October 28, 2011
by John Steinberg
We recently put up our preliminary report from our 2010 experimental season in Greenland. The title is “Evaluating the Potential of Archaeogeophysical Surveying on Viking Age and Medieval Sites in Greenland. October 2011” and it is Cultural Resource Management Study No. 51. Many of the Fiske Center’s reports can be found on our Reports and Publications page. The report is by Douglas J. Bolender, John M. Steinberg, Brian N. Damiata, John W. Schoenfelder, and Kathryn Caitlin.
To sum up. our preliminary investigation suggests that archaeogeophysics will be hard pressed to identify buried Viking Age turf walls that do not have stone foundations. We have found that both magnetometry and the in-phase component of electromagnetics are well suited to identify buried Viking Age stone foundations and other important cultural features and that GPR is effective for identifying Viking Age Christian graves.
August 17, 2010
We’re headed back to Iceland today after two straight weeks of solid fieldwork! It rained almost every day, but we were able to get some great geophysical data from the two last sites we visited, E172 and E66. E172 was similar on the surface to early Icelandic farms – wet and cryoturbated, with structures about where we expected them to be. The data set should be great when we get a chance to look at it more closely.
After a midnight boat ride between icebergs through cold, blinding rain, we were back at the cozy yellow house at E66, just across the fjord from our first target, E64. E66 was very different from E64, which was nothing like E172 – Viking-age farms here are so far spread, and so very different from each other, that it makes logistics, survey, and interpretation very challenging! We set up a massive grid downslope of the visible church and farm mound at E66 and walked back and forth across it until dark. The soil there is basically sand, which will make it difficult to pick out early turf structures beneath the sediment. We still have a lot of work to interpret this data set as well.
We did get a couple of days without rain, and were able to get the kite flying at both E64 and E66. We got some absolutely amazing overhead photos of our gridded areas and the ongoing excavation at E64 – here’s one of them, it’s really cool. The kite photos really add a lot to our ability to target our surveys and then to interpret the results.
Yesterday – our last full day in Greenland – was sunny and warm. After a couple boat rides and a walk between fjords we hiked closer to the glacier north of Narsarsuaq, through a forest of tall birch trees. This might be what Iceland looked like when the Vikings first arrived, before they managed to deforest most of the island. And late last night we finally saw the aurora borealis, which was absolutely amazing. Greenland wants us to come back – and we’ve had such success over the last two weeks that we’re thinking about doing just that!
August 3, 2010
by John Steinberg
The name “Viking” evokes so much mythology. Some of which is true, most of which is not. In America when you think of Vikings you might think of Leif Erickson. According to the Icelandic Sagas, Leif was the son of Eric the Red (hence Erickson). Erik the Red was part outlaw, part explorer. Eric the Red went from Norway to Iceland (because of some killings) and then in Iceland he was outlawed (again because of some killings). During his exile from Iceland he found a land west of Iceland, unknown to Europeans. While most of the land was ice, he did find some palaces that were suitable for the Icelandic farming style that relied on sheep and grass hay fodder. Erik the Red called this land, Greenland. About 980 AD Erik and some other folks from Iceland settled Greenland. These settlements lasted for about 400 years.
While flying over Greenland yesterday, the name seems quite inappropriate (Iceland would have been a better name). Now deep in Tunugdliaefik (Eric’s fjord) the name seems appropriate on this particularly nice day.
Erik’s son Leif, according to some of those same sagas, sailed to a land he called Vineland, which is in all likelihood North America. Here in Qassiaesuk (Brattahild) there is large stature of Lief, he overlooks the fjord. We (Brian, Doug, Kat, John & John) decided that a picture was a good idea.
Tomorrow we are off to Igaliko fjord (the fjord just south of Narsarsuaq). We don’t know how much internet access we wil have. We will try and post when we have access.