Pagan burials

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Parent Project Details
Parent Project Title:Pagan burials
Sub Projects: Hringsdalur
Kįlfsskinn, Eyjafirši

Project Details

Title:Pagan burials
Abstract:Although many pagan graves have been found in Iceland, organised search for such sites has hitherto not been conducted and most have been found by coincidence. In some cases bones and artefacts have been picked up without the site being investigated by an archaeologist. This project aims to establish a methodology to locate pagan graves.
Project Start Year:2003

Account Owner

Contact: Fornleifastofnun Ķslands
Postal Address: Bįrugata 3, 101 Reykjavķk, ICELAND
Post Code: 101
Telephone: 00354-5511033

Project Content

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Kuml og samfélag. Framvinduskżrsla 2003 [0.72 MB]
Recent research has shown that most pagan graves are found either away from the farm site, close to boundaries between farms or close to the farm. Often they lie close to old tracks. A few suspicious sites were excavated in 2003 to test this model. A pile of rocks in Bjarneyjar, Breišafjöršur, proved to be a cairn or the remains of a small hut and a mound in Ytri -Fagradalur in Skaršsströnd is most likley a natural formation. A site close to the Viking Age site Hrķsheimar was excavated, and a grave-like oblong depression, with sides lined with stones, revealed. No human remains were present but mysteriously a bone from a dog (dates to 770-890 AD according to C14 analysis) and a bone from a reindeer (not introduced in Iceland until the 18th century) were discovered. This has yet to be explained. Two alleged graves close to another Viking-Age farm, Saltvķk, were excavated and both proved to be graves, sealed by the 1477 tephra but heavily disturbed by grave-robbers.

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Kuml ķ Saltvķk ķ Reykjahverfi, S-Žingeyjarsżslu [1.38 MB]
Two pagan burials were excavated close to the farm Saltvķk in S-Žingeyjarsżsla in 2003 and 2004. Both had been located during survey in 2002, close to ruins that have been found to date to the Viking Age and close to an old horse track. Both had been heavily disturbed, most likely just before the deposition of the 1477 tephra. The eastern grave has most likely contained a human and a horse at the northern end - or at least some part of a horse. The western one was single. It cannot be ruled out that more graves, disturbed or even undisturbed, remain on site.

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Kumlin hjį Litlu-Nśpum ķ Ašaldal. Fornleifarannsókn 2004 [0.81 MB]
Two pagan graves were excavated close to the farm ruins called Litlu-Nśpar, S-Žingeyjarsżsla, in 2004. They were discovered where pagan graves had been found previously by accident in 1915. Grave 1 had been disturbed before the 1477 tephra was deposited. No finds were present but badly preserved bones of a human and perhaps a horse were present. Grave two, also disturbed between the 11th-13th centuries was also in bad shape. It turned out to be divided in two with only a thin wall of soil between. Only one human bone was present in the northern part and the southern one contained horse- and dogbones.

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Fornleifarannsóknir ķ S-Žingeyjarsżslu 2007 - Samantekt um vettvangsrannsóknir į Žegjandadal, Ašaldal og Reykjadal [2.92 MB]
This report contains results of investigations carried out in coopperation with Hiš žingeyska fornleifafélag in 2007. Excavation in Litlu-Nśpar was continued. Previously pagan graves had been discovered and structures dated to the Middle Ages. The investigation focussed on the place where pagan graves had previously been found. A well preserved boatgrave was revealed, marked by the shape of the cut and several boatnails. The remains of at least two individuals were found in the grave which had been robbed. 2. Preliminary excavation was carried out in Žegjandadalur. A boundary just north of the farm site Einarsstašir was dated to pre 1300. Four trenches were excavated in the farm site Ingirķšarstašir. A boundary enclosing the homefield predates 1300 and an enclosure attached to it is built after 1200. A round structure thought to be a graveyard wall dates to the mid 13th century. The farm mound however had occupational layers that both pre- and postdate the 1300 tephra - some layers even postdate the 1477 tephra. 3) Pagan graves in Lyngbrekka were continued. Three additional graves, all of which had been disturbed, were successfully located and fully excavated. So far four human burials and two horse burials have been excavated on site.

Project extent

The geographical extent of this project has not been defined.