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Parent name: Mývatn Landscapes Project

Project Details

Abstract:The aim of the project was to fully excavate all structures and middens located at Sveigakot, south of lake Mývatn. The site of Sveigakot was first surveyed in 1998 in an area now completely eroded. Only midden traces were visible on the surface. It soon became clear that the site could be dated to the Viking Age and was therefore ideal for a comparative study with the larger Hofstađir project, not least in order to compare the faunal collections from each site.
Project Start Year:1998
Projected End Year:2006

Account Owner

Contact: Fornleifastofnun Íslands
Postal Address: Bárugata 3, 101 Reykjavík, ICELAND
Post Code: 101
Telephone: 00354-5511033

Project Content

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Archaeological investigations at Sveigakot 1998-2000 [1.35 MB]
The site of Sveigakot was discovered during survey in the southernmost part of Skútstađahreppur, now eroded, in 1998. Faunal material from Sveigakot was considered ideal for comparison with Hofstađir, a high status Viking Age site in the same area. Trial excavation was carried out in 1999, revealing a sheet midden with several Viking Age finds. Based on tephra the site was dated to the 9th-10th centuries. This was supported by C14 analysis from bones found in the midden. At the end of the 2000 season it had been established that there are at least three distinct midden phases; the lower midden from c. 870-950, upper midden from after 950 and the midden in area T which may be from the early 11th century. No structure revealed so far seems to predate a tephra believed to date to ca. 950 AD. A small domestic building was also revealed in 2000. Sveigakot has some interesting contradictions, that is a faunal assemblage pointing to substantial farming on one hand - but on the other hand one of the smallest dwellings (Structure 1) ever excavated in Iceland. This could possibly point to an outstation rather than an independant farm.

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Archaeological investigations at Sveigakot 2001- including preliminary investigations at Hrísheimar, Selhagi and Ytri Tunga [4.95 MB]
The 2001 season in Sveigakot saw excavation in three areas: The midden (M) was completed, found to predate tephra thought to be from 950 AD. Nearly 50 l of animal bone was retrieved from that layer. Excavation in area S (skáli) was continued. The skáli had been rebuilt on a larger house, around 20 m long, which could possibly have served as a byre at the eastern end. It seems that the older house was abandoned but then reused for a while, perhaps as a shieling, and then rebuilt again in the 12th century. Excavation in area T was commenced where a small midden had been excavated in 2000. A series of pithouses predating the skáli were discovered beneath the midden, possibly dating to about 950-1050. A few possible medieval sites in the area were trenched for dating and preservation: 1) Höfđi in Tjörnes, proved not to be a dwelling. 2) Selhagi, dated from 10th-13th centuries. 3) Hrísheimar - not well dated but finds point to a Viking Age date. Both Selhagi and Hrísheimar show good preservation and seem to have the same faunal pattern as Hofstađir and Sveigakot, including marine fish and birds from the seaside.

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Archaeological investigations at Sveigakot 2002 [1.14 MB]
Two areas were excavated this season: Area S, the earlier skáli with extensions, was excavated apart from the floor layers awaiting the next season. It proved to post-date tephra from 950. Extensions to the east and north belong to the later building phase earlier excavated - the eastern one was most likely a byre. In area T the excavation of two pit houses was completed - the larger one predates the smaller and is interpreted as storage for food. Structures from the 9th and 10th centuries still remain to be found but that seems to have been the prime of the settlement judging from the bone assemblage from the midden. Structures already excavated all date to the late 10th-12th century and it can not be ruled out that Sveigakot was inhabited until the 13th century. The earlier skáli in S was abandoned in the 11th century but reused as a shelter of some sort, possibly a shieling. Late in the 11th century Sveigakot was inhabited again, marked by the building of the latest skáli which later had extensions added to it.

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Archaeological investigations at Sveigakot 2003 [3.60 MB]
As in previous years excavation in 2003 was focussed on two main areas. The lowest floor in the skáli, which clearly postdates the 950 tephra, was removed and proved to be sealing older structures, postholes and a fireplace which is now the earliest structure that has been excavated on site, dated to c. 871-950. A paved surface east of the skáli, earlier believed to be the central aisle of a byre, has been reinterpreted as a paved outside area although it cannot be ruled out that an earlier structure was in the place prior to it. The pithouse excavated in 2001-2002 turned out to be the backroom of a larger sunken featured building which predates it.

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Archaeological investigations at Sveigakot 2004 [3.65 MB]
In 2004 the excavation area in Sveigakot was enlarged by interconnecting areas S and T - which brings the area up to a total of 645 m2. Excavation of several Viking Age structures was continued, including features predating skáli the skáli floor, structure S7 which also predates the skáli and is now interpreted as a byre which has partly been reused as a smithy. A few sunken featured buildings were continued, called P1, P2 and MT. At least two of those and the alleged byre predate 950 judging from tephra. An attempt was made to establish a chronology for the structures excavated so far. What is interesting and highly unusual is that at least three generations of pithouses had been abandoned before the skáli was erected - on top of the byre. This makes Sveigakot a highly unusual Viking Age farmstead and a few possible explanations are introduced at the end of the report.

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Archaeological investigations at Sveigakot 2005 [2.44 MB]
2005 saw the seventh and hopefully penultimate season of excavation work at Sveigakot. The excavation area was extended eastwards by 44 m2 and westwards in area N by 10 m2 so the whole excavation area now measures some 690 m2. Of these some 400 m2 were under excavation in 2005. With the extensions made in 2005 it can now be stated with confidence that the archaeological deposits on the northern, eastern and southern sides of the site have been defined but it is still possible that area P will need to be extended by 1 or 2 metres westwards.

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Archaeological investigations at Sveigakot 2006 [8.39 MB]
In 2006 the excavation of Sveigakot was completed. The work concentrated on three complexes in the centre of the excavation area and only miniscule extensions were made to the limits of excavation. A single square metre was opened at the north-eastern corner of MP1 and 3 square metres to the west of P1. In addition a scatter of non-local stone, presumably from a completely eroded building, was recorded some 10 m east of the northern end of the site.

Project Location

Latitude: 65.515674°N
Longitude: 17.029066°W