Archaeological Field Work | 2012 Field Season - Hulduhóll Cremation Grave Excavation
In 2012 we revisited the Hulduhóll cremation site in order to extend the excavation area and excavate the remainder of the disperse cremation deposit. Review of the results from the 2001-2003 seasons suggested that revisiting this site would be fruitful. Particularly interesting was a charcoal layer observed extending to the east of the excavation area. We hoped that opening a wider excavation exposure on the knoll would reveal the full extent of the cremation layers and solidify stratigraphical relationships with any surrounding archaeological deposits. The wider excavation area would also show the connection between the cremation deposit in the center of the knoll and any possible modifications of the knoll along the slopes to the north and south. We sought also to recover additional pieces of cremated human bone scattered further than the center of the feature excavated in 2001-2003. This proved very successful with the recovery of five additional human bone fragments: 1 tooth, 3 vertebral fragments, and 1 piece of a skull. Significant here is the recovery of a deciduous tooth, which shows that at least 2 individuals were cremated. This data has significant implications for our understanding of pre-Christian religion and burial practices, particularly since this is the first cremation discovered in Iceland.
Close-up of the map used for the planning of the 2012 excavation. The map shows the proposed units around the previous excavation area in the center of the Hulduhóll mound. Selected features are shown in plan. See Figure 3 for complete legend key for these features.
Final extent of the 2012 Hulduhóll excavation showed overlying a georeferenced map from 2003. The underlying map shows the extent of MAP excavations prior to 2012. The old map uses magnetic north and is therefore “tilted” in respect to the True North used in our GIS model based on the ISNET 1993 coordinate system.
Jesse Byock and Davide Zori after removing of the cremation layer in 2012.
North profile of the 2012 Hulduhóll excavation area. Note the turf layers that consist of turfs containing landnám tephra that were brought to top of Hulduhóll. These turfs were most likely used to level the knoll. The age of the turfs as suggested by the stratigraphy and the presence of the landnám tephra from AD 870 ±2 suggests that this modification was contemporary with the cremation event. This furthermore, makes it seem more probable that the gravel and stone slab modifications of the western tip of Hulduhóll also took place at this time.
Human cremated bone from the 2012 excavation. A total of five separate new pieces of human bone were recovered during the 2012 season. One skull fragment and two human vertebral fragments were recovered in Context 6. Context 11 yielded one vertebral joint. The single human deciduous tooth was found in Context 12.