February 24, 2017


Eli Kintisch c/o Science
Dear Eli Kintisch:

I loved “The Lost Norse”  (Eli Kintisch Science vol. 354 no. 6312 November 11, 2016 page 696) There is an article that might interest you: Jared M. Diamond, “Life with the Artificial Anasazi,” NATURE, vol. 419 no 6907, October 10, 2002 p 567.  It is about another community of settlers that lasted five hundred years.  I knew your Norse were doomed as soon as you wrote, “Hundreds of farms and thousands of people.”  Such a community is too big.  They will die out.  The local natives presumably subdivided their populations before they got that big, as traditional societies always do.  (R. Fox, “Marry in or Die Out” in Handbook on Evolution and Society, J. Turner, R. Machalek, A. Maryanski, Eds. Paradigm Publishers, Boulder, 2015, chap. 19)  Had those vigorous Vikings similarly subdivided their communities when each reached 100 farms, I doubt not they would be with us today. 

Let me offer you a challenge.  Go over the number of farms year by year.  Graph each of the two settlements out.  Unless I am terribly wrong you will find that each follows the two-peaked population trajectory that the Anasazi followed.

If you’d like to know why this had to happen, check out Please let me know what you think. 


M. Linton Herbert MD

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