Ecohistories of Settlement of the Community of Svalbarð, Northeast Iceland


The Archaeology of Settlement and Abandonment of Svalbarð research program has reconstructed chronologies of settlement movements on the Svalbarð estate (extreme north-east Iceland), from the 9th to the 19th century AD, as well as their environmental and socio-economic contexts. Settlement expansions occurred in the 10th to 13th and the 18th to 19th centuries AD, interspersed with waves of widespread abandonment after ca. 1300 and 1800.

Analyses of amended soils and of soil and air temperature and humidity data from sites across the estate allow assessment of the productive potential and growing season of particular farms during past climate regimes. Thereby, thresholds of viability for particular farms can be projected. Climate-driven environmental changes figure in the first phase of abandonment, but to varying degrees in individual farm sites. Landscape archaeology and zooarchaeology studies suggest that on-going changes in herding and subsistence economies and land holding institutions were also key motivators of settlement and abandonment trends. Farms differ greatly in productive potential while soil humidity was a key variable limiting their resiliency. The enclosure of favoured sites early on argues for a centralised, redistributive, pattern of land management. Finally, the anthropogenic soil "memory" of successful prior settlement favoured continued settlement thereafter.

Cite this Record

Ecohistories of Settlement of the Community of Svalbarð, Northeast Iceland. James Woollett, Paul Adderley, Céline Dupont-Hébert, Guðrun Alda Gísladóttir, Uggi Ævarsson. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429420)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -178.41; min lat: 62.104 ; max long: 178.77; max lat: 83.52 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 17478