Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Thursday, 7 June - the caves at Efr-Hvolshellar

An interesting site with three man-made caves at Efr-Hvolshellar.

There has been some dispute about the date of these caves.  Originally they were thought to be of 19th century origin, as they were used to house animals until recently.  More recent ideas places them earlier - indeed much earlier. 

They were possibly created by Irish monks in the pre-Settlement period, or created by the earlier settlers.  The argument against them being of Norse (post-Settlement date) is that artificial caves such as these are unknown in Norway at this period.

A really interesting site!  In the near vicinity there are the features of  early building, but it is difficult to make out much from the ground.  Unfortunately, it was much too windy to fly the drone for aerial photos.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Tuesday, 7 June - Skálholt

Skálholt plays an important role in the Conversion of Iceland.  The first bishopric was founded here in 1056, with the first bishop, Ísleifur, taking seat. From then on it became the center of learning, culture and worldly power in Iceland. 

The modern cathedral was consecrated in 1963.  A reconstruction of the first cathedral stands alongside.

Between 2002 and 2007, excavations took place on the Bishop's residence at Skálholt.  The remains are now partially uncovered alongside the Cathedral.

Tuesday, 7 June - Thingvellir again

A time to take a few more videos at Thingvellir.

I will tidy them up later and look at incorporating them into one finshed video.

You can view the following videos:

A short drone flight along thingvellir, Iceland.

Thingvellir, Iceland - the Öxará River. 

Monday, 5 June 2017

Monday, 5 June - The Saga of Erik the Red

Erik  Þorvaldsson was the father of Leif Eiríksson, who settled in Vinaland (possibly L'Anse aux Meadows).

Erik settled at Eiríksstaðir in Haukadalur in the Dalasýsla region of Iceland..  The site that was probably Erik's house has been excavated and the outline of the building can be seen in the photo above.

Close to the original site, a replica of the building has been constructed.

Monday, 5 June - Egil's Saga

Borg in Mýrar was the site where Skalla-Grim, the father of Egill the hero of Egil's Saga settled in 891.

According to the saga, Skalla-Grímr Kveld-Úlfsson sailed to Iceland from Norway. His father, Kveld-Úlfr followed in the convey.  Kveld-Úlfr became ill and orders a companion on his ship "You shall bear my greetings to my son Grímr, when you find each other, and tell him this too, if it happens that he comes to Iceland, and if it turns out that -- although it seems unlikely -- I am there ahead of him, then he shall settle in the place next to where I have come to land" (Egils saga Skalla-Grímssonar, ch 27)

Kveld-Úlfr died and, following his instructions, his coffin was cast into the sea.  The coffin was washed into Borgarfjörður, the place where it washed up is called Kveldúlfshöfði ('Kveldúlfr's headland').  

Therefor, Skalla-Grim built a house at Borg.  The Saga tells us: "there was a great expanse of moor-land and it was widely-forested, a great distance between the mountains and the shore, plentiful seal-hunting and great stores of fish ... they found many ducks there [in one place] and called it Andakíll ('Duck-inlet') ... then then came to a certain small headland and hunted some swans there and called it Álptanes ('Swan-headland')" (ibid, ch 27).

The site now houses a church, graveyard and farm.  The photo below is looking out from Borg towards the Borgarfjörð.

Monday, 5 June - The Mosfell Archaeological Project

Excavations carried out by Jesse Byock et al revealed the remains of an early church and a Viking hall at Hrísbrú in the Mosfell Valley.

The long-term series of excavations finished some years ago, but the site is still partly visible, having been partly covered.  The mound to the rear left of the excavated area is Kirkjuhóll where the church was excavated.

You can find out more about the excavation at:

The site is set in a valley that would have offered a wide range of natural resources.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Sunday, 4 June - Stőng

In 1104, an eruption of Mount Hekla destroyed some 20 farmsteads.  One of these, at Stőng was excavated and later a reconstruction of the farmstead was built at Þjóðveldisbærinn, close to the original location at Stőng.

The surrounding area still bears the debris from the eruption, turning what as once good quality farmland into a wilderness.

The excavated original site at Stőng has been consolidated and is on display, showing superb details of the building, as seen above.

Sunday, 4 May - Njal's Saga

Much of the action of Njal's Saga takes place at the Althing, so it was a natural progression to drive to the area where Njal and his friend Gunnar lived.

A famous section in the saga tells how Gunnar, who has been sentenced to lesser outlawry is riding out to leave Iceland.  His horse stumbles and he leaps from the saddle to save a fall.  He looks up at the slopes where his farm at Hlíðarendi lies, and says, "How beautiful are the slopes, I do not think that I will leave."  Thereby starting the process that culminates in his death.  The photo above shows the  present day church at Hlíðarendi.

A prominent landmark which features in the saga is Þrihyrning, the three peaked mountain, seen here in the background to Hlíðarendi.

Sunday, 4 May - Thingvellir

After some rather changeable weather, getting up early today and going to Thingvellir, the site of the Icelandic Althing, meant that it was both dry enough and calm enough to fly a drone.

The photo above shows the Law Rock in the foreground with the magnificent backdrop of the rocky walls of Thingvellir.

The second photo shows a detail of the Law Rock.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Saturday, 3 June – Krosslaug

The small hot water spring fed pool known as Krosslaug, is said to have been the place of baptism of some of the men from west Iceland when they rode home from the Althing in AD 1000, when Iceland had accepted Christianity.

When I arrived, it was in use, but the occupants kindly offered to get out of the pool, so that I could photograph it.

The road that we too back to the cottage where we are staying followed the much of the route that the ‘vestanmenn’ would have taken when returning from the Althing.  As you can see from the photos, it is a wild and beautiful path.

Saturday, 3 June - Snorralaug, Reykholt

One of Iceland’s most famous historic monuments is Snorralaug, or Snorri’s Pool.
Landnámabók states that there was a hot pool in Reykholt in the 10th century.  In the 13th century, the area had become the property of the church, and had become the home of Snorri Sturluson (more about Snorri in Unit 8). 

The floor of the pool is original, but the upper part was reconstructed in the middle of the 19th century.

The second photo shows the inflow of water from the hot spring Skrifla.

Saturday, 3 June - Reykjavik

In the heart of Reykjavik, there is a wonderful museum called "Reyljavik 871 +/-2.

The title comes from the dating of a layer of volcanic ash, which predates virtually all archaeological evidence of settlement in Iceland.  This tephrochronologically significant layer is known as the "Settlement Layer" and plays an important role in Viking Period archaeology in Iceland.

The museum grew out of excavations carried out in 2001, when the remains of a substantial Viking Age building were discovered.  This forms the centrepiece of the museum, where the consolidated remains are in situ.  The photo above gives a poor idea of the structure, as the thing is a devil of a job to photograph.

The second photo shows the enigmatic turf-built wall.  It is not very substantial, and so may have been a boundary wall, but it is overlain by (and therefore predates) the "settlement Layer".  This makes it the earliest human-built structure so far discovered in Iceland.

Friday, 2 June 2017

Friday, 2nd June

My drone raised a few eyebrows at Frankfurt Airport security, but eventually all was well.

Arrived in Iceland.  Problems with the car we booked - eventually settled.

The cottage in the centre of the picture will be our home for the next week.  The lake in the background is Thingvallavatn, and we are quite close to Thingvellir, the site of the Icelandic general parliament.

Another view of  Thingvallavatn

Thursday, 7 June - the caves at Efr-Hvolshellar

An interesting site with three man-made caves at Efr-Hvolshellar. There has been some dispute about the date of these caves.  Originall...