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THE MAGAZINE OF THE
AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY
TEN ISSUES A YEAR
THE AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY
NEW YORK, N. Y.
CONTENTS OF VOLUME XLIII
January, No. 1
, , _ . VlLHJALMUR Stefansson 7
The Disappearance of the Greenland Colony Willy Ley 13
The Story of Glass ; Margaret Mead 17
The Strolling Playors in the Mountain; of Bah v ^ :mA|(: VQN Hagen 2 '
The Ant that Carries a Parasol 33
Information Test George C. Vaillant 38
The Twilight of the Aztec Civilization Robert B. Ekvall 4!<
The Eared Pheasant . . .D. R. Barton 55
"The Man Who Came Back . 60
Your New Books Charles H. Coles 63
February, No. 2
Donald Culross Peattie 69
Your Nature Hobby Martin Birnbaum 73
The Lcng-Hoaded Mangbetus C H. Curran 84
On Eating Insects Edwin H. Colbert 90
Wild Dogs and Tame— Fast ar.d Frosont Morgan Stinemetz 96
One Hundred Aristocrats of the Dog World ' ■ Virginia S. Eifert 103
Th: Story of Fire Roy I., Abbott 11'
Biography of a Whistlepig " 116
Information Test D. R. Barton 117
How Enght Is the Dog? 124
Your New Books Charles H. Coles 126
Reflections on Reflexes
March, No. 3
Cyrus French Wicker 133
Modern Troaouro Islands Roy I Abbott 144
Old Mictor High-Fowor R p Wodehouse 150
Woods, Vvaste and Hayfever Robert Cushman Murphy Insert
SOS for a Continent Sidney Shapiro 164
Fioh:ng for Jatbaoks j 0HN Eric Hili _ ivf;
In Black and Whit; DR. Barton 1 '4
What Is in a Name " " 1 7S
Information Test 181
Your N2W Berks Charles H. Coles 183
April, No. 4
Charles E. Mohr 190
I Fxploro Cavoc RoY L Abbott 205
Nature Along the Sidewalks ; ' ' ' ' Morton C. Kahn 209
Africa's Lost Tribes in South America Qlive Earle 2u
Ruggod Individualists of the Plant V/ orld F H F „„ &H ? , f;0
The Spidor and th; : Fly N TlNBERGEN 222
In the Life of a Herring Gull ; ■ • ' Henry B. Kane 230
Seeing Nature through the Camera c Eye ,, 33
Inform?. tion Tost D R Barton /.34
Your Name Please 240
Your.New Books _ .Charles H. Coles 246
Lenses for Your Camera
May, No. 5
Roland T. Bird 254
Thurrbr in His Footsteps Roy L. Abbott 262
Old Zip Coon ^ Henry B. Kane 266
Seeing Nature through the Camera s Eye ^^ q Vaillant 2 68
Ey Thoir Arts You Shall Know Them - _ ' " ^^ Weyer 27g
Tho Ir.jemous Eskiroc Edwin H Colbert 280
A Fossil Comes to Life " ' " - Lewis and Marian Walker 284
Froir. Egg to Eaglehood Kerry Wqod 290
Behind the Dam n R Barton ?,98
Odyssey of a Eird Artist 303
Information Test ....... 304
Your New Books .Charles H Coles -i0:'
Big Ones Out of Little Ones " • ' Eri( . HnJ . 308
The Tall Truth
The Magazine of the American Museum, of Natural History
Frederick Trubee Davison, President Roy Chapman Andrews, Sc.D., Director
VOLUME XLIII— No. 1 * • • * • JANUARY, 1939
"Winter Is a Guest That Stays Beyond Its Welcome" Cover Design
From a picture by Henry B. Kane
Untamed Soul Frontispiece
A remarkable photo-portrait of a Haick, by Henry B. Kane
The Disappearance of the Greenland Colony Vilhjalmur Stefansson 7
Established in the 70th century, it had a longer record as a free Republic than has the U.S.A.
The Story of Glass Willy Ley 13
Reflecting the progress of man's broadening vision
The Strolling Players in the Mountains of Bali Margaret Mead 17
Carnival thrills are brought to sleepy villages for 3s days each year
The Ant that Carries a Parasol V. Wolfgang von Hagen 27
An astonishing social organization thrives inside its maze-like nest
Information Test 33
The Twilight of the Aztec Civilization George C. Vaillant 38
Spain's 16th century colonial enterprise failed in spite of its modernity
The Eared Pheasant Robert B. Ekvall 47
A high adventure of bird stalking in Tibetan kills
"The Man Who Came Back" D. R. Barton 55
Your New Books b0
Snow Pictures Charles H. Coles 63
Publication Office: American Museum of Natural His- Subscriptions: Natural Historv is sent to all members
tory, Seventy-ninth Street at Central Park West, New of the American Museum as one of the privileges of mem-
York, N. Y. bership. Membership Secretary, Charles J. O'Connor.
Editor: Edward M. Weyer, Jr., Ph.D. Advertising Department: Sherman P. Voorhees, Manager.
. _ _ „ W. Ware Lynch.
Associate: D. R. Barton. '
d„„ .,„.,,„., e- j -it u u Representatives:
Production: Frederick L. Harm. ,, , „ „,, . „, ■ ,,,
Frank S. Whitman, Chicago, III.
Art: Charles Curtis Hulling. Warwick S. Carpenter, Santa Barbara, Calif.
Manuscripts should be sent to the Editor, The American Copyright, 1939, by the American Museum of Natural
Museum of Natural History, N. Y. History, New York, N. Y.
The American Museum of Natural History wishes to express gratitude for the assistance in the promotion of the interests of Natural
History that has been rendered by the Works Progress Administration.
Natural History is published monthly (except July and August) at New York, N. Y., by The American Museum of Natural History.
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Canada, Newfoundland, and all foreign countries. Entered as second class matter March 9, 1936, at the Post Office at New \ork.
New York, under the Act of August 24, 1912.
Photograph of a Hawk, By H. B. KANE
stablished as a Ch^fts%an i^uWul^Iiims;
CoJumbus, this rjaitor/jyssettlernent in, A
vanished. Wasinine^Sia^k Death
evidence, IsJgSjtDsd frorr^-tb^fi^r^me^^
bling docirg^jfrrs 1 ' - v£. ei
By VlLHJALMUR STEFANSSON*
The great romance of the Middle Ages was
the first crossing of the Atlantic by Euro-
peans, the unveiling of the New World. The
great tragedy of this westward movement was the
disappearance of 9000 Europeans from their first
American colony. The great mystery is how and
why they disappeared.
Shortly before 900 A.D. a Norwegian colonist,
Gunnbjorn, on his way to a homestead in western
Iceland, saw and reported Greenland. In 982 a
chieftain of the northwest coast of Iceland, Erik
the Red, was outlawed for a period of three years.
He decided to devote those years to the exploration
of Greenland. He spent three winters there and ex-
amined the west coast several hundred miles north-
ward, perhaps to Disko.
Erik liked the new country so well that he decided
he would urge its colonization when his exile was
over. According to the saga, he called it "Green
Land" because he thought people would colonize
it more readily if it had an attractive name. But
there may have been the other reason, too, that he
found the districts green and beautiful, as travelers
do now. For it is only in such literature as the
kindergarten songs of our childhood that "in Green-
ind there is nothing green to grow."
The colonization propaganda took hold so readily
in Iceland during the winter after Erik's return
that he was able to start out the next spring with
25 ships carrying perhaps an average of 30 persons
and a varying cargo of the Icelandic farm animals
— horses, cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and fowl. The
ships met rough weather. Some of them were lost,
and some turned back. Fourteen arrived in Green-
land with about 400 people. This was in 986.
The colony developed at first chiefly along pas-
toral lines. However, as in northern European
countries of the time, there was considerable reli-
ance on fishing and hunting.
Immigration continued, chiefly from Iceland, and
a government was formed similar to the Icelandic.
By 990 the Greenlanders had their congress in
session. This was America's first democracy, if we
look upon Iceland as European.
In the year 1000 a citizen of the Greenland re-
public, Leif, the son of Erik the Red, saw the main-
land of North America first in Labrador. During
the next few years the Greenlanders tried to plant
*Vilhjal\!UR Stefansson's analysis
here of the mystery of the medieval
Greenland colony carries particular
weight owing to his world-wide reputa-
tion as an authority on living conditions
in the Arctic, his extensive explora-
tions in the far north, and his pene-
trating historical researches. In 1914-
15, while a skeptical world believed
him dead, Stefansson was living
comfortably and in comparative
plenty in regions previously unex-
plored. By his application of new
theories on living in the Arctic, he
survived some of the most daring
adventures in Arctic history and won
innumerable distinctions from govern-
ments and scientific societies, including
no less than 7 gold medals. He lias
explored and mapped large areas of
previously unknown lands and seas,
and his other discoveries relating to
human and animal life in the North
have abolished the heroics of Arctic ex-
ploration and ushered in a new era in
the marginal development of our globe.
Older readers of Natural History
will welcome in these pages the re-
appearance of a personality whose
work has meant much in the develop-
ment of the American Museum of
Natural History. The present article is
an abridgement of the first chapter of a
book called "Unsolved Mysteries of the
Arctic," of which in December the Mac-
millan Company published a limited
edition of 200 copies for The Explorers
Club. The regular edition will appear
in January or February, 1939 — Ed.
THE DISAPPEARANCE OF THE GREENLAND COLONY
colonies on the mainland, and explored it south-
ward. The discovery and exploration are not, as a
share of the public still believes, a matter of dispute
with historians. What they dispute is merely how
far south the Greenlanders went. It is agreed they
reached the St. Lawrence and Nova Scotia ; many
believe they reached Massachusetts or New York;
a few think they attained Florida ; and the sugges-
tion has been advanced that the later Norse view
of a connection between America and Africa was
probably based on some voyage which discovered
that the north coast of South America trends east-
erly and runs well toward Africa.
In the year iooo parliament voted that Greenland
should be Christian. Thenceforward we have two
main European sources of the history of the New
World, the literature of Iceland and the records of
the Church of Rome.
Greenland was constituted a separate bishopric
in 1 124, governed through the German archbish-
opric of Hamburg at first but later through the
Norwegian archbishopric of Nidaros. The chain of
bishops remained unbroken till 1537, when, after
the Reformation, the last of them, Vincentius, died
as a prisoner in the hands of the Lutherans.
Life in Greenland at the height of prosperity,
which was perhaps in the twelfth century, was simi-
lar to life in Iceland. The government was a
democracy, with well developed legislative and ju-
diciary sides but with a weak executive ; so that
decisions of the court, rendered according to law,
were at times not carried out against chieftains who
were able to gather around them considerable groups
of fighting men.
Greenland farms were at the heads of fjords,
some of which run so far inland that you are 30
to 50 miles from the chilling effect of the ocean
proper. The main dependence was on animal hus-
bandry. Stables have been excavated which show
as many as 104 stalls for cattle in a single barn,
and there were corresponding numbers of sheep, with
a few of the other domestic animals, horses, goats,
pigs and fowl.
Nearly 200 farms
At the height of prosperity during the twelfth
and thirteenth centuries there were in the Eastern
Settlement twelve churches, an Augustinian mon-
astery, a Benedictine nunnery and about 190 farms;
the Western had four churches and some 90 farms.
The houses were small, for fuel was hard to
come by and large timbers for building were scarce.
But the Greenlanders used driftwood and doubtless
made voyages north along the West Greenland
coast to pick it up where it was more abundant.
We know that voyages were made across to Labra-
dor, where ships took on cargoes of timber that
either were brought back to Greenland and used
directly or were taken to Iceland where they were
exchanged for European wares.
During the republic, Greenlanders had their own
ships ; but other vessels came to Greenland from
abroad, chiefly at first from Iceland but later from
Norway and from other European countries. By the
fifteenth century a part, and likely enough the
greater part, of the shipping was from the British
Isles — from Bristol and Lynn. Garments have been
found preserved by the frozen ground of cemeteries
that are cut in fashions which prevailed in Germany
around 1450, whose arrival probably depended on
shipping from England.
Commerce before Columbus
The dress of Greenland in this late period, as
well as in the earlier, was partly of imports and
partly of cloth woven locally from the wool of
Greenland sheep. The exports with which Green-
land paid for her imports were, in addition to the
already mentioned timber from America, chiefly
walrus and seal oil, the hides of these animals, wool,
and perhaps dairy products. There were two luxury
exports from Greenland, polar bears and falcons.
The bears always, or nearly always, were bribes or
presents for princes, secular or churchly. The falcons
were sometimes gifts, but they were used in the
payment of tithes or taxes and were regular exports.
During the late Middle Ages the sport of falconry
had a hold on Europe such as not even baseball has
on the American public now. Emperors and kings
were passionate falconers, and so were nobility and
gentry. There was a corresponding social gradation
among falcons. Some species were so low, socially,
that even peasants might use them. One of the eagles
was reserved for emperors. Second rank was held
by the Greenland falcon, the hunting bird of kings
and other royalty. That Greenland was the home of
this bird of kings makes works on falconry sources
of Greenland history.
In 1396 a son of the Duke of Burgundy was
taken prisoner by the Saracens, who demanded
twelve Greenland falcons for his return. That might
seem a difficult ransom, for these birds were never
domesticated — they had to be captured in their na-
tive country. The young nobleman, however, was
ransomed. This means, among other things, that the
Saracens knew enough about Greenland and its
falcons to ask for the birds, and that either there
were a dozen Greenland falcons in Europe where
the Duke of Burgundy could get them, or else a
NATURAL HISTORY, JANUARY, 1 939
special consignment of falcons was obtained from
In the early farming period, as we have implied,
the European population of Greenland was con-
centrated at the heads of the fjords. From the start
there must have been some dependence on hunting,
and a greater dependence on fishing. We find arch-
aeological confirmation of this, for in the farm
refuse heaps the bones of game animals appear
early. As time advanced there were more and
more of these bones, showing an increasing depen-
dence upon game.
But game is scarce in the farming districts, more
abundant on the headlands. Then as now it was
scarcer in the south of West Greenland than far-
ther north, as a result of natural law. For the chief
game animals are the seal, walrus and polar bear.
Seals may be found where there is no ice, but they
are usually more numerous among ice and much
easier to secure, by Eskimo technique. The walruses,
easier to kill than seals and bigger, are creatures of
the ice. They are more numerous where there is
more ice, and more readily secured on the ice than
in the water. The polar bear, superficially a land
animal, is really a sea beast. He, like the walrus,
depends on the ice.
Accordingly, people from both the southern and
the northern colony went for hunts north along the
coast, well beyond the northern colony. These were
at first summer journeys, made with tents; but there
developed gradually a custom of spending the winter.
The most northerly undisputed evidence of Euro-
pean colonization in western Greenland is a runic
stone which was found about 450 miles north of
the Arctic Circle. The inscription is signed by three
men and is dated in April, which shows that these
three at least must have spent the winter in the
Folklore gathered by Knud Rasmussen indicates
that the medieval Europeans went much farther
north. They used to come sailing at least as far
north as Etah, where Peary, centuries later, had
winter base stations for his polar work. Here numer-
ous European objects from the medieval Greenland
period have been dug up within the last few years
by archaeologists, some of them well north of Etah
and about 850 miles north of the Circle. These
articles may, of course, have been brought here by
people of Eskimo blood who traded to the south,
but if not, the Norsemen themselves were there.
Further, there is evidence indicating that Norse-
men, of the centuries between the eleventh and six-
teenth, also crossed Melville Sound and spread west
into the Canadian islands. But we need not look
beyond Greenland in the present story.
The first premonitions of Greenland tragedy came
in 1 26 1, for in that year Greenland voluntarily
ceased to be a republic and affiliated itself politically
with Europe as a province of Norway, with a re-
sulting decline in prosperity. It had been a republic
since 990, or 271 years — more than 100 years longer
than the United States has yet been a republic. Dur-
ing that period the country had been free to do the
best it could for itself. Now, instead of receiving
the expected favors from Norway, it became a step-
child, the victim of petty and major tyrannies, par-
ticularly of monopolistic trade.
The foremost historian of medieval Greenland
was Professor Finnur Jonsson of the University of
Copenhagen. In 1899 ne estimated the population
of the colony as never having exceeded 3000; 30
years later he raised the estimate to 9000. For
meantime great numbers of ruins from the days of
the republic had been excavated and a better basis
for estimating had been gained.
When the world forgot them
Students who depended solely upon the direct
literary sources of the history of the Greenland
church and state, as found chiefly in Rome, Nor-
way, and Iceland, have considered that the "last
recorded voyage" to Greenland was either in 1410
or in 1448. They believed that even before this time
all farms in the so-called Western Settlement (we
would call it the Northern Settlement) were tenant-
less. On the other hand, they considered that many
if not most of the farms of the "Eastern" district
(to us the Southern district and also on the west
coast) were still occupied when this "last" contact
with Europe took place.
Scandinavians reoccupied Greenland in 172 1 with
the support of a king who lived in Denmark, but
under the leadership of Hans Egede, a missionary
from Norway who had dedicated his life to the
proposition that there still were Christian Scandi-
navians in Greenland whose faith needed rejuvena-
tion. He was not the first to think and talk this
way, for there had been through the centuries to
1492 a sequence of spokesmen ranging from Italian
popes, who wanted the Roman Church strengthened
in Greenland, to Norwegian bishops (from the six-
teenth century on), who wanted to save the Green-
landers from the heresies of Rome and guide them
toward the orthodoxy of Lutheranism.
Egede found ruin of churches and homes and the
graveyards of Christians in southwestern Greenland,
which he took to be the remains of the Western
THE DISAPPEARANCE OF THE GREENLAND COLONY
Settlement. It appeared to him that, but for these
monuments, his departed countrymen had left no
sign. He did not hear Norse words when he listened
to the speech of the Eskimos. The customs of Europe
and the religion of Christianity had left no traces
that he could find.
Some years later, and particularly when Egede's
children had secured a command of the Eskimo
tongue, the missionaries began to pick up stories of
how and why the Greenlanders had disappeared.
Essentially these were that they had grown weak
through the breakdown of commerce with Europe.
They had not been able to secure iron for weapons,
they had sickened because they had been deprived
of those foods which are required for the health of
Europeans. The weakened whites were then at-
tacked by the Eskimos, not in any systematic way,
but every now and then through specific quarrels.
Finally the last small settlement was wiped out, the
last white man destroyed.
Thus Egede and his successors in Greenland and
the scholars of Europe built up a consistent explana-
tion of how and why the medieval Europeans had
According to the theory developed, there had
been ominous signs of the final tragedy from the
start. For the Icelandic colonists who first settled
Greenland, though they had seen no people, had
found here and there on the coast remains, such as
peculiar skin boats, which they afterwards recog-
nized as proving that the same people had been
ahead of them in this part of Greenland as those
whom the Greenlandic explorers following the year
iooo had met in Labrador — Eskimos. But seemingly
the Eskimos themselves were never seen in Green-
land during the first generation or two of occu-
pancy by the Europeans. Then the contact with the
Eskimos began, and increased steadily. By the thir-
teenth century there were recurrent attacks by the
natives; around 1345 the northern colony of the
Europeans, (i.e., the "Western Settlement") had
Farm animals but no men
The account of the destruction of the northern
colony we have from Ivar Bardarson, who was, from
about 1 341 to around 1360, manager of the farm
attached to the Bishop's seat at Gardar, now called
Egaliko, in the Julianehaab District. No news had
been received from the Northern Settlement for
several years and Bardarson organized a relief expe-
dition. They sailed north along the coast, past an
uninhabited stretch that separated the two colonies,
and came to farmhouses. They were afraid to land.
Spying from the boats they saw domestic animals
grazing around the farms, but there were no people.
Bardarson assumed they had all been killed by the
The main forces of destruction, scholars agreed,
were malnutrition due to the lack of a mixed diet
suited to Europeans, and decimation by attacks of
savages healthy and aggressive on a meat diet.
The historians speculated as to subsidiary causes.
The Black Death had swept over Norway, in 1348-
49. Although there had apparently been no sail-
ings during the period 1346-55, from Bergen, which
then by royal decree had a monopoly of the Green-
land trade, this school believes that some ship finally
carried the disease. Assuming, then, a mortality as
in Norway, the Greenland colony would have been
so weakened that the remnants became an easy prey
to the Eskimos.
Forthright statements that the Greenland settle-
ments were declining are found chiefly in certain
papal documents. We give samples.
In 1276 Pope John XXI received a letter from
the Archbishop of Nidaros, which he summarized in
a reply. In this the Pope notes what the Archbishop
says about Greenland being a remote country and
about the difficulty of collecting tithes from it. The
diocese of Greenland is so far distant and its farms
are so far apart, making it necessary to camp out
between settlements, that the Pope now under-
stands, from the letter of the Archbishop, that it
may require five years from the time that the Arch-
bishop receives the instructions of his superiors, to
gather the tax and bring it back to Norway. Never-
theless the Pope commands the Archbishop to pro-
cure suitable men for this task and to give the col-
lection of the tithes his own diligent solicitude.
In 1279 the Vatican had again received a letter
from the Archbishop of Nidaros concerning the
delay in collecting the Greenland taxes. Pope Nich-
olas III wrote on January 31, 1279, that the Vati-
can perhaps had been a little hasty in excommunicat-
ing the Greenlanders for being so slow in paying
their tithes, and notified the Archbishop that the
decree was lifted.
Tithes for the Crusades
In 1282 Martin IV wrote that he understood
from the Archbishop's letter that the recent con-