Skagafjörður Church and Settlement Survey


Flying Over Hegranesþing

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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.

Author: John Schoenfelder

I'm a lecturer at UMass Boston, and I also contribute occasionally to projects of the Fiske Center for Archaeological Research. I've worked on a wide variety of archaeological projects in a wide variety of places: California, Israel, Hawaii, Alaska, Indonesia, Iceland, Greenland, and New England. I earned my PhD at UCLA, where I wrote a dissertation that focused on the archaeology and anthropology of the Indonesian island of Bali, exploring the relationship between the development and spread of irrigated rice agriculture and the evolution of polities (chiefdoms and states) and their monuments. I have also contributed to cultural and genetic anthropology projects regarding Indonesia. I'm interested in cartographic survey (field mapping), and enjoy taking photographs of archaeological sites from kites, poles, and other small things that go up in the sky.

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