Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

Charcoal Production During the Norse and Early Medieval Periods in Eyjafjallahreppur, Southern Iceland

  • M J Church (a1), A J Dugmore (a2), K A Mairs (a2), A R Millard (a1), G T Cook (a3), G Sveinbjarnardóttir (a4), P A Ascough (a5) and K H Roucoux (a6)...

Abstract

Timber procurement and the use of woodlands are key issues in understanding the open landscapes of the Norse and Medieval periods in the North Atlantic islands. This paper outlines evidence for the timing and mechanisms of woodland use and deforestation in an area of southern Iceland, which is tracked through the mapping and analysis of charcoal production pits. Precise dating of the use of these charcoal production pits within a Bayesian framework is demonstrated through the combination of tephrochronology, sediment accumulation rates, and multiple radiocarbon dates on the archaeological charcoal. Two phases of charcoal production and woodland exploitation have been demonstrated, the first within the first 2 centuries of settlement (cal AD 870–1050) and the second phase over 100 yr later (cal AD 1185–1295). The implications for using charcoal as a medium for 14C dating in Iceland and the wider North Atlantic are then explored. Archaeobotanical analysis of the charcoal sampled from the pits has indicated that birch roundwood was the dominant wood used, that the roundwood was stripped from larger shrubs/trees in late spring/early summer, and that certain sizes and ages of roundwood were harvested. Finally, the timing of the charcoal production is placed into the wider debate on deforestation across Iceland during the Norse and early Medieval periods.

    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Charcoal Production During the Norse and Early Medieval Periods in Eyjafjallahreppur, Southern Iceland
      Available formats
      ×

      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Charcoal Production During the Norse and Early Medieval Periods in Eyjafjallahreppur, Southern Iceland
      Available formats
      ×

      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Charcoal Production During the Norse and Early Medieval Periods in Eyjafjallahreppur, Southern Iceland
      Available formats
      ×

Copyright

Corresponding author

Corresponding author. Email: m.j.church@durham.ac.uk

References

Hide All
Anderberg, A-L. 1994. Atlas of Seeds: Part 4, Resedaceae–Umbelliferae. Stockholm: Swedish Museum of Natural History. 281 p.
Ashmore, PJ. 1999. Radiocarbon dating: avoiding errors by avoiding mixed samples. Antiquity 73(279):124–30.
Atkinson, MD. 1992. Betula pendula Roth (B. verrucosa Ehrh.) and B. pubescens Ehrh. Journal of Ecology 80:837–70.
Beijerinck, W. 1947. Zadenatlas der Nederlandsche Flora. Wageningen: Veenman & Zonen. 316 p. In Dutch.
Berggren, G. 1969. Atlas of Seeds, Part 2, Cyperaceae. Stockholm: Swedish Museum of Natural History. 107 p.
Berggren, G. 1981. Atlas of Seeds, Part 3, SalicaceaeCruciferae. Stockholm: Swedish Museum of Natural History. 260 p.
Bergórrson, P. 1996. Air temperature and plant growth. Icelandic Agricultural Sciences 10:141–64. In Icelandic with English summary.
Bronk Ramsey, C. 1995. Radiocarbon calibration and analysis of stratigraphy: the OxCal program. Radiocarbon 37(2):425–30.
Bronk Ramsey, C. 2001. Development of the radiocarbon program. Radiocarbon 43(2A):355–63.
Bronk Ramsey, C. 2005. OxCal program v 3.10. http://www.rlaha.ox.ac.uk/oxcal/oxcal.htm.
Church, MJ, Vésteinsson, O, Einnarson, Á, McGovern, TH. 2006. Charcoal production pits at Hoskulsstaoir, Mývatnsveit. Unpublished report for the National Museum of Iceland, Durham University.
Church, MJ, Peters, C, Batt, CM. 2007. Sourcing fire ash on archaeological sites in the Western and Northern Isles of Scotland, using mineral magnetism. Geoarchaeology 22(7):747–74.
Dickson, CA. 1998. Past uses of turf in the Northern Isles. In: Coles, G, Milles, CM, editors. Life on the Edge: Human Settlement and Marginality. Oxford: Oxbow Books. p 105–9.
Dugmore, AJ. 1989. Tephrochronological studies of Holocene glacier fluctuations in southern Iceland. In: Oerlemans, J, editor. Glacial Fluctuations and Climatic Change. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers. p 3755.
Dugmore, AJ, Buckland, PC. 1991. Tephrochronology and late Holocene soil erosion in south Iceland. In: Maizels, J, Caseldine, C, editors. Environmental Change in Iceland: Past and Present. Dordrecht: Kluwer. p 147–59.
Dugmore, AJ, Erskine, CC. 1994. Local and regional patterns of soil erosion in southern Iceland. In: Stötter, J, Wilhelm, F, editors. Environmental Change in Iceland, Münchener Geographische Abhandlungen Reihe B, Band B12. p 6379.
Dugmore, AJ, Newton, AJ, Larsen, G, Cook, GT. 2000. Tephrochronology, environmental change and the Norse settlement of Iceland. Environmental Archaeology 5:2134.
Dugmore, AJ, Church, MJ, Buckland, PC, Edwards, KJ, Lawson, I, McGovern, TH, Panagiotakopulu, E, Simpson, IA, Skidmore, P, Sveinbjarnardóttir, G. 2005. The Norse landnám on the North Atlantic islands: an environmental impact assessment. Polar Record 41(1):2137.
Dugmore, AJ, Church, MJ, Mairs, K-A, Newton, AJ, Sveinbjarnardóttir, G. 2006. An over-optimistic pioneer fringe? Environmental perspectives on medieval settlement abandonment in órsmörk, south Iceland. In: Arneborg, J, Grønnow, B, editors. The Dynamics of Northern Societies. Copenhagen: National Museum of Denmark. p 333–44.
Einarsson, T. 1961. Pollenanalytische Untersuchungen zur spät-und postglazialen Klimagesch Islands. Sonderveröffentlichungen des Geologischen Institutes der Universität Köln, 6. 52 p. In German.
Einarsson, T. 1963. Pollen analytical studies on the vegetation and climate history of Iceland in Late and Post-Glacial times. In: Love, A, Love, D, editors. North Atlantic Biota and Their History. Oxford: Pergamon Press. p 355–65.
Grönvold, K, Óskarsson, N, Johnsen, SJ, Clausen, HB, Hammer, CU, Bond, G, Bard, E. 1995. Ash layers from Iceland in the Greenland GRIP ice core correlated with oceanic and land sediments. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 135(1–4):149–55.
Hallsdóttir, M. 1987. Pollen analytical studies of human influence on vegetation in relation to the landnám tephra layer in southwest Iceland [PhD dissertation]. Lund: Lundqua Thesis 18.
Hallsdóttir, M. 1995. On the pre-settlement history of Icelandic vegetation. Icelandic Agricultural Sciences 9: 1729. In Icelandic with English summary.
Hallsdóttir, M. 1996. Frjógreining, Frjókorn sem heimild um landnámio. In: Grímsdóttir, , editor. Um Landnám á Íslandi. Reykjavík: Fjórtán erindi. p 123–34. In Icelandic.
Hallsdóttir, M, Caseldine, CJ. 2005. The Holocene vegetation history of Iceland, state-of-the-art and future research. In: Caseldine, C, Russel, A, Harórdóttir, J, Knudsen, Ó, editors. Iceland – Modern Processes and Past Environments. London: Elsevier. p 319–34.
Kenward, HK, Hall, AR, Jones, AKG. 1980. A tested set of techniques for the extraction of plant and animal macrofossils from waterlogged archaeological deposits. Science and Archaeology 22:315.
Kristinsson, H. 1998. A Guide to the Flowering Plants and Ferns of Iceland. Reykjavík: Mál og Menning. 311 p.
Larsen, G. 1996. Gjóskutímatal and gjóskulög frá tíma norræns landnáms á Íslandi [Tephrochronology and tephra layers from the period of Norse settlement in Iceland]. In: Grimsdóttir, GA, editor. Um Landnám á Íslandi, Radstefnurit V. Reykjavík: Societas Scientarum Islandica. p 81106. In Icelandic with English summary.
Lawson, IT, Gathorne Hardy, FJ, Church, MJ, Einarsson, Á, Edwards, KJ, Perdikaris, S, McGovern, TH, Amundsen, C, Sveinbjarnardóttir, G. 2006. Human impact on freshwater environments in Norse and early medieval Iceland. In: Arneborg, J, Grønnow, B, editors. The Dynamics of Northern Societies. Copenhagen: National Museum of Denmark. p 375–82.
Lawson, IT, Gathorne-Hardy, FJ, Church, MJ, Newton, AJ, Edwards, KJ, Dugmore, AJ, Einarsson, Á. 2007. Environmental impacts of the Norse settlement: palaeoenvironmental data from Mývatnssveit, northern Iceland. Boreas 36(1):119.
Long, HC. 1929. Weeds of Arable Land. London: Ministry of Agriculture. Publication 61. 122 p.
Mairs, K-A. 2003. Farm settlement and abandonment in Iceland: an analysis of human-environment interactions [MSc thesis]. Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh.
Mairs, K-A, Church, MJ, Dugmore, AJ, Sveinbjarnardóttir, G. 2006. Degrees of success: evaluating the environmental impacts of long-term settlement in south Iceland. In: Arneborg, J, Grønnow, B, editors. The Dynamics of Northern Societies. Copenhagen: National Museum of Denmark. p 365–74.
McGovern, TH, Vésteinsson, O, Frioriksson, A, Church, M, Lawson, I, Simpson, IA, Einarsson, Á, Dugmore, A, Cook, G, Perdikaris, S, Edwards, KJ, Thomson, AM, Adderley, WP, Newton, A, Lucas, G, Edvardsson, R, Aldred, O, Dunbar, E. 2007. Landscapes of settlement in northern Iceland: historical ecology of human impact and climate fluctuation on the millennial scale. American Anthropologist 109(1):2751.
Ólafsdóttir, R, Schlyter, P, Haraldsson, HV. 2001. Simulating Icelandic vegetation cover during the Holocene: implications for long-term land degradation. Geografiska Annuler 83A(4):203–15.
Pearsall, DM. 2000. Palaeoethnobotany: A Handbook of Procedures. 2nd edition. San Diego: Academic Press. 700 p.
Schweingruber, FH. 1990. Microscopic Wood Anatomy; Structural Variability of Stems and Twigs in Recent and Subfossil Woods from Central Europe. 3rd edition. Geneva: Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research.
Simpson, IA, Vésteinsson, O, Adderley, WP, McGovern, TH. 2003. Fuel resources in landscapes of settlement. Journal of Archaeological Science 30(11):1401–20.
Stace, C. 1994. New Flora of the British Isles. 2nd edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1165 p.
Sveinbjarnardóttir, G. 1992. Farm Abandonment in Medieval and Post-Medieval Iceland: An Interdisciplinary Study. Oxford: Oxbow Monographs in Archaeology 17, 192 p.
Sveinbjarnardóttir, G, Mairs, K-A, Church, MJ, Dugmore, AJ. 2006. Settlement history, land holdings and landscape change, Eyjafjallahreppur, Iceland. In: Arneborg, J, Grønnow, B, editors. The Dynamics of Northern Societies. Copenhagen: National Museum of Denmark. p 323–33.
Sveinbjörnsdóttir, ÁE, Heinemeier, J, Gudmundsson, G. 2004. 14C dating of the settlement of Iceland. Radiocarbon 46(1)387–94.
van der Veen, M, Fieller, N. 1982. Sampling seeds. Journal of Archaeological Science 9(3):287–98.
Vinther, BM, Clausen, HB, Johnsen, SJ, Rasmussen, SO, Andersen, KK, Buchardt, SL, Dahl-Jensen, D, Seierstad, IK, Siggaard-Andersen, M-L, Steffensen, JP, Svensson, A, Olsen, J, Heinemeier, J. 2006. A synchronized dating of three Greenland ice cores throughout the Holocene. Journal of Geophysical Research 111: D13102; doi:10.1029/2005JD006921.
Ward, GK, Wilson, SR. 1978. Procedures for comparing and combining radiocarbon age determinations: a critique. Archaeometry 20:1931.
Wastl, M, Stötter, J, Caseldine, C. 2001. Reconstruction of Holocene variations of the upper limit of tree or shrub birch growth in northern Iceland based on evidence from Vesturárdalur-Skíódalur, Troullaskagi. Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research 33(2):191203.
Zutter, C. 1997. The cultural landscape of Iceland: a millennium of human transformation and environmental change [unpublished PhD dissertation]. Edmonton: University of Alberta. 239 p.

Charcoal Production During the Norse and Early Medieval Periods in Eyjafjallahreppur, Southern Iceland

  • M J Church (a1), A J Dugmore (a2), K A Mairs (a2), A R Millard (a1), G T Cook (a3), G Sveinbjarnardóttir (a4), P A Ascough (a5) and K H Roucoux (a6)...

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed