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Project Details

Abstract:The well known medieval trade site of Gásir lies north of Akureyri. The archaeological investigations at Gásir formed the core of a five year project aimed at typifying remains from the full functional and chronological extent of the site. The project also aimed to enhance the presentation and development of the site as a focus of public interest and amenity. Owing to the tremendous scale and complexity of the surviving remains, only selected portions of the archaeology were targeted for intrusive investigation.
Project Start Year:2001
Projected End Year:2006

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

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Archaeological Research at Gásir, 2001 - An Interim Report [1.38 MB]
Gásir is a well known medieval trading place in Eyjafjörđur, N-Iceland. In 2001 a preliminary excavation was carried out after a new Gásir project had received a grant from Kristnihátíđarsjóđur. The site had previously been excavated partly in 1907 and 1986 and the results showed tremendous complexity of the archaeological deposits. A new map was produced by survey in 2001 and a number of previous excavation trenches were re-opened and re-assessed. The evidence suggests a lengthy and complex sequence of occupation, and is interpreted as seasonal occupation for the purposes of trading. Informal temporary structures were found, along with deposits below sea-level, indicating potential for the preservation of organic remains. A five year program of archaeological excavation was proposed after the 2001 season.

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Archaeological Investigations at Gásir, 2002 - A Preliminary Report [2.15 MB]
The excavation in 2002 revealed at least 10 seperate rooms or booths belonging to four different phases. A lot of the effort went into defing the limits of previous excavations from 1907. Underwater survey was conducted to estimate the preservation of remains in the sea in front of Gásir. The results were not promising and probably archaeological remains have been carried away by currents.

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Gásir 2002 - An Interim Report [0.92 MB]
In 2002 an area of about 250 m2 large area (called "A") was opened across the main cluster of booths. The investigation revealed a very complex sequence of remains, representing possibly 10 seperate rooms belonging to at least four phases of construction and in addition a number of external features. A number of hearth features came to light that had no clear relationship to upstanding features, concentrated to the seaward side of the structural remains. One hearth was of special interest as it contained possible remains of sulphur and could have been used in the purification process. Samples were taken for further analysis. All cultural remains excavated so far in Gásir postdate tephra deposited in 1300 AD. Coring and sampling of the sea-bottom outside of Gásir was conducted to investigate the possible existance of the survival of a maritime archaeology. The results were negative and most likely the cyclical action of riverine and oceanic currents has removed any such remains. It was proposed that work commenced on undisturbed deposits to the west of the area excavated, additional 400 m2.

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Excavations at Gásir 2003 - An Interim Report [1.46 MB]
The work in 2003 focused chiefly on a large open area excavation immediately to the west of the area examined in 2002 so the total area now under investigation is approximately 600 m2, up to 2 m deep. Excavation revealed the well preserved remains of a number of sunken featured buildings, believed to date to the 14th and possibly also the early 15th centuries. Substantial quantities of post-abandonment deposits were removed, revealing a complex sequence of occupational layers, including floors, hearths, paths, entrances and a putative "industrial" area. Additionally, trial excavation was carried out upon a number of outlying structures, in order to clarify their dating, function and possible association with the main ruin group. Excavation recovered a wide range of artefactual evidence, including items of slag, iron, copper alloy, pottery, stone, bone, horn and ivory.

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Excavations at Gásir 2004: An Interim Report [2.82 MB]
Excavation in 2004, the fourth season of a six year project in Gásir, achieved a number of important goals. Area A revealed for the first time floors and pits undamaged by previous excavators. Several sunken featured buildings were excavated and are by no means the earliest remains at this location as tehy are all dug down through the remains of early occupation. Excavation in area B was commenced by opening a 465 m2 area witin a circular earthwork that demarcates the churchyard on the surface. In addition a 4 m long trench was excavated through the churchyard wall on its NW side. This revealed the stone foundations of a very large church, 16,5 x 5 m, postdating the 1300 tephra. No burials have been located so far.

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Excavations at Gásir 2005 - An Interim Report [1.94 MB]
This season the rooms started in 2003 were completed. It is clear that all structures have been reused many times and reconstructed through time. The development of the site shows that the concentration of booths has been moving east through time. A narrow area previously thought to be a walking path between booths revealed two sunken featured buildings and one of them contained vast amounts of fish bone, which will without doubt shed light on consumption patterns on site.

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Excavations at Gásir 2001-2006 - A Preliminary Report [4.12 MB]
This report summarizes the results of excavation in Gásir between 2001-2006. The excavation area exceeds 1170 m3. The work in area A (booths) focused upon the remains of two clusters of sunken buildings, or “booths”, divided by a path or track way. All excavated layers in area A postdate tephra from 1300. No concrete evidence has been found for any activity later than 1400AD, although a small group of artefacts could possibly date from the 15th century. The church at Gásir (Area B) was fully excavated along with the graveyard. No graves were found. The church itself had three building phases and is interpreted as a merchants’ church, built by the merchants who carried out trade at Gásir, for their own spiritual needs and to impress on their Icelandic customers their wealth, magnanimity and commitment to the Iceland trade. The earliest phase of the church predates 1300 and so does the round boundary around it. As such, the excavation at Gásir represents an exceptional sample of material from a short time period, and from a unique site. The high or late medieval period is severely under-represented in Icelandic archaeology, as is the archaeology of Eyjafjörđur.

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Excavations at Gásir 2006: An Interim Report [2.08 MB]
Excavation continued both in area A (booths) and B (church) in this last season of excavation. Results from area B are not presented in this report. Considerable activity was revealed witin A, with many pits and postholes investigated. The rooms excavated have most likle served various functions. One was possibly used for smoking meat/fish as it has many fireplaces and possible chunks of dung. Another room could possibly have been used as a storage. All rooms have several phases of activity. Munch of the western part of Area A was sealed benath the Hekla 1300 horizon. Work also continued on the pathway dividing the area. A test trench from 1986 was opened, revealing partial remains of a building postdating 1300.

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The church in Gásir : Interim report on excavations in 2004 and 2006 [9.30 MB]
This report contains the results of the church excavation. In 2004 and 2006 an area of about 550 m2 within the graveyard wall was fully excavated down to natural including the church. The church had three phases, all of wooden structures, the youngest one predating the 1300 tephra. The latest church and the graveyard wall were most likely built in the second half of the 13th century. The earliest phase most likely dates to the early 12th century. No graves were discovered in the graveyard but some pits relating to food preparation and industrial activities were excavated.

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Gásir Post Excavation Reports - Volume 2 [2.40 MB]
As the excavation at Gásir is now finished extensive post excavation work is underway. Artefact conservation and classificaton, study of faunal and insect remains, analysis of industrial residues and myriads of other detailed analyses of samples and data are important in order to understand the full extent of all the different activities that took place at this important trading site. 2010 see the publication of the Gásir Post Excavation Reports – Volume 2.

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Excavations at Gásir 2003 - A Preliminary Statement [1.34 MB]
This is a preliminary statement handed in to Kristnihátíđarsjóđur and gives a summary of the work in 2003. Work at Gásir in 2003 has focused on a large open area excavation immediately to the west of the area examined in 2002. The total area now under investigation is approximately 600m˛, and is characterised by exceptionally complex archaeological structures and deposits up to 2m deep. A number of extremely well preserved buildings have now come to light, along with a sizeable and important assemblage of medieval artefacts. In addition, exploratory work has been carried out on a number of outlying structures. The work completed so far at Gásir already represents an unparalled source of information about the nature and extent of this unique and internationally important site.

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Interim Report of Animal Bones from the 2002 Excavations at Gásir, Eyjafjörđur, N Iceland (NORSEC Lab Report 11) [0.19 MB]
Archaeological excavations carried out in the summer of 2002 at the site of Gásir in Eyjafjörđur near the modern city of Akureyri directed by Howell Roberts of Fornleifastofnun lslands (Archaeological Institute Iceland, FSl) for Minjasafniđ á Akureyri (Akureyri Museum) produced a substantial number of animal bones, whose initial analysis is reported here. Analysis has been carried out by Dr.s Jim Woollett and Tom McGovern at the CUNY Northern Science & Education Center laboratories as part of the North Atlantic Biocultural Organization cooperative effort, with funding from the UK Leverhulme Trust. The 2002 excavations were part of a larger scale long term effort to investigate the remains of the early trading center at Gásir and to place the site in a regional and historical perspective. Investigations will continue at the site, and this report is thus only a working paper to be updated and replaced as more material becomes available for study. The total animal bone collection (archaeofauna) analyzed from the 2002 season comprised 2,101 fragments, of which 848 could be assigned to a taxon. Approximately a third of these bones came from the redeposited backdirt of the 1907 Bruun and Jónsson excavation, and the many remaining in situ contexts freshly excavated in 2002 do not include substantial midden deposits immediately producing sample sizes suitable for full scale zooarchaeological quantification. However, even at this stage the collection as a whole has a number of special characteristics that warrant discussion and comparison with other Icelandic archaeofauna and suggest several potentially productive directions for further research.

Project Location

Latitude: 65.786365°N
Longitude: 18.168032°W