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Norse Utilisation of Archaeobotanical Resources within the Myvatnssveit locale, Northern Iceland

BOLD, RACHAEL (2012) Norse Utilisation of Archaeobotanical Resources within the Myvatnssveit locale, Northern Iceland. Masters thesis, Durham University.

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Mývatnssveit has been the focus of interdisciplinary research regarding the complex dynamics of human-environment interactions. This research considers utilisation of botanical resources from two farm sites; Hrísheimar, an iron production centre and farm, and Skútustaðir, a farmstead occupied from landnám to the 20th century. A total of 56 bulk samples from Hrísheimar and 81 from Skútustaðir were processed and analysed for their macrobotanical remains. The main research questions addressed were:
• Was evidence of arable agriculture visible?
• What wood procurement strategies were utilised, and was there evidence regarding the use and management of woodlands?
• What other botanical resources were exploited from the local landscape?
• Was there any evidence for trade in plant resources?
Conclusions from the new dataset produced indicate that barley was grown at both locations, while oat may have been trialled at Hrísheimar in the landnám period. Wood remained the main fuel across sites, contexts and time. This appears to have been mainly sourced from the local birch woodland, but also included some evidence of driftwood, and in the case of Skútustaðir, imported species such as oak, yew and hazel. Selective harvesting techniques, apparent from landnám, suggest early attempts at conservation of local woodland. Macro-floral suites reflected local habitats which demonstrated a richer diversity at Skútustaðir; however, possible wetland expansion following forest clearance appears to have occurred later at this site. A range of trees, shrubs, weeds and wild plants may have been gathered to satisfy various culinary, craft and medicinal needs. While trade is more evident at Skútustaðir, with the recovery of imported wood, fruit and grain, this activity was not widespread prior to the abandonment of Hrísheimar. It is significant that, while past research proposes severe arboreal depletion soon after landnám, current charcoal data demonstrates the presence of wood as fuel into the final phase for each site.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Science
Keywords:Archaeobotany, Palaeoethnobotany, Iceland, Norse, Viking, Medieval, North Atlantic Islands
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Archaeology, Department of
Thesis Date:2012
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:02 Apr 2012 14:31

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