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.
Among the results of the recently-concluded 2018 SCASS season were some interesting new findings at Hegranesþing, the local Viking- and medieval-era assembly site. I’ll leave it to others to describe what they’ve found this year (I wasn’t there myself), but I thought this seemed like a good time to post something fun from the previous season. We had some great weather in 2017, and Hegranesþing looked quite nice from the air. This one-minute video shows the view as our drone flies over the site to return to my position and then descends to be caught. Watch for the two tern attacks!
Hegranesþing has an exceptionally large number of features that are visible on the surface. This includes quite a few rectangular mounds with depressed centers, most of which are usually interpreted as the remains of “booths” that would have had temporary roofs during spring gatherings that brought together the inhabitants of the region to settle legal disputes and engage in social activities ranging from trade to wrestling. Some of the booths lie inside a rectangular enclosure with an area of over 5000 square meters. A smaller circular church wall is attached to the southeast corner of the wall surrounding the larger enclosure. To give you a better view of most of the layout, here’s a nice oblique still from the drone:
Videos and photos such as the above are really sort of a bonus, though. The primary mission of most of our drone flights is to capture top-down photos that we can combine to create detailed topography models and orthorectified photo images that work like maps. When data from our coring, excavation, and geophysical investigations are layered atop these images, the result is a richer understanding of the site as a whole.
The Lower Keflavík report is now up on the web. In this report, we describe a early longhouse about 150 east of the Keflavík main farm mound. This report builds on previous work. While there are a few bumps in the flattened field, geophysics and coring reveal the a Viking age structure, midden area and associated outbuildings. The 2017 test pit suggests and early occupation and an abandonment before the AD 1104 tephra fell. The information in the report has been obtained without any excavation into the structure itself.
The Keflavík Cemetery Excavation Interim Report 2017 is now up on the web. In this report Guðný Zoëga & Douglas Bolender describe the final year of excavations, including descriptions of a smithy and the “rock pit.” The report also details much about the cemetery wall, inducing a drain and possible channels, the entrance, and the scalloped radial depressions that trace the interior of the wall. There are also descriptions of remains of the church itself including the choir and postholes. Finally, the report detales the excavation and contents of the last 8 graves.
The first of several reports from the 2017 work is now ready for distribution. Entitled “Fornbýli Landscape and Archaeological Survey on Hegranes (FLASH): Interim Report 2017,” This report contains some of the data and results of Kathryn Catlin’s PhD dissertation on the small sites. This report covers several Hegranes farms including: Ás (Minni-Ás, Næfurstaðir, Gunnlaugsgerði, Túnfótur, and a possible Hegrastaðir); Svanavatn (including another possible Hegrastaðir); Keflavík (Kriki, Þrælagerði, Grænakot/Vík); Utanverðunes (Naustavík); Hamar(Hendilkot); Helluland (Kotið, Grænagerði); Keldudalur (Stekkjarborg, Gerði); and Egg (Minni-Egg).
Archaeologists from the Skagafjörður Church and Settlement Survey invite all who are interested to come and learn about the archaeological research that they have been carrying out for the last three years on Hegranes.
• Who they are
• What they have been doing
• What techniques and technology are used
• What has been found
• Light refreshments
• And much more!!
At 2:00 PM, there will be a guided tour of Hegranesþing. The tour will discuss new research while exploring the ruins. The rest of the event will take place at Verknámshús FNV in Sauðárkrókur.