(CNN)For years, researchers have sought to understand why Vikings abandoned one of their settlements in Greenland after centuries of success. While some experts have suggested that dropping temperatures may have been the cause, new research suggests the cold wasn't a factor.
The surprising reason why Vikings abandoned a successful settlement
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Instead, the Vikings faced a new adversary they couldn't defeat: drought.
A study detailing the findings published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances.
The colder temperature hypothesis has persisted for years because of something called the Little Ice Age that occurred between 1300 and 1850, when cooling temperatures persisted in the North Atlantic region.
The Vikings established their settlement, known as the Eastern Settlement, in southern Greenland in 985. They cleared out shrubs and planted grass for their livestock to graze. The settlement grew to hold around 2,000 Norse.
The settlement was abandoned by the early 1400s. The exceptionally cold weather brought on by the Little Ice Age, which was not a true ice age because it didn't happen globally, made the Norse agricultural and farming life unsustainable, scientists believed.
But there was no actual evidence to support this reasoning for why the Vikings cleared out. Ice cores used in previous research to show Greenland's historical temperature range were collected from more than 621 miles (1,000 kilometers) away and 6,561 feet (2,000 meters) higher in elevation.
"Before this study, there was no data from the actual site of the Viking settlements. And that's a problem," said study coauthor Raymond Bradley, distinguished professor of geosciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, in a statement. "We wanted to study how climate had varied close to the Norse farms themselves."