Viking Archaeology in Iceland

Viking Archaeology in IcelandThe Mosfell Archaeological Project (MAP) is analysing the cultural and environmental landscapes of the Mosfell Valley (Mosfellsdalur) in southwestern Iceland, and this volume presents the work of twenty-three of our researchers. MAP is a crossdisciplinary, micro-regional study employing the tools of archaeology, history, anthropology, forensics, environmental sciences, and saga studies. This volume details MAP’s excavations and research on the Valley’s extensive and well-preserved archaeological remains. Habitation in Mosfellsdalur began early in the Viking Age colonization of Iceland in the ninth century. When the first Viking Age settlers arrived, the Mosfell Valley was uninhabited and forested with birch and willow. We focus on the medieval community that evolved in the Valley and its connections to the wider Icelandic and Viking worlds.

During the Medieval Period, the Mosfell region had a high population density, and inhabitants practiced livestock farming and coastal fishing. The Valley’s heaths and highlands sustained considerable sheep and cattle raising. Together the different parts of the Mosfell Valley and the surrounding highlands and coastal areas form an interconnected Valley System. The Valley was the ancestral seat of the Mosfell chieftains, the Mosfellsdælingar, a family of farmers, warriors, and legal specialists well known from the Icelandic sagas and other medieval texts. The Valley itself was in a strategic location that facilitated participation in greater Icelandic politics. Oriented east-west, the Mosfell Valley lies between modern Reykjavík and Thingvellir (Þingvellir), the site of the Althing (Alþing), Iceland’s Viking Age parliament (Map 1.1). Today, the main road between Reykjavík and Thingvellir runs through the Mosfell Valley, roughly following a medieval route to the Althing.

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