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Project Details
Title:Vatnsfjörður
Permalink:http://www.nabohome.org/cgi-bin/explore.pl?seq=47
Abstract:The excavation in Vatnsfjörður forms a part of a larger project called Vestfirðir á miðöldum/The Westfjords in the middle ages. The Westfjords have somewhat been neglected in Icelandic archaeology up to this point. The overall aim of the project is to add to knowledge about this important part of the country and shed some light on its economy. Research at Vatnsfjörður is a multidisciplinary investigation of the rise and decline of the chieftain´s seat at Vatnsfjörður, and the relationship between this farm´s evolution and the evolution of its surrounding landscape. The project aims to explain why this apparently infertile farm in the Westfjords was chosen as a seat of power, what factors and social processes enabled it to flourish as a social, economic and cultural powerhouse between the thirteenth and seventeenth centuries, and why the importance of the farm declined after the seventeenth century.
Country:Iceland
Project Start Year:2003

Account Owner
Contact: Fornleifastofnun Íslands
Postal Address: Bárugata 3, 101 Reykjavík, ICELAND
Post Code: 101
Telephone: 00354-5511033
Website: http://www.instarch.is
Email: fsi@instarch.is

Project Content

PDF File
Fornleifarannsókn í Vatnsfirði við Ísafjarðardjúp sumarið 2003 [0.72 MB]
This is a preliminary report about the archaeological survey and excavation which took place in Vatnsfjörður in 2003. Four trenches were excavated to estimate the archaeological potential. One trench was put through the farm mound and showed good preservation of cultural layers. Three trenches were excavated in the homefield and all of them revealed well preserved structures, possibly from the 10th century which give an exceptional opportunity to dive into old data without having to dig through many phases of occupation.


PDF File
Vatnsfjörður við Ísafjarðardjúp - Rannsóknir sumarið 2003 [0.72 MB]
[same stuff as in FS211] In 2003 four trenches were dug in the homefield of Vatnsfjörður to look at the future prospect for excavation. One was located in the farm mound which proved to be well preserved. The other three trenches revealed well preserved structures, possibly from the 10th century which give an exceptional opportunity to dive into that data without having to dig through many phases of occupation.


PDF File
Fornleifarannsókn í Vatnsfirði við Ísafjarðardjúp 2004 [0.65 MB]
The aim in 2004 was to fully excavate the Viking Age skáli, previously located by trenching. Two building phases were detected. The original skáli was around 16 x 6 m, built in ca. 900-950 judging by a Viking Age bead found in the floor. The structure was reduced by 6 m in ca. 950-1000 AD. Coring took place in the homefield close to the skáli and revealed thick, charcoal rich cultural layers in every single core. Northeast of the skáli they were accompanied by reddish peat ash which could point to a midden. The coring results point to very extensive archaeology in an area of at least 200 x 100 m large. The dating of the skáli is interesting in the light of previous theories of landnám in the Westfjords. It has been maintained that the Westfjords were only colonized when no feasible agricultural land was left in Iceland.


PDF File
Fieldwork at Vatnsfjörður, NW-Iceland 2005 [3.21 MB]
This season (2005) saw the completion of the excavation of the Viking Age longhouse, called Area 1. Some interesting elements were revealed, f.ex. that gravel had been used in between turf layers in the walls whereas stones would have been a better building material - which could suggest that the settlers had recently arrived. The structure has been dated to the early 10th century based on C14 analysis. Another structure SE of the skáli was also the target of investigation.


PDF File
Vatnsfjörður 2006: Interim Report [6.59 MB]
The 2006 was the fourth season of archaeological research in Vatnsfjörður. Three new structures were revealed in the Viking Age area. Excavation commenced in the farm mound, which is believed to have been occupied soon after the Viking Age up to modern times. Trenches were excavated to estimate its extent to plan further excavation.


PDF File
Vatnsfjörður 2007: Interim Report [11.23 MB]
In 2007 excavation continued in the Viking Age area. Ruins revealed in previous years were finished, ruin 3 (a smithy) and ruin 4 (a small building with a stone pavement) and yet another ruin (no. 7) was discovered and exposed but not fully excavated. It could possibly date to the Viking Age although this was not verified. Surprisingly animal bones show that wild species only make up to about a third of the fauna in the Viking Age which is not what was expected. An area in the farm mound around 400 m2 was opened and t a large part of the 19th-20th century Vatnsfjörður farm excavated. It became clear that it had undergone drastic changes from the time it was built in 1884 until it fell out of use in the nineteensixties.


PDF File
Vatnsfjörður 2008: Interim Report [7.15 MB]
In 2008 the excavations in both the Viking Age area and the 19th century farm mound in Vatnsfjörður were continued. Excavations in the Viking age area focused on an outside activity area east of the already excavated ruins. Two deep cooking pits were discovered as well as the poorly preserved remains of a Viking Age structure, where a Viking Age bead was retrieved.


PDF File
Vatnsfjörður 2009: Interim Report [7.28 MB]
From June 29-July 24, 2009, the farm and surrounding valley at Vatnsfjörður, in the eastern part of Ísafjarðardjúp, saw its seventh field season of archaeological excavation and landscape survey.


PDF File
Vatnsfjörður 2009: Framvinduskýrslur/Interim Report [7.28 MB]
From June 29-July 24, 2009, the farm and surrounding valley at Vatnsfjörður, in the eastern part of Ísafjarðardjúp, saw its seventh field season of archaeological excavation and landscape survey. Since 2003 an international, multidisciplinary team of archaeologists, historians, and natural scientists has been investigating the social, economic and environmental changes that occured at the farm of Vatnsfjörður between the tenth and twentieth centuries AD (Figures 1 and 2, above). The aim of the project is to explore the dynamism and interactiveness of the cultural landscape and the environment of the Westfjords over the past 1000 years in order to better understand where continued environmental and social changes might take the Westfjords in the future. By integrating textual, archaeological, and environmental evidence, the project aims to explain why the apparently infertile farm of Vatnsfjörður was chosen to be a chieftain’s seat, what factors and social processes enabled Vatnsfjörður to flourish as a social, economic and cultural powerhouse between the thirteenth and seventeenth centuries, and why the importance of the farm declined after the seventeenth century.


PDF File
Vatnsfjörður 2010: Framvinduskýrslur/Interim Report [22.71 MB]
This interim report provides details of the findings from the 2010 field season at Vatnsfjörður. The report provides background information of the site, include summary details of the work since 2003. An Icelandic introduction is also included.


PDF File
Vatnsfjörður 2011: Framvinduskýrslur/Interim Report [9.53 MB]
The sixth field season on the Vatnsfjörður farm mound lasted from the 25th of July to the 20th of August 2011. The excavation was supervised by Oddgeir Isaksen, Guðrún Alda Gísladóttir and Garðar Guðmundsson, assisted by Óskar Gísli Sveinbjarnason, Dawn Elise Mooney and Céline Dupont-Hébert. The excavation was staffed by nine students of the 2011 Field School in North Atlantic Archaeology: Gilles Marciniak, Katarina Kolar, Lindsey Stirling, Matthew Cox, Nathan Rokke, Nika Shilobod, Sally Evans, Teva Vidal and Verena Höfig. Post-excavation work was carried out by Oddgeir Isaksen, Guðrún Alda Gísladóttir and Garðar Guðmundsson. The project was managed for Fornleifastofnun Íslands by Garðar Guðmundsson


icon Film: Við Djúpið/In the Depths
Við Djúpið is a short film, presenting the Fieldschool of North-Atlantic Archaeology. The title "Við Djúpið" refers to the name of the region ("Ísafjarðardjúp"), but also to the experience of young archaeologists, exploring the depths of time. In this documentary, there is a brief description of the programme and the training of field methods as well as post-excavation work. The film was directed by Stéphane Butet, written by Megan T. Hicks and Adolf Fridriksson, and produced for the North-Atlantic Bio-Cultural Organisation (NABO) and the Institute of Archaeology in Iceland (Fornleifastofnun Íslands, FSI). It was filmed by Stéphane Butet and shot on location in Ísafjarðardjúp region.





Project Location

Latitude: 65.941963°N Longitude: 22.498661°W