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

image of Viking longboat prow ornament


Mosfellssveit encapsulates the major ecologies of Iceland: coastal, riverine, and highland. Culturally, the region is equally representative. In some ways it was a self-contained social and economic unit. In other ways, it was connected to the rest of Iceland through a network of roads, including an east-west route to the nearby meeting of the yearly Althing. With its coastal port at Leiruvogur, the region was in commercial and cultural contact with the larger Scandinavian and European worlds, possibly as far east as Constantinople.

The research reconstructs the early social history of the Mosfell Valley region, integrating information on the changing periods of occupation. We will excavate individual sites, both secular and religious, and consider their placement in relationship to one another. We will examine the apportionment of open spaces and the utilization of common lands in the highlands and on the coast. Written, archaeological, and other scientific information will be integrated into this study as we construct a picture of early life. The different specialists on our team will explore among other subjects the development of roads and paths, the importance of the ships landings at Leiruvogur, the changes over time in subsistence strategies, the state of health and disease in the Viking Age and later population, developments in building technics, and the usage of smaller activity areas, such as the sel, or summer dairy stations. Crucial questions will be the production of iron in the early period, and finding the locations of burials, and early farm sites. In some instances our task is to find the remains of turf buildings, roads, burials, agricultural enclosures, and port facilities before they are destroyed by modern construction or lost to human memory.


UCLA Scandinavian Section
BOX 951539, 212 Royce Hall
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1539
© 2011