The Viking Site
Jesse L. Byock
Professor of Old Norse and Medieval Scandinavian Studies, Scandinavian Section
Professor, Cotsen Institute of Archaeology
University of California Los Angeles


Viking Age Iceland

Penguin Books, 2001

ISBN 978-0140291155

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List of Illustrations

List of Maps

Note on Names, Spelling, and Pronunciation


  1. An Immigrant Society
    Language and the Term "Viking"
    Mord the Fiddle: A Leader and the Law
    The Sagas: An Ethnography of Medieval Iceland
  2. Resources and Subsistence: Life on a Northern Island
    Turf Housing
  3. Curdled Milk and Calamities: An Inward-looking Farming Society Provisions, Subsistence Strategies, and Population
    Bad Year Economics: Difficulties of Life in the North Atlantic
  4. A Devolving and Evolving Social Order
    Ranking, Hierarchy and Wealth
    Complex Culture and Simple Economy
    Privatization of Power in the Tenth Century
    A Proto-democratic Community?
    Icelandic Feud: Conflict Management
  5. The Founding of a New Society and the Historical Sources
    The Effect of Emigrating from Europe
    Land-taking and Establishing Order
    Dating the Settlement: Volcanic Ash Layers
    Closing the Frontier and Establishing Governing Principles
    Written Sources: The Book of Settlements and The Book of the Icelanders
  6. Limitations on a Chieftain's Ambitions, and Strategies of Feud and Law: Eyrbyggja Saga
    Ulfar's Land Shifts to Arnkel
    Thorolf's Land Shifts to Snorri Goi
    Ulfar Claims Orlyg's Land
    Ulfar's Demise
    The End of Arnkel's Ambitions
  7. Chieftain-Thingmen Relationships and Advocacy
    The Nature of the Goor
    Arbitration and Legalistic Feuding
    The Flexibility of the Goi ­ Thingman Relationship
    The Social Effects of Concubinage
    Distinction´s of Rank
    Hreppar: Communal Units
    The Orkneys: A Comparison
  8. The Family and Sturlunga Sagas: Medieval Narratives and Modern Nationalism
    The Family Sagas
    The Sturlunga Compilation
    The Sagas as Sources
    Modern Nationalism and the Medieval Sagas
    Locations of the Family Sagas and the Major Short Stories
  9. The Legislative and Judicial System
    Thing: Assemblies
  10. Systems of Power: Advocates, Friendship, and Family Networks
    The Role of Kinship
    A Balancing Act
    Friendship (Vinfengi and Vinátta)
    Women and Choices of Violence and Compromise
    Vengeance and Feud: Goading in Laxdæla saga
    A Goading Woman from Sturlunga saga
    Restraint within a Major Chieftain's Household in the Sturlung Age
  11. Aspects of Blood Feud
    Marriage and Confused Loyalties
    Some Conclusions
  12. Feud and Vendetta in a"Great Village" Community
    The Language of Feud
    Norms of Restraint
    Bluffing and Violence
  13. Friendship, Blood Feud, and Power: The Saga of the People of Weapon's Fjord
    Inheriting a Foreigner's Goods
    Brodd-Helgi's Revenge against Thorleif
    Struggle to Claim a Dowry
    Skirmishes over a Woodland
    Seeking a Thingman's Allegiance
    Brodd-Helgi Breaks Vinfengi
    Geitir Establishes Vinfengi
  14. The Obvious Sources of Wealth
    Sources of Income Available Only to Chieftains
    Early Taxes
    Additional Privileged Sources of Wealth
    The Sheep Tax
    Sources of Income Available to All Freemen
    Slavery and the Rental of Land and Livestock
  15. Lucrative Sources of Wealth for Chieftains
    The Acquisition of Property in the Family Sagas
    Disputed Property in the East Fjords: The Saga of the People of Weapon's Fjord
    Disputed Property in the Salmon River Valley: Laxdæla saga Inheritance Claims in the Sturlunga Sagas
    The Struggle to Inherit Helgastair: The Saga of Gudmund the Worthy
    Inheritance Rights to Heinaberg: The Saga of Hvamm-Sturla
    Resurgence of the Dispute over Heinaberg: The Saga of the Icelanders
  16. A Peaceful Conversion: The Viking Age Church
    Pagan Observance
    A Viking Age Conversion
    Geography and the Church
    Early Bishops, Priests and Nuns
    The Beginnings of a Formal Church Structure
  17. Grágás: The "Grey Goose" Law
    Manuscripts and Legal Origins
    Women and the Law
    Marriage and the Church
  18. Bishops and Secular Authority: The Later Church
    The Tithe and Church Farmsteads
    Bishops and Priests in the Later Free State
    The Church's Struggle for Power in the Later Free State
  19. Big Chieftains, Big Farmers, and their Sagas at the End of the Free State
    Big Farmers and the Family Sagas
    Advantages Enjoyed by the Stórbændr
    The Saga of the Icelanders in the Sturlunga Compilation
    The Stórgoar, Not Quite Rulers
    Iceland's Jarl
    1262-64, The Covenant with Norway's King and the End of the Free State

Appendix 1: The Law-speakers

Appendix 2: Bishops During the Free State

Appendix 3: Turf Construction

Appendix 4: A Woman Who Traveled from Vínland to Rome



  1. The Knörr
  2. Grelutótt in Iceland's West Fjords
  3. Archaeological Floor Plan of Grelutótt
  4. The Stöng Longhouse Ruin
  5. Front View of the Longhouse at Stöng
  6. The Effects of Erosion
  7. Highland Erosion Sequence
  8. Lowland Erosion Sequence
  9. The Governmental Structure
  10. An Alternate Concept of the Governmental Structure
  11. Eiríksstair from the Mid Tenth Century.
  12. Cross-section of Grelutótt
  13. Cutaway of Grelutótt
  14. Cutaway of the Eleventh-century Longhouse at Stöng
  15. Side View of the Longhouse at Stöng
  16. The Living Hall at Stöng
  17. Cross-section of the Food Storage Room
  18. Cross-section of the Latrine
  1. The North Atlantic World of the Medieval Icelanders
  2. Distance Between Iceland and Other Lands
  3. The Travels of Unn and Hrut
  4. Ocean Currents Surrounding Iceland
  5. Skallagrim´s Land-take in Borgarfjord
  6. Viking Age Sailing Routes to Iceland and Beyond
  7. Land-takes According to The Book of Settlements
  8. The Main Axis of Ash Fallout From Volcanic Eruptions, 870-1206
  9. The Landnám Tephra Layers
  10. The Location of Eyrbyggja saga on Snæfellsnes
  11. Land Ownership in Álptafjord
  12. The Effect of Arnkel's Actions on Land Claims in Álptafjord
  13. Eyjafjord: Locations of Chieftains and Their Thingmen
  14. Eyjafjord: Ties of Allegiance
  15. 1-8The Family Sagas
  16. Quarter Boundaries and Assembly Sites
  17. Thorgerd's Feud
  18. Routes to the Althing
  19. The Arena of Conflict in Vápnafjord
  20. Fagradalr, Geitir's Retreat
  21. Principal Ship Landing Sites and Harbors until ca. 1180
  22. Ship Landing Sites and Harbors in Use From ca.
  23. The Range of Drift Ice
  24. Chieftains and Farmers from Laxdæla saga
  25. The Farm of Heinaberg
  26. The Monasteries and the Two Bishoprics of the Free State
  27. The Travels of Gudrid Thorbjarnardottir



Viking Age Iceland

Viking Age iceland


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