Global Integrative Studies, School of


Date of this Version


Document Type



NORSEC 12 (2004)

NORSEC Zooarchaeology Laboratories Report, number 12 (2004)

A product of the North Atlantic Biocultural Organization (NABO) Research Cooperative and the Leverhulme Trust “Landscapes circum Landnám” Project


Copyright 2004, the authors. Used by permission.


During a cooperative archaeological project in NW Iceland (Strandasýsla) involving the Icelandic National Museum and Hunter College of the City University of New York.1990 season, a small rescue excavation at the site of Finnbogastaðir generated a quantifiable collection of animal bones dating to the early modern period, mainly to the 18th century. The 18th c was a period of hardship in much of Iceland, with widespread tenantry, adverse climate, and degradation of many terrestrial landscapes posing severe challenges to poor farmers- perhaps most intensely in the Vestfirðir. The animal bone collection from Finnbogastaðir reflects a multi-stranded subsistence economy involving seals, birds, and fish as well as domestic stock. Reconstruction of the fishing pattern indicates a mixed strategy that probably produced some stockfish for local exchange or for export but was mainly aimed at household provisioning. The nearly contemporary Jarðabók land register provides a direct comparison to the documentary record, and ongoing site survey and excavation in the NW provides a broader landscape/seascape perspective on the archaeofauna and documents. This small rescue investigation thus serves to illustrate the potential for an integrated, interdisciplinary approach to Iceland’s past, including periods with extensive documentary resources.