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Ancient Walrus Bones Studied in Iceland

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Ancient Walrus Bones Studied in Iceland

A beach in Strandir, the West Fjords

In the 9th and 10th centuries AD, walrus bones could likely be found on beaches around the country. Photo: Páll Stefánsson.

The Icelandic Institute of Natural History and the University of Iceland have signed an agreement on joint research of the ancient biology of walruses in Iceland. Up to 2,000-year-old walrus bones have been found in Iceland, especially in the western part of the country.

Bones from approximately 50 walruses which have been collected in the past 100 years or so will be used as basis for the study. The idea for the study goes back to 2008, when walrus bones were found on Snæfellsnes peninsula, ruv.is reports.

Archaeologist Bjarni F. Einarsson said in a radio interview in Samfélagið on Rás 1 on Sunday that walrus and wale bones could probably be found on beaches around the country at the time of the settlement in the 9th and 10th centuries AD, bones which had accumulated in a period of around 1,000 years. The bones were valuable and known as ‘white gold.’

“[The climate] had become too warm for the walrus long before the settlement. We don’t know when that was exactly, but we have received the first results from the age analysis of walrus skulls and they support this theory well,” Bjarni stated.

“The [remains of] walruses that were found on Snæfellsnes a few years ago date back to 100 or 200 BC. Walrus tusks are found more often than people realize … but for some reason they disappear. They end up in the hands of collectors, handcrafters and others,” he added.

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