Skagafjörður Church and Settlement Survey

SCASS Blog

August 10, 2015
by scass
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Excavating Graves at Keflavík

Joe's feet at Keflavik Cemetery

Joe’s feet at Keflavík Cemetery

After several weeks of clearing fill, aeolian deposits, and more recent turf layers, the Keflavík cemetery excavation team finally began excavating. Investigating the burials has contributed to the project’s understanding of interment rituals over time, the eventual retiring of cemeteries. We have located a total of 14 graves, most of which have been identified as cuts into an in situ AD 1104 Hekla tephra layer. A smaller number of graves have been cut into older turf that was used to cover the cemetery. These graves date to the cemetery’s earlier internment events, prior to AD 1104.

The grave that I personally investigated was right next to the church and partially under a more recent expansion of the church wall. The boundaries of this grave have not been determined, and contained AD 1104 tephra despite it likely being an older grave below the in situ AD 1104 tephra layer. I encountered a variety of stratigraphic complications and questions as the boundaries seemed to shift. Another member of the crew uncovered an infant burial partially overlapping the grave I was excavating, at a shallower depth, more than 40 cm above the bottom pit. When I finally reached the bottom of my own excavation (well over a meter down from the layer of removed turf), I found most of the remains of a coffin. Though it was not in good shape, the recovery of such a find may allow for analyses of the kinds of wood being used for coffin making, as well as for possible radiocarbon dating. While the actual skeleton had been exhumed (probably when the cemetery had been retired), the grave offers plenty of opportunities to answer questions about the practice of moving graves to functioning cemeteries. By studying the makeup of the grave fill from the exhumation and the cuts into the grave, we may learn when the cemetery was finally closed, and create a tighter chronology of this site!

— Joe Trebilcock

August 8, 2015
by John Steinberg
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Test excavation among the cows

IMG_1615Eric and Cee Cee started a test pit at a midden at Garður.  They were joined by the livestock.

This farm is right next to the Hegranesþing (Hegranesþing is the land of  Garður).  This research is the complement to the geophysical survey at Hegranesþing.  Hopefully this excavation will give us some idea how old  farmstead is at Garður.

August 5, 2015
by John Steinberg
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SCASS on the UMass Boston homepage

UMass Boston WebpageUMass Boston has put a photo of some of the crew up in their rotating front page photo.  it is   It looks like it is the 3rd or 4th picture in the rotation.  The photo was taken after climbing  up to a pagan grave on the farm of Hróarsdalur after coring.  The picture has, from Left to right, Ramona Steel (Historical Archaeology Graduate Student, UMass Boston) Collen Lenfest (incoming Freshmen, UMass Boston), Shala Carter (Recent Graduate, UMass Boston), Allison Carlton (Historical Archaeology Graduate Student, UMass Boston) and Grace Cesario (CUNY Graduate School).

The test pit at Hróarsdalur suggests that the farm is very old.

August 5, 2015
by John Steinberg
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Tephra in Bogs

 

The drained bog near Hátún.

The drained bog near Hátún.

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The bog at Melkot

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The bog at Holtsmúli

One of the important activities that took place this field season was the extraction of tephra and plant material from bogs.  We are trying to get better dates for some of the dark tephras between Hekla 3  and Hekla 1  (this is the AD 1104 we know quite well).  The bogs took us to some wonderful locations.

August 3, 2015
by John Steinberg
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Hegranesþing initial results

In phase from CMD Explorer

In phase from CMD Explorer

We now have some initial results from the survey we talked about last week.  Here is the In Phase component of the CMD explorer results. In the center right is the round church yard. Many of the booths are also visible.    This image does not add a whole lot to what is visible on the surface.  However, this and some of the other components may suggest where a farmstead might be located.

August 1, 2015
by John Steinberg
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Church in Tephra: part two – the Drone Video

Drone video over Keflavík church and burial ground that is outlined in the 1104 AD volcanic ash layer from Mt. Hekla.

Drone video over Keflavík church and burial ground that is outlined in the 1104 AD volcanic ash layer from Mt. Hekla.

There is now a wonderful video from Guðný’s resent drone flight over the Keflavík church and burial ground that SCASS is excavating.  When the white ash layer that exploded from Mount Hekla in 1104 AD fell back to earth it landed all over.  Because the square turf church (with a small apse in the east) and the round turf wall that encloses the graveyard were above the surface and later removed, there is no white ash teprha in those locations.  The church and churchyard wall have been outlined in the 1104 AD volcanic ash layer from Mt. Hekla. If you look closely, you can see that some of the graves are from after the white tephra fell. That is, they were excavated through the tephra.  Once the tephra layer is removed, we will also begin to see the graves that were dug before the layer fell.

There are two holes in the site, a trench in the center-east from the electric company and a round hole in the north east from an old cesspool.  Looks like the cesspool did not disturb any graves.

 

August 1, 2015
by John Steinberg
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Skagafjörður Municipality announces the beginning of the SCASS project

Skagafjörður Web page The  Municipality of Skagafjörður has a web page that announces the beginning of the Skagafjörður Chruch and Settlement Survey (SCASS).  It has a great drone picture of the cemetery at Keflavík.  The Skagafjörður Heritage Museum also has a web page for the project.

The direct links are:

http://www.skagafjordur.is/is/frettir/skagfirska-kirkju-og-byggdasogurannsoknin-komin-a-fullt

http://www.glaumbaer.is/is/safnid/frettir/bandariskur-styrkur-til-kirkju-og-byggdasogurannsokna-i-hegranesi

SHM web page

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