Place, Practice, and Pathology: Dental pathology in Medieval Iceland

Author(s): Sarah Hoffman

Year: 2017


This study focuses on the cultural, political, and biological factors that led to the formation of a unique pattern of dental pathology within an Icelandic population at Haffjarðarey, Iceland between the 13th and 16th Centuries . The Haffjarðarey church and cemetery clearly served as an important meeting place and burial site for the surrounding region during this period. A paleopathological analysis of the population reveals a high rate of ante-mortem tooth loss, severe tooth wear, and alveolar bone resorption. This project incorporates analysis of the human skeletal remains from the Haffjarðarey church cemetery, interpretations of community attachment (topophilia) and subsequent fear (topophobia) of this once revered location and later feared location. It is argued that a combination of cultural practices specifically food preparation and the spinning of wool, political and economic upheaval associated with the imposition of Norwegian authority in the 13th century, and a lack of sufficient nutritional intake resulted in widespread periodontal disease within the population of Haffjarðarey. The abandonment and transformation of Haffjarðarey may have reinforced long held Icelandic folklore beliefs in the power of the dead and their space on the living.

Cite this Record

Place, Practice, and Pathology: Dental pathology in Medieval Iceland. Sarah Hoffman. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430232)

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Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 17527