Skagafjörður Church and Settlement Survey

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Lauren Welch O’Connor defends her thesis entitled “ENVIRONMENTS EXPLORED: AN IN-DEPTH ANALYSIS OF SOIL MOVEMENT IN NORTHERN ICELAND”

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Lauren giving a public defense of her thesis

Lauren Welch O’Connor defends her Master’s thesis in Historical Archaeology at UMass Boston in March 2019,  It was an outstanding presentation.

Here is a draft of her Abstract

ENVIRONMENTS EXPLORED: AN IN-DEPTH ANALYSIS OF SOIL MOVEMENT IN NORTHERN ICELAND

The initial colonization of Iceland in the late 9th century had a profound impact on the fragile environment of the North Atlantic island. Settlement and the introduction of livestock resulted in widespread erosion and the replacement of woodlands with meadows and heaths. Changes in the environment are assumed to have played a role in determining settlement patterning and subsistence strategies. While marginal highland areas were most seriously affected, resulting in farmstead abandonment, the nature of changes in lowland areas and their impact on the productivity of individual farms is poorly understood. Local patterns of landscape change in Iceland could be highly varied as erosion in one area often resulted in soil accumulation in another. Focusing on the lowland region of Hegranes in northern Iceland, this thesis examines patterns of erosion and sediment accumulation in relation to fluctuations in farmstead size during three periods of occupation: pre-1104 A.D., 1104-1300 A.D., and post-1300 A.D. This study considers when and where soil erosion and accumulation occurred and its implications for farmstead activity and the long-term viability and productivity of individual farms and households.

Author: John Steinberg

Dr. John Steinberg has been a Research Scientist at the Fiske Center since 2006. He received his PhD in Anthropology from UCLA in 1997. Before coming to UMass Boston, John taught at UCLA and California State University Northridge. He is interested in economic problems of colonization, both in New England and across the North Atlantic. He uses GIS and shallow geophysics to study settlement patterns to understand broad trends over the landscape. In addition to John's New England work, he is a co-PI on the the Skagafjordur Church and Settlement Survey (SCASS). SCASS is a multi-year project in Northern Iceland to understand the formation of social stratification and property rights during the Viking Age and after (AD 874-1700). For this work in Iceland, as well as other projects, John and his colleagues have received over $1,000,000 in research grants, mostly from the National Science Foundation. John is the director of the Digital Archaeology Laboratory at the Fiske Center.

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