Nov 182018
 

Today is the birthday (701 CE) of the Mayan “king” (ajaw), Itzam K’an Ahk II, also known as Ruler 4, which, among other things, gives me the opportunity to present his date of birth in the Mayan Long Count: 9.13.9.14.15 7 Men 18 K’ank’in. Of the three extant references to Itzam K’an Ahk’s birth, none mentions his line of descent, suggesting that Itzam K’an Ahk was not his predecessor’s (K’inich Yo’nal Ahk II’s) son, and that he may have been the founder of a new dynasty. In one carving, the ajaw in his name is shown with a turtle ornament on his belt, suggesting that one of his ancestors had the word auk (“turtle”) in his name and was thus of royal blood. Additionally, Stela 40 shows what could be Itzam K’an Ahk’s mother in Teotihuacano dress, suggesting that Itzam K’an Ahk was emphasizing maternal connections to Teotihuacan. This stela was erected exactly 83 Tzolk’in, (about 59 years), following the death of Itzam K’an Ahk I (a former ajaw of Piedras Negras whose name Itzam K’an Ahk II adopted), vaguely suggesting some kind of link between the two.

Itzam K’an Ahk II ascended to power on November 9th, 729 (9.14.18.3.13 7 Ben 16 K’ank’in). In 749, he celebrated his one K’atun as ruler, an event that was attended by many dignitaries, including a b’aah sajal (“first ruler”) named K’an Mo’ Te’ who had served K’inich Yo’nal Ahk II. The events of this banquet were later recorded by the final ajaw of Piedras Negras, K’inich Yat Ahk II on Panel 3. This carving shows Itzam K’an Ahk II lecturing the interim ruler of Yaxchilan, Yopaat Bahlam II, about Piedras Negras’ local dominance. (This panel has lent support to the belief that during Itzam K’an Ahk II’s rule, Piedras Negras had eclipsed Yaxchilan in power.) The K’atun celebration was followed by another event a few days later, at which Itzam K’an Ahk II performed a ‘descending macaw’ dance and then had a drink made from fermented cacao beans passed around to his guests.

Itzam K’an Ahk II probably engaged in war, since a pyrite disc found in his tomb depicts the severed head of a leader from Hix Witz. It seems likely that Hix Witz was under Piedras Negras’ control, largely based on the disk and because the Maya center is identified on Panel 7, erected earlier by Itzam K’an Ahk I, as a “tributary bearing plumes and textiles” to Piedras Negras.

Itzam K’an Ahk II’s reign was clearly marked by hegemony over neighboring kingdoms. He died on November 26th, 757 (9.16.6.11.17 7 Kaban 0 Pax) and was buried three days later. According to Panel 3, the burial took place at the “‘mountain’ of ho janaab witz”, which in this context refers to Pyramid O-13. Itzam K’an Ahk II was succeeded by Yo’nal Ahk III on March 10th, 758. Itzam K’an Ahk II’s burial site was venerated by the succeeding kings of Piedras Negras, which has led some scholars to hypothesize that Itzam K’an Ahk II produced a new ruling dynasty, and that the following three kings—Yo’nal Ahk III, Ha’ K’in Xook, and K’inich Yat Ahk II—were his sons.

Itzam K’an Ahk II erected at least five stelae: 9, 10, 11, 22, and 40, of which Stelae 9, 10, and 11 were raised in front of or near Structure J-3. Stela 11, constructed in August of 731, is of the niche variety (meaning it depicts the ruler seated in a small hollow, or niche) and commemorates Itzam K’an Ahk II’s ascent to power. This monument depicts him flanked by witnesses to the ceremonies explored on the stela itself. The expanse in front of the stone slab was a space for offering and supplication, the monument’s bottom depicts human sacrifice. The monument was discovered by Teoberto Maler in two pieces on the ground; the front was well-preserved (even retaining some of its pigment), although the glyphs on the upper right were weathered.

Stela 9 had long been broken into thirds when it was discovered in 1899 by Maler. While these fragments had eroded slightly, the base was later found in situ by the University of Pennsylvania’s University Museum. In the 1960s, looters carted off parts of the monument, namely a portion depicting a captive. Stela 10 is highly eroded, resulting in a loss of detail. In addition to this decay, the head ornament has presumably been lost. Stela 40 contains the depiction of the aforementioned woman dressed in Teotihuacano garb; it shows Itzam K’an Ahk II dispersing something—hypothesized to be either blood or incense—into a “psychoduct” (that is, a vent leading into a subplaza tomb). The female on the stela, denoted only by an “upside down vase” glyph, is likely Itzam K’an Ahk II’s mother.

Given that Itzam K’an Ahk served fermented cacao beans in a drink for his anniversary, the following video on fermenting cacao may be instructive to you. Chocolate served as a drink was reserved for Mayan nobility and the fermentation process is necessary to bring out the chocolate flavor:

Here also is a video on supposedly ancient Mayan cooking styles. It’s a bit touristy, and not in any sense academically rigorous, but it has some interesting moments nonetheless.

 

Sep 212016
 

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Today is the International Day of Peace, sometimes unofficially known as World Peace Day, dedicated to world peace, and specifically the absence of war and violence. To inaugurate the day, the United Nations Peace Bell is rung at UN Headquarters (in New York City). The bell is cast from coins donated by children from all continents except Africa, and was a gift from the United Nations Association of Japan, as “a reminder of the human cost of war.”  The inscription on its side reads, “Long live absolute world peace.”

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The United Nations General Assembly declared, in a resolution sponsored by the United Kingdom and Costa Rica in 1981, that the International Day of Peace be devoted to commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace. The date initially chosen was the regular opening day of the annual sessions of the General Assembly, the third Tuesday of September. The United Nations was, of course, founded in the aftermath of World War II to prevent another such conflict. Obviously there has not been another world war, but the body has not been especially effective at preventing smaller wars.

The ineffectiveness of the UN should not come as any surprise, but, nonetheless, we can applaud the ideals. It can be admitted that the UN has been successful in a great many areas through its numerous organs such as WHO and UNESCO. The problem is that world peace is certainly a goal that I am sure the majority would support in principal, but the practice is endlessly elusive. This is because the causes of conflict are seemingly impossible to eradicate. There are many causes, obviously but I would like to focus on two: human temperament and profiteering.

As a professional anthropologist I do not believe in some notion of universal human nature. All cultures are different, and some exist globally and in history, who seek/sought to live peaceably. Conflict is not in our natures; we learn it. In fact, a very good case can be made for the argument that genetically we incline towards cooperation. There’s also a good case to be made for the argument that prehistoric hunters and gatherers were peaceful people. It was the development of domestication and, thereafter, cities, that created the conditions for war.

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What little we can glean from contemporary foragers is that it is in their best interests to share and live at peace. Presumably that was also true in prehistory. Unfortunately prehistoric foragers lived in conditions that no longer exist. The most obvious ones that have vanished are abundant natural resources and low population. Under those conditions, when local groups grew too big to be sustained by local resources they could simply fission and move to new territory without conflict. That state of affairs is long past.

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The Genesis story of Cain and Abel is probably a fair summation in parable form of the state of affairs in Mesopotamia at the time of domestication. Their parents, Adam and Eve, were simple foragers when they lived in the Garden of Eden. They lived off the bounty of the land. But when they were expelled they had to grow their own food by the sweat of their brows. Whether foraging or farming, people need both vegetable and animal products for survival (as a general rule). Foragers can provide both for themselves by dividing up the labor and then sharing their resources. With domestication comes a problem. It’s not as easy to create communities that can both farm crops and raise animals. Both activities benefit from the same kinds of land, but if there is not enough to go around disputes may arise.

In Mesopotamia there was a simple solution to such disputes. Farmers could take the fertile river valleys and pastoralists (animal herders) could take the rugged hill country that was not useful for farming. Of course, the hills are not good for cows and pigs, but they are perfect for sheep and goats. Enter Cain and Abel. Cain raised crops and Abel kept sheep. With this division comes the need for trade: the farmers need meat and the shepherds need bread. One way to accomplish this is through peaceful negotiation. The other is to take what you need forcibly. Pastoralists have historically subscribed to the forcible course of action because they have the means at their disposal to be successful. They slaughter animals routinely, so they can turn the technology of death from animals to humans. In addition, they live in rugged highlands that are easily defended.

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To protect themselves from such attacks, farmers need to build cities with walls and train soldiers for defense. And there you have it. Once communities develop with different interests you have the potential for conflict. Then as now the question is whether you are going to fight over resources or trade in harmony, and, then as now, fighting often seems to be the better option for one reason: profiteering. To put it in a nutshell, people have always gone to war to make a profit. Other factors come into play of course, but at heart someone is making a profit – always.

If it were illegal to make a profit from manufacturing guns and bombs no one would do it. But the fact is that weapons manufacture is hugely profitable. At this point, if weapons manufacture were outlawed national economies would collapse. What is more, if weapons manufacturers ran the risk of dying through the use of their products, they’d run a mile. But that’s not the case. One group of people makes weapons and makes huge profits, and a different group of people uses the weapons and die.  There’s the problem to be solved if you want world peace. As long as we live in a world where we’re content to let a small minority get fat at the expense of others, we’ll always have war.  We need to beat our swords into ploughshares.

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My solution is in some ways simple, yet impossible to put into effect. Put the people who advocate war in the forefront of battle. If you want to make guns, you have to be the first one to put on a uniform and use them. If you want to declare war, you have to be on the front lines. I don’t doubt that conflict would cease instantly under those conditions.

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Eating together is, as I have said many times, one avenue towards peace and harmony. We’ve all had fights over the dinner table, of course, but in general sitting down together for a meal promotes goodwill.  Some of my best times have come when circumstances required me to share a meal with strangers. I’d have no trouble filling a book with stories – passage from Australia to England sitting at tables for 14, a fish camp in the Appalachian mountains where everyone ate at one long table, hostel kitchens worldwide, barbecues in China, potluck suppers . . . the list is endless. Let’s talk about potlucks. Everyone brings a favorite dish and we all share. Perfect for a day dedicated to world peace. In the past my contributions ran the gamut from pies and pasta to creamy desserts. In the end I opted for bringing mounds of raw vegetables of all kinds with a dipping sauce because at every potluck there were oceans of casseroles and pies with not a vegetable in sight. My contributions always vanished in a hurry.

My food suggestion du jour to celebrate the idea of world peace is to hold a potluck or something of the sort to bring people together to eat. My favorite potlucks have been the multicultural ones where you wind up with one pots, curries, pastas and whatnot. So begin by imagining what you could make that would delight an international crowd. I’m spoilt for choice because I’ve lived in so many places and cooked so many different cuisines. Recently on this blog I showcased rice dishes as good for the masses. Here’s one I invented for a New Year’s potluck. It’s a burrito casserole. They all called it lasagna but loved it anyway. I don’t have a formal recipe because I made it up on the spot. You’ll get the idea.

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Start by sautéing an onion, chopped, over medium heat in a little olive oil, and when it has turned translucent add ground beef and brown it. Add a little powdered cumin also, plus salt and pepper to taste. I didn’t add any hot pepper flakes but I would have if it were just for me. When the meat is nicely browned add some crushed canned tomatoes and beef stock to moisten. Simmer for about 40 minutes until the sauce is reduced and thickened.

In a separate skillet make a tomato-based sauce with crushed canned tomatoes, beef stock, and spices. Garlic and cumin are the mainstays, but you can add some others if you wish. Cilantro is a good addition.

When the beef is ready, take out some flour tortillas. Make individual burritos by wrapping the tortillas around the beef to form a roll. Place the burritos in a row in the base of a baking dish. You can make one or two layers as you wish. Don’t make the burritos too fat because you want a balance of tortilla, meat, and sauce (like lasagna). Pour your tomato sauce over the burritos so that they are covered, with a little on top. Cover the top with shredded cheese, and bake in a medium oven (300°F/150°C) until the cheese is melted and bubbling.

Jun 212014
 

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Today is National Day in Greenland, marking the anniversary of self rule granted by Denmark in 2009 after a long process of separation (still not complete). Greenland is an autonomous country, still within the Kingdom of Denmark, located between the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, east of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Though physiographically a part of the continent of North America, Greenland has been politically and culturally associated with Europe (specifically Norway and later Denmark) for more than a millennium. In 2008, the people of Greenland passed a referendum supporting greater autonomy; 75% of votes cast were in favor. Greenland is, in area, the world’s largest island (Australia is counted as a continent), over three-quarters of which is covered by the only contemporary ice sheet outside of Antarctica. With a population of 56,370 (2013), it is the least densely populated country in the world. Few people from the outside know much about Greenland, so here is a potted history.

Greenland has been inhabited off and on for at least the last 4,500 years by Arctic peoples whose forebears migrated there from Canada. Norsemen settled on the uninhabited southern part of Greenland beginning in the 10th century. Inuit peoples arrived in the 13th century. The Norse colonies disappeared in the late 15th century. In the early 18th century, Scandinavia and Greenland came back into contact with each other, and Denmark established sovereignty over the island.

Having been ruled by Denmark-Norway for centuries, Greenland became a Danish colony in 1814, and a part of the Danish Realm in 1953 under the Constitution of Denmark. In 1973, Greenland joined the European Economic Community (EEC) with Denmark. However, in a referendum in 1983, a majority of the population voted for Greenland to withdraw from the EEC, and officially withdrew in 1985. In 1979, Denmark granted home rule to Greenland, and in 2008, Greenlanders voted in favor of the Self-Government Act, which transferred more power from the Danish royal government to the local Greenlandic government. Under the new structure, in effect since 21 June 2009, Greenland can gradually assume responsibility for policing, judicial system, company law, accounting and auditing; mineral resource activities; aviation; law of legal capacity, family law and succession law; aliens and border controls; the working environment; and financial regulation and supervision. The Danish government retains control of foreign affairs and national defense. It also retains control of monetary policy, providing an initial annual subsidy of DKK 3.4 billion, slated to diminish gradually over time as Greenland’s economy is strengthened by increased income from the extraction of natural resources.

It was the early Scandinavian settlers who gave the country the name Greenland. In the Icelandic sagas, it is said that the Norwegian-born Icelander Erik the Red was exiled from Iceland for manslaughter. Along with his extended family and his thralls, he set out in ships to explore icy land known to lie to the northwest. After finding a habitable area and settling there, he named it Grœnland (translated as “Greenland”), supposedly in the hope that the pleasant name would attract settlers (false advertizing goes back a long way). The name of the country in Greenlandic (Kalaallisut) is Kalaallit Nunaat (“land of the Kalaallit”). The Kalaallit are the indigenous Greenlandic Inuit people who inhabit the country’s western region.

In prehistoric times, Greenland was home to several successive Paleo-Eskimo cultures known primarily through archaeological finds. The earliest entry of the Paleo-Eskimo into Greenland is thought to have occurred about 2500 BC. From around 2500 BC to 800 BCE, southern and western Greenland was inhabited by the Saqqaq culture. Most finds of Saqqaq-period archaeological remains have been around Disko Bay. From 2400 BC to 1300 BCE, the Independence I culture inhabited northern Greenland. It was a part of the Arctic small tool tradition. Towns, including Deltaterrasserne, started to appear.

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Around 800 BCE, the Saqqaq culture disappeared and the Early Dorset culture emerged in western Greenland and the Independence II culture in northern Greenland. The Dorset culture was the first culture to extend throughout the Greenlandic coastal areas, both on the west and east coasts, and it lasted until the arrival of the Thule culture in 1500 CE. The Dorset culture population lived primarily from whale hunting. The Thule culture people are the ancestors of the current Greenlandic population. They started migrating from Alaska around 1000 CE, reaching Greenland around 1300. The Thule culture was the first to introduce to Greenland such technological innovations as dog sleds and toggling harpoons.

From 986, Greenland’s west coast was settled by Icelanders and Norwegians, through a contingent of 14 boats led by Erik the Red. These settlers formed three settlements—known as the Eastern Settlement, the Western Settlement and Ivittuut the “Middle Settlement”—on fjords near the southwestern-most tip of the island. They shared the island with the late Dorset culture inhabitants who occupied the northern and western parts, and later with the Thule culture arriving from the north. Norse Greenlanders submitted to Norwegian rule in the 13th century. The Kingdom of Norway entered into a personal union with Denmark in 1380, and from 1397 along with Greenland was a part of the Kalmar Union.

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The settlements, such as Brattahlíð, thrived for centuries but disappeared some time in the 15th century, perhaps at the onset of the Little Ice Age. Apart from some runic inscriptions, no contemporary records or historiography survives from the Norse settlements. Icelandic saga accounts of life in Greenland were composed in the thirteenth century and later, and do not constitute primary sources for the history of early Greenland. Modern understanding therefore depends on the physical data. Interpretation of ice core and clam shell data suggests that between 800 and 1300 AD, the regions around the fjords of southern Greenland experienced a relatively mild climate several degrees Celsius higher than usual in the North Atlantic, with trees and herbaceous plants growing and livestock being farmed. Barley was grown as a crop up to the 70th parallel. What is verifiable is that the ice cores indicate Greenland has experienced dramatic temperature shifts many times over the past 100,000 years. Similarly the Icelandic Book of Settlements records famines during the winters in which “the old and helpless were killed and thrown over cliffs.” The last written records of the Norse Greenlanders are of a marriage in 1408 in the church of Hvalsey—today the best-preserved Nordic ruins in Greenland.

These Icelandic settlements vanished during the 14th and 15th centuries, probably as a result of famine and increasing conflicts with the Inuit. The condition of human bones from this period indicates that the Norse population was malnourished, probably due to soil erosion resulting from the Norsemen’s destruction of natural vegetation in the course of farming, turf-cutting, and wood-cutting, pandemic plague, a decline in temperatures during the Little Ice Age, and armed conflicts with the Inuit.

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In 1500, King Manuel I of Portugal sent Gaspar Corte-Real to Greenland in search of a Northwest Passage to Asia which, according to the Treaty of Tordesillas, was part of the Portuguese area of influence. In 1501, Corte-Real returned with his brother, Miguel Corte-Real. Finding the sea frozen, they headed south and arrived in Labrador and Newfoundland. Upon the brothers’ return to Portugal, the cartographic information supplied by Corte-Real was incorporated into a new map of the world which was presented to Ercole I d’Este, Duke of Ferrara, by Alberto Cantino in 1502. The Cantino planisphere, made in Lisbon, accurately depicts the southern coastline of Greenland.

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In 1605–1607, King Christian IV of Denmark sent a series of expeditions to Greenland and Arctic waterways to locate the lost eastern Norse settlement and assert Danish sovereignty over Greenland. The expeditions were mostly unsuccessful, partly due to leaders who lacked experience with the difficult arctic ice and weather conditions, and partly because the expedition leaders were given instructions to search for the Eastern Settlement on the east coast of Greenland just north of Cape Farewell, which is almost inaccessible due to southward drifting ice. The pilot on all three trips was English explorer James Hall.

After the Norse settlements died off, the area came under the de facto control of various Inuit groups, but the Danish government never forgot or relinquished the claims to Greenland that it had inherited from the Norwegians; and when contact with Greenland was re-established in the early 18th century, Denmark asserted its sovereignty over the island. In 1721, a joint mercantile and clerical expedition led by Danish-Norwegian missionary Hans Egede was sent to Greenland, not knowing whether a Norse civilization remained there. The expedition can be seen as part of the Danish colonization of the Americas. After 15 years in Greenland, Hans Egede left his son Paul Egede in charge of the mission in Greenland and returned to Denmark where he established a Greenland Seminary. This new colony was centred at Godthåb (“Good Hope”) on the southwest coast. Gradually, Greenland was opened up to Danish merchants, and closed to those from other countries.

When the union between the crowns of Denmark and Norway was dissolved in 1814, the Treaty of Kiel severed Norway’s former colonies and left them under the control of the Danish monarch. Norway occupied then-uninhabited eastern Greenland as Erik the Red’s Land in July 1931, claiming that it constituted terra nullius. Norway and Denmark agreed to submit the matter in 1933 to the Permanent Court of International Justice, which decided against Norway.

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Greenland’s connexion to Denmark was severed on 9 April 1940, early in World War II, when Denmark was occupied by Nazi Germany. On 8 April 1941, the United States occupied Greenland to defend it against a possible invasion by Germany. The United States occupation of Greenland continued until 1945. Greenland was able to buy goods from the United States and Canada by selling cryolite from the mine at Ivittuut. The major air bases were Bluie West-1 at Narsarsuaq and Bluie West-8 at Søndre Strømfjord (Kangerlussuaq), both of which are still used as Greenland’s major international airports. During this war, the system of government changed: Governor Eske Brun ruled the island under a law of 1925 that allowed governors to take control under extreme circumstances; Governor Aksel Svane was transferred to the United States to lead the commission to supply Greenland. The Danish Sirius Patrol guarded the northeastern shores of Greenland in 1942 using dogsleds, detecting several German weather stations and alerting U.S. troops who then destroyed them. After the collapse of the Third Reich, Albert Speer briefly considered escaping in a small aeroplane to hide out in Greenland, but changed his mind and decided to turn himself in to the United States Armed Forces.

Greenland had been a protected and very isolated society until 1940. The Danish government had maintained a strict monopoly of Greenlandic trade, allowing only small scale troaking (barter) with Scottish whalers. Nevertheless, wartime Greenland developed a sense of self-reliance through self-government and independent communication with the outside world. Despite this change, in 1946 a commission including the highest Greenlandic council, the Landsrådene, recommended patience and no radical reform of the system. Two years later, the first step towards a change of government was initiated when a grand commission was established. A final report (G-50) was presented in 1950: Greenland was to be a modern welfare state with Denmark as sponsor and example. In 1953 Greenland was made an equal part of the Danish Kingdom. Home rule was granted in 1979.

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Following World War II, the United States developed a geopolitical interest in Greenland, and in 1946  offered to buy Greenland from Denmark for $100 million, but Denmark refused to sell. However, in 1950, Denmark did agree to allow the United States to reestablish Thule Air Base, which was greatly expanded between 1951 and 1953 as part of a unified NATO Cold War defense strategy. The local population of three nearby villages was moved over 100 kilometers (62 mi) away in the winter. A secret attempt to construct a subterranean network of nuclear missile launch sites in the Greenlandic ice cap named Project Iceworm was carried out from Camp Century from 1960 to 1966 before being abandoned as unworkable. The Danish government did not become aware of the program’s actual mission until 1997, when it was discovered while looking for records related to the crash of a nuclear-equipped B-52 bomber at Thule in 1968.

With the 1953 Danish constitution, Greenland’s colonial status ended, the island was incorporated into the Danish realm as an amt (county), extending Danish citizenship to Greenlanders. This also resulted in a change in Danish policies toward Greenland that consisted of a strategy of cultural assimilation. During this period, the Danish government promoted the exclusive use of Danish in official matters, and required Greenlanders to go to Denmark for their post-secondary education; many Greenlandic children grew up in boarding schools in southern Denmark, many losing their cultural ties to Greenland. While the policies “succeeded” in the sense of creating a demographic shift turning Greenlanders from being primarily subsistence hunters into being urbanized wage earners, the policy also backfired to produce a reassertion of Greenlandic cultural identity by the Greenlandic elite, leading to a movement in favor of independence that reached its peak in the 1970s. As a consequence of political complications in relation to Denmark’s entry into the EEC in 1972, a further desire to establish the legality of Greenland’s status formed in Denmark, resulting in the Home Rule Act of 1979, which gave Greenland limited autonomy with its own legislature taking control of some internal policies, while the Parliament of Denmark maintained full control of external policies, security, and natural resources. The law came into effect on 1 May 1979. The Queen of Denmark, Margrethe II, remains Greenland’s Head of state. In 1985, Greenland left the European EEC, because of the EEC’s commercial fishing regulations and an EEC ban on seal skin products. A referendum on greater autonomy was approved on 25 November 2008.

On 21 June 2009, Greenland assumed self-determination with responsibility for self-government of judicial affairs, policing, and natural resources. Also, Greenlanders were recognized as a separate people under international law. Denmark maintains control of foreign affairs and defense matters. Denmark upholds the annual block grant of 3.2 billion Danish kroner, but as Greenland begins to collect revenues of its natural resources, the grant will gradually be diminished. It is considered by some to be a step toward eventual full independence from Denmark. Greenlandic became the sole official language of Greenland at the historic ceremony.

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Greenland cuisine is difficult to replicate elsewhere because it is dominated by local ingredients. Because the majority of Greenland is covered by permanent glaciers, the sea is the source for most food. Seafood dishes include various fishes (often smoked), mussels, and shrimp. Ammassat or capelin, a fish in the salmon family is commonly eaten and can easily be dried. Atlantic halibut, redfish, deepwater redfish, Greenland halibut, and lumpfish are fished from the west coast, as are Greenland cod (Gadus ogac) and shorthorn sculpin (Myoxocephalus scorpius), but these two are eaten only as a last resort. Arctic char is fished off the east coast. The Greenland shark (Somniosus microcephalus) is rarely eaten because it is poisonous but can be edible after a complicated preparation of either boiling the meat repeatedly or fermenting it. I have to say that you are on your own when it comes to fermented fish, which is popular in Scandinavian cultures. There are very few things I will not eat a second time; Scandinavian fermented fish is in that category.

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Suaasat is a traditional Greenlandic soup, thought of as the national dish. It is often made from seal, or from whale, reindeer, or sea-birds. The soup often includes onions and potatoes and is simply seasoned with salt and pepper or bay leaf. The soup is often thickened with rice or by soaking barley in the water overnight so that the starches leach into the water.

Here is a recipe for baked cod in leek and potato soup taken from Royal Greenland Recipes. By rights you should use Greenland cod, but Atlantic cod works as a substitute. Fish marry well with the classic leek and potato combination. You can find the recipe here in Danish, along with the image reproduced here, and a searchable index (Google translate helps).

http://royalgreenland.dk/btc/Opskrift.aspx?ProductID=PROD191

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Baked Cod in Potato and Leek Soup

Ingredients

4 cod fillets
butter
salt and pepper
½ lb/400 g of potato, peeled and diced
2 leeks, white parts sliced
3 shallots or 1 onion, peeled and sliced
8 cups chicken broth
1 cup cream
1 bay leaf
small bunch chives
1 cup vegetable oil
croutons

Instructions

Place the cod fillets in a greased ovenproof dish. Season with salt and pepper and place a small knob of butter on top of each fillet. Bake the cod in the oven at 320°F/160 °C for approx. 10 minutes

Sauté the onions in a little oil, once they are transparent add the leeks and potatoes. Sauté the leeks and potatoes lightly, and do not allow them to take on any color. Add the chicken broth and bay leaf.

Simmer until the potatoes are thoroughly cooked and soft, approximately 20-30 min.

Remove the bay leaf and blend the soup. Add the cream and season with salt and pepper

Blanch the chives quickly in boiling water then chop fine.

To serve, place the cod in a shallow dish, and pour the soup over it. Garnish with chives and toasted croutons.