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Early Settlement History of Iceland - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Early Settlement History of Iceland. Naddoddr. According to the Landn á mab ó k (Book of Settlement) Naddoddr was a Viking who was the first person to touch land in Iceland around 825 A.D. He named the country Sn æ land (Land of Snow). Iceland Voyages (9th Century A.D.).

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  • According to the Landnámabók (Book of Settlement) Naddoddr was a Viking who was the first person to touch land in Iceland around 825 A.D.

  • He named the country Snæland (Land of Snow)

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Iceland Voyages(9th Century A.D.)

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  • Another Norseman who traveled with three ravens (Hrafna) to help lead him to Iceland

  • Also made it through the winter, but lost all his cattle

  • Vatnsfjordur

  • Borgarfjordur

  • He named Iceland (ísland)

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Ingólfur Arnarson

  • A Norseman who had instigated a blood feud in Norway

  • He and his adopted brother Hjörleifur set out to explore Iceland

  • They made it through a winter and returned the following year with other settlers

  • Built a farmstead in Reykjavík

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  • Landnámabók and Sagas as guides to sites

  • However, these sources left out many settlement areas including the Mývatn region (Mývatnssveit) in the northeast, which features a farm at Sveigakot and an iron-smelting site and farm at Hrísheimar (Edvardsson, 2003)

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Early life

  • Encountered birch woodlands (Smith, 1994; Vésteinsson, 1998, 2000)

  • Most early settlers farmed in wetland areas that did not require clearing

  • Areas prone to glacial flooding would allow for easy movement into the inland areas

  • Egalitarian farm distributions

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Resource Depletion

  • Needed plants/trees for building materials, grazing, fuel (domestic and iron-smelting), farm land

  • Birch pollen greatly declines between 871 CE and 920 CE tephra layers

  • 1200 CE lack of fuel availability halted iron-smelting at Hrísheimar

  • Many sites abandoned due to erosion issues (Sveigakot)

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  • Domesticated cattle, wild fish and birds, arctic fox, porpoise, seal and whale (McGovern et al. 2006)

  • Must have used internal trade for sea resources (caught and processed elsewhere and brought inland)

  • High presence of eggs (versus hunting birds) suggests some management practices

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Domesticated Animals

  • Goats, sheep, pigs, horses and cattle

  • Later in the records sheep take over and cattle decline while pigs and goats virtually drop out

  • This may be due to less available grazing land or attempts to control erosion problems

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Environmental Effects

  • Now 73% of Iceland suffers from erosion issues (Arnalds et al., 2001, cited in Simpson et al., 2004)

  • Overgrazing prevented forest regeneration

  • Volcanic nature of soils makes them particularly susceptible to erosion

  • Although seasonal grazing was practiced at sites such as Sveigakot winter grazing seems to have gone unchecked

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Environmental Effects

  • Some farms in southern Iceland show evidence of land management practices that have maintained soil quality to present day.

  • It has also been suggested that some farms just had a string of bad seasons and that climate affected grazing seasons

  • Larger farms with greater resource access and knowledge of previous farm failures had a greater chance of survival

  • Volcanic activity, glacial flooding and climate changes should also be recognized as contributing factors