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South Iceland Cave Made before Settlement

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South Iceland Cave Made before Settlement

Seljalandsfoss waterfall, seen from across a field.

Kverkahellir is close to Seljalandsfoss waterfall. Photo: Geir Ólafsson.

Archaeologist Kristján Ahronson has concluded that Kverkarhellir, a manmade cave between waterfall Seljalandsfoss and farm Seljaland in South Iceland, was partly created around 800 AD, before the settlement of Iceland, which, according to sources, began in 874.

Ahronson presented the results of his analysis of volcanic ash layers from around the cave, among other findings, covered in his book Into the Ocean, at the University of Iceland yesterday, RÚV reports.

“We are about to identify a large dump of material that looks like waste material from construction and dates to around 800 or so,” Ahronson explained. “Kverkahellir, along with Seljalandshellir, is remarkable as it is part of a number of cave sites in southern Iceland, manngerðir hellar [‘manmade caves’], that are marked by cross sculpture.”

“There is something very unique … about the material that we found in these cave sites in southern Iceland but yet there are clear arguments that can be made for some connection to the west highlands in Ireland and Scotland, and Britain and Ireland more generally,” he added.

Ahronson would not state that theories that the crosses may have been made by papar, monks from the British Isles who were said to have lived in Iceland before the Norse settlers, may be true. Even though place names indicate their presence, archaeological evidence is lacking.

Þórður Tómasson, former director of the nearby Skógar Folk Museum, is calling for further research of the caves.

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