In October the City University of New York’s Graduate Center hosted the first annual HERC Open Workshop. We had lectures from researchers from the UK, Sweden and the U.S. It was a great success and we’re already looking forward to next year.
All of the contributors to this blog (myself, Konrad, Ramona, and Megan) gave short talks at the workshop. You can see the slides from our lectures and all of the others by clicking the link below.
High up north in the Atlantic Ocean, on a peninsula at the mouth of a fjord, one can experience the local wildlife, including abundant Arctic Terns, elusive Polar Foxes on very rare occasions, and many other sea bird species. And fish of course, and fishing boats …
Before we began our excavation season Zach Zorich flew over to Iceland and traveled up to Gufuskálar with our site director Lilja Pálsdóttir for a tour of the site. His photos look great and he wrote about some of the other work being done in Iceland as well.
The team arrived on Siglunes Monday evening and got settled into the 100 year old house called Þormóðshús after a nice trip from Reykjavik to Akureyri by car and from Siglufjörður to Siglunes by boat.
Yesterday morning, the crew inspected the mounds that were mapped and planned in 2011 and were a bit shocked to find that the preservation of many of the cleaned profiles had further deteriorated and many structural elements, especially large stones, had fallen out of the sections.
This experience made us realize the unique chance we had to preserve some of the information held by the archaeological remains through documenting all the ruins last year and through excavating some of the most threatened ones this season.
The pictures below are both from Mound C; the one on the left from the 2011 season with a lot of the stones in the exposed section alligned in such a way that one interpretation is that this could have once been a platform for drying fish. It could have also been part of the structure‘s back wall instead, again indicating how little of some of these ruins remains. The picture on the right is from the same structure, taken one year later. Much of the structure has been further eroded by the sea, as indicated by the stones that have fallen out of the section and the more or less collapsed profile.
Howell and Birna have started cleaning the debris from Mound D at the very western edge of the peninsula; this ruin has a large whale bone as one of its structural components. The picture shows Birna and Sirry inspecting how much this structure was damaged by the sea.
To reach this structure‘s occupational layers, a lot of beach cobbles had to be moved away!
Sirrý and I have cleaned and sectioned Mound F and started excavating it. We have removed some modern collapse and will deal with occupation layers in the next few days. This badly eroded structure may still hold some information on human activity in the Middle Ages . The picture below shows the structure before excavation, with the two little mounds indicating walls made from turves and stones.
So far, the weather has been very windy but warm.
The Siglunes team.
This video was shot by some of our comrades in the Global Human Ecodynamics Alliance (GHEA), a group which all of the authors of this blog are a part of as well. This video was shot on the Orkney Islands in Scotland and in it children learn about the “hogboon” or the spirit who inhabits a burial mound and gave good luck to the farm. They also learned how archaeologists survey the land for sites and record them.
Our project in Siglunes, at the very Northern end of Eyjafjörður is about to start.
Birna Lárusdóttir (FSÍ), Howell Roberts (FSÍ), Sigríður (Sirrý) Þorgeirsdóttir (FSí) and I will leave sunny and warm Reykjavík next Monday morning for the far north. The weather up there may be somewhat less friendly, but we are prepared and will make the best of whatever conditions we encounter.
Since we will only be there for two weeks this year, we have to plan very carefully to make the most out of this short season.
We hope to excavate at least one of the most endangered ruins on the ‘-nes´ or peninsula and sample a midden deposit from one of the eroding fishing structures planned and mapped last year. Plans depend on site conditions and are subject to change.
Thanks to Baldur, Pétur, Unnsteinn and all the kids who participated in Kid´s Archaeology Project in Þingeyarsysla, Iceland, this year! We learned about zooarchaeology, viking graves, and landscape survey. Awesome group of kids and some were back for their second year. Let’s keep this up. ~Megan
We’re thinking over what is most exciting about working in the archives. For Ágústa, it’s finding what she’s looking for. That might seem rather plain or obvious, but in the beginning of an archive stint, it can feel like you’re hoping to encounter something and you can imagine it, but it may just never have been created or preserved.
As it turns out, the best dispatchers of ptarmigan were the family at Geiteyarströnd. In the cold winters of 1917 and 1918 eggs were collected by the hundreds and sold to the cooperatives, and farmers frequently risked falling through the Spring ice to bring trout up from Mývatn, holding their bait, maggots, warm and wriggling in their mouths.
Along the way, you also feel that you get know the people who are documenting and being documented. There may be the farm inspector with meticulous handwriting, or the tenant who always has debts on hist store accounts. You can also see when a son takes over an occupation from his father over some decades. People’s reccurring family names become familiar, and you can easily meet their grandchildren in Mývatnssveit today. For me, that is the most enjoyable part about reading the documents from Skútustaðir; that I can get to know the people, by name, who actually contributed the archaeological remains, and learn about their quotidienne tasks, seasonal work and special occasions. To see the group of farmers who lived at Skútustaðir materialize through words is equally exciting as digging a trench through their midden.
We had a great visit with Arni Einarsson at the Mývatn Science station yesterday during which he shared his collection of 19th and 20th centruy fishing nets used in Mývatnssveit. We’re looking forward to working with the Kid’s archaeology poject later today with Baldur and Pétur from Litlulaugarskoli and having dinner with the team of archaeologists working at Þegjandadalur: Howell, Lílja and Dawn.
~Megan and Ágústa
For the next week Ágústa Edwald (U. Aberdeen) and I will be collaborating on an overlapping project which includes a treasure hunt for historical documents from Mývatn, N. Iceland. We just arrived in Húsavík on Sunday in a small charter flight and were greeted by our friend and colleague Sif Jóhannesdottir who is the Director of the Húsavík Culture House, Safnahús Á Húsavík, where we´ll be doing most of our work.
Husavik is a beautiful town in the North of Iceland and the closest town of its size to Lake Mývatn, which is why many of the historical documents produced by farmers and others in Mývatn have been curated here; these include diaries, ledgers, poetry, meeting notes and more. While Ágústa will be searching for records of historic strategies of wild bird use and fishing, l´ll be linking my zooarchaeological findings at the Mývatn farm of Skútustaðir with the documentary evidence we find.
It´s great to be back here for the fourth summer and this region is starting to feel like a second home. We´ll be sure to update regularly on all of our findings and activities so keep checking back.
Congratulations to Sif who has just won an award recognizing the Safnahús Á Húsavík for their excellence.
~Megan T. Hicks (Ph.D. Student, CUNY Graduate Center, HERC Scholar)
We are archaeologists at the CUNY Graduate Center’s Human Ecodynamics Research Center (HERC). Follow us as we head into the field to work at four sites in the North Atlantic. Living and working at each site presents its own challenges and we hope to offer stories of how archaeology gets done rather than just present the results of our research. click to read more
Tagsambassador to Iceland Archaeologists archaeology artifact BBQ climate change Commercial fishing CUNY Deturfing erosion field food fishing booth fishing structures Gardar Glacier Greenland Iceland KAPI Land Rover medieval medieval booth Outreach public education Quiz Reykjavik road food Settlement Farm site tour Sunset time lapse tours trench trip VIP