WI Native Indians were not lactose intolerant?

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Evil Tristin, Jul 31, 2010.

  1. Evil Tristin Banned

    Jun 27, 2009
    Southern California
    Several theories abound as to why the Norse settlements in North America failed and vanished. One theory postulates that they were wiped out or driven out by the native-Americans. This theory further claims that it all started with Native Indians being lactose intolerant. At some point during first contact, a Norseman gave a native Indian a drink of milk as a gesture of friendship. Needless to say things just go down hill from there with the Indians thinking they were poisoned.

    Assuming the above theory is true let's
    Suppose Native Americans are were Lactose intolerant, in fact they freely accept milk and other dairy products as an addition to the native diet?

    Norse and Natives get along relatively well and trade ensues giving the Greenland and Vineland colonies support from the local natives about how to survive the harsh winters. The result is that the Spanish explorers meet a well organized, firearm equiped, VNA infantry and calvary when they arrive in the West Indies.
    The Britsih and French in Noth America have a similar experience.
    IOW, no Western Hemisphere Spanish Empire, no French and British North American colonies, and no North American conflicts between them.
    Some trading posts perhaps, but no 'gunpowder' superiority over the Native Americans.
    The discussion should center on how Europe develops from the 1500s onward without North/Central/South America to expand into and the wealth derived from the Americas.
    I know that a similar theme was covered in a novel whose name and author I forget, but that was based on Europe being almost completely depopulated by a plague, resulting in there being no European country able to 'discover' and colonize the New World, and an Asian presence in North America.
  2. Cecil Well-Known Member

    Apr 15, 2010
    I have never seen a shred of evidence for that story. Suffice to say the vikings of the age had some "problems" interacting with not only the skraelings but also the inuit cultures. This combined with the low numbers avaliable for colonization makes a permanent presence unlikely.

    Isnt most of the viking presence in NA very far north? Not exactly prime cattle land. The reason it was even present in greenland was that cows was a high status animal in viking culture and even then it took some pretty extreme sacrifices to keep cows alive in that cold climate. I fail to see how the natives are going to think keeping herds of cattle is going to be a good idea.

    Wat? You think they can teach them anything the greenland inuit couldn´t have tought them? Some pretty fucking weird cultural taboos seems to have stood in the way of survival such as that the vikings refused to fish at all despite having some of the worlds richest fishing waters avaliable.

    Wat? Gunpowder armies and equipment weren´t exactly commonplace in northern europe at the time of Columbus. Greenlander vikings which are at the end of the freaking world as europa is concerned will probably not have more than a few muskets avaliable if that. I´m not even sure there were any horses avaliable in greenland at any time.

    Edit: Don´t let me go all down on your TL though I mean go for it if you feel like it but don´t make the mistake of thinking the the viking colonies in NA was failiures just because of some bad luck and quirks of fate. There were very strong and compelling reasons why they didnt take.
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2010
  3. von Adler Generallöjtnant

    Jun 21, 2005
    Stockholm, Sweden
    The vikings refusing to fish? Where does that come from? The trade of dried cod from Norway was very extensive.

    The Greenlandic vikings had little hemp and wood for their fishing vessels and nets and did not adept to inuit fishing techniques. Their ships and boats slowly decayed.

    Edit: Also, the Swedish peasantry was using small cannons and arqeubuses frequently from the late 1300s and early 1400s.
  4. Cecil Well-Known Member

    Apr 15, 2010
    Yes its actually one of the biggest wtf? of the excavations of the greenland settlements. No bones from fish at all. They simply didnt fish despite it would have been the clearly easiest form of foodsupply avaliable. And they did still use boats and ships. They hunted for walrus whos ivory was a major source for income for the settlements, needed to buy the iron and other trade goods not avaliable. Speaking of which its been all but confirmed that the greenlanders continued to visit the NA coast for wood and iron which they could extract from there even in later centuries.

    And the swedish peasantry using cannons and arqeubuses in the 13 and 14 hundreds. Colour me sceptical to that. I would require direct sources before I believe in any widespread usage because they were barely used on the continent that early and scandinavia was on the arse end of europa.
  5. Atom Future Human

    Dec 5, 2006
    But why would Native Americans be lactose tolerant? What's the explanation? Lactose tolerance is a mutation that developed well after migration to the Americas, and only by pastoralists who could have drunk animal milk. Why would Native Americans develop this?
  6. Valdemar II Banned

    Jul 26, 2005
    Copenhagen; the Kalmar Union
    You know there copuld be a somewhat different explanation like they boiled the fish, fish bones which has been boiled degrade faster, and wouldn't leave any traces today, and funny enough today Scandinavia normal eat a quite specific fish boiled; the cod, the main cold water fish.
  7. Grimm Reaper Desperate But Not Serious

    Despite plenty of time to learn the Vikings in Greenland never thought to adopt any of Inuit's customs and practices which probably explains why one group still lives in Greenland today and not the other.

    Native Americans are descended from Asia, in large portions of which over 90% of the population is lactose intolerant. Without the adaption Atom mentioned, which is predominantly in Europe and parts of Africa, there would be no reason to expect Native Americans to be able to digest such products and the record shows that only regular exposure leads to that change.
  8. The Kiat I'm going to Nixonland!

    Aug 16, 2009
    The Left side of the State.
    I'm not sure what sort of evidence exists for lactose intolerance, but given that they have no cattle nor have been exposed to them, it would make sense. I remember a story that the Indians assumed the Vikings tried to poison them.

    I'm not sure what sort of impact it would have on the big picture. I don't think the Norse influx of population would be anywhere as big as the English migrations of the 17th Century.
  9. Cecil Well-Known Member

    Apr 15, 2010

    True but then why are fish bones so common in digs in Iceland or northern Norway and the Shetlands? Greenlands ground is also especially excellent at preserving items apparently so that explanation doesnt really fly. Besides greenlands rivers and lakes were teeming with fish as well, other spieces of fish rather than the cod.

    And even if they didnt want to eat the fish themselves they could have fed them to the dogs which would leave the bones lying around.

    Don´t sweat it though apparently every scientist arriving on greenland apparently at first refuse to believe that they didnt eat fish but noone has been able to find any evidence of anything else.
  10. Cecil Well-Known Member

    Apr 15, 2010
    Anyho if you wanna go with some non ASB more advanced indians through contacts with vikings I´d suggest some earlier PoD involving some sort of migration from the mainlands or a bigger migratory exodous from Norway pushing people further west because the Greenland colony alone isnt enough make big enough of a difference.
  11. Dathi THorfinnsson Daði Þorfinnsson

    Apr 13, 2007
    Syracuse, Haudenosaunee, Vinland
    Lactose tolerance evolved 4 times, e.g.

    I saw a good article on this a couple of years ago, but can't find it now. Basically, Indo-European/Semitic/African (one group had 2 mutations).

    Each of these groups were pastoralists (herders). You don't get lactose tolerance unless you herd dairy animals (cows, goats, camels, doesn't matter).

    So, 'north americans being lactose tolerant' means 'north americans having large domestic mammals' as an absolute precondition. Which means MUCH bigger butterflies than Skraeling/Norse interaction,
  12. Polish Eagle Resident Martian

    What about American Buffalo? Could the Native Americans domesticate those and milk them?
  13. robertp6165 Confederate Troll

    Jan 1, 2004
    South Carolina: The Cradle of Secession
    Well, there still are other possible explanations besides a cultural taboo.

    1) The population on Greenland was quite small.
    2) Fishing is a relatively labor intensive activity.
    3) The Greenlanders might have found it easier to hunt for walrus ivory, sell it at a high profit margin, and then simply buy dry cod from Iceland and Norway rather than fish for it themselves.
    4) Dry cod normally arrives with the bones, or the vast majority of them, removed. The bones are removed during the process of preparing them for drying. Therefore no fish bones in Greenland.
    5) If they were doing the above, the need to maintain a fishing fleet in being disappears. Their fleet gradually withers away due to lack of maintenance.
    6) The Little Ice Age arrives and the waters around Greenland ice up.
    7) Cut off from supplies of dry cod from Iceland and Europe, and unable to build ships to fish for themselves, they perish.

    Remember...the Greenland settlements existed for nearly 400 years. Clearly the fact that they weren't fishing for themselves...if that's true...wasn't a major issue until the Little Ice Age put paid to the trade routes which sustained the settlements.
  14. pa_dutch Member

    Sep 19, 2004
    It's actually written in the Vinland sagas.
  15. Cecil Well-Known Member

    Apr 15, 2010

    I´ll just sum it up like this.


    No offense.
  16. LurkerNo.9 Well-Known Member

    Oct 16, 2007
    A decaying New England seaport
    Well, yes and no. Bison are a much harder animal to domesticate than Aurochs (the ancestors of modern cattle) were, but they are domesticable. The sundry plains tribes were well on there way to doing it in the 19th century, and it was only the near elimination of both bison and plains Indians that stopped 'em. In the past century, Anglo ranchers have been picking up where they left off, and bison meat is now a regular (if expensive) feature in U.S. supermarkets. However, based on how little progress the plains Indians had made by the 19th century, and given how much modern bison-ranching is dependent on motor vehicles, I suspect that horses or some equivalent are a necessary prerequisite for even semi-domestication of bison. So, unless the Vinlanders bring large quantities of horses with them, too, the American Indians are still SOL when it comes to domestic bison.

    As for milking bison...well, to the best of my knowledge, nobody does that. But that's mostly because bison aren't fully domesticated yet, and so they won't put up with being milked. I have no idea whether fully domesticated bison would be capable of producing edible milk in regular quantities. It would certainly be a challenge...even the nicest of semi-domesticated bison are still mean-tempered animals. But, then again, horses aren't known for their kindness, and yet...
  17. Workable Goblin Banned

    Aug 3, 2009
    Low Equestrian Orbit
    Why? That's pretty much what most modern, developed countries do, they import most of their food in exchange for non-food items they produce. It doesn't strike me as impossible that Greenland did something of the same nature (trading their valuable non-food products for food).
  18. Valdemar II Banned

    Jul 26, 2005
    Copenhagen; the Kalmar Union
    Especially when Island, Faroe and Norway did the same thing.