of the Faculty of English at Oxford University. "However, there are no surviving texts from Iceland itself that provide us with a direct account of the eruption," he said.

However, the most famous medieval poem in Iceland, the Voluspa ("The prophecy of the seer") does seem to refer to this colossal event. The text written in 961 - two decades after the eruption - predicts the end of the pagan gods of Iceland and the arrival of a new and unique god. That is to say, it refers to the conversion of Iceland to Christianity, something that was formalized at the end of the 11th century. The apocalyptic images of The Seer's Prophecy marked the end of the world of the ancient gods and researchers suggest that these lines were intended to revive heartrending memories of the eruption to stimulate the massive religious and cultural change that took place in Iceland at the last decades of the tenth century. Part of the poem describes a terrible eruption with fiery explosions illuminating the sky and the Sun obscured by thick clouds of ash and vapor. "The Sun begins to turn black, the earth sinks into the sea, the bright stars scatter from the sky," the poem describes.

"It is incredible how the eruption is reported in the Voluspá with a style that is almost an eyewitness," said Oppenheimer. "The interpretation of the poem as a prophecy of the end of the pagan gods and their replacement by the one god suggests that the memories of this terrible volcanic eruption were incited on purpose to stimulate the Christianization of Iceland," he concluded in his work, which was published in the scientific journal Climatic Change.