The Settlement of Iceland

Archaeological findings from the Suðurnes/Reykjanes region. Remains from the oldest occupation on Reykjanes peninsula from the ninth century.

Vogur in Hafnir: Farmhouse or Outpost?

When the ruins of a longhouse or skáli were found in Hafnir, which is a small village on the Reykjanes peninsula, it was believed to be a traditional homestead from the Age of Settlement, perhaps even the farm of Herjólfur Bárðarson, the settler of Hafnir and great-grandfather of the great seafarer Bjarni Herjólfsson. Bjarni and his crew are believed to have been the first Europeans to lay eyes on the mainland of North America. When archaeological excavations commenced in 2009, it was revealed that even though the longhouse was conventional in form, the outhouses that always accompany such structures were completely missing.

Is it possible that the ruins are not those of an ancient farmhouse? Was this instead the outpost of explorers and adventurers, like the buildings of Norsemen in Newfoundland? Such a building would have been used for a short period of time each year as a base for exploration and resource utilisation. Iceland was one destination en route further west, to Greenland and mainland North America.

During the Viking Age, a vast number of people travelled through Northern Europe in search of a quick profit. In summertime food was plentiful: birds nested in the cliffs, seals and fish populated ocean and lakes, and along the coast there was driftwood and the occasional beached whale to be found. The teeth of walruses and whales were particularly sought after and highly valued; indeed, they were often called the ivory of the north, or white gold. They were used for the carving of a variety of precious items.

There are Items on display in Vikingworld that were found during the excavation in Hafnir as well as photographs and illustrations.