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Archaeologists Find 1,000-Year-Old Skeletons and Silver Coin

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Archaeologists Find 1,000-Year-Old Skeletons and Silver Coin

The Keldudalur graveyard.

Skagafjörður in North West Iceland has been the site of extensive archaeological research over the past 20 years. The excavations this summer have concentrated on Keflavík in Hegranes. Among the finds are the remains of a fairly large church and about 45 graves in a circle formed churchyard, with a number of skeletons in various shapes of decay. The churchyard had been used from the year 1000, the year Iceland converted to Christianity, and has been used until after 1104, a year the volcano Hekla erupted, spewing ashes all over the country, making it possible to date archeological findings with some certainty. The work is directed by Guðný Zoëga.

Two unique items have been found. A bone pin with an animal head and a silver coin, somewhat similar to other coins found in Nordic countries, but thought to have some distinguishing features, which will be examined by specialists. Another such pin has been found at Keldurdalur, another nearby site in Skagafjörður.

Bone Pins.

The site of Keldudalur is in many ways unique for the study of an 11th century Icelandic household composition and social transition. In the space of two years an early Christian cemetery, a pagan grave field and associated Viking-Age settlement came to light due to various construction activities, subsequently examined archaeologically. The cemetery is, to date, the most complete 11th century cemetery excavated in Iceland and the good preservation of the skeletons makes it an important reference material. Keldudalur is an interesting local case study, important for the interpretation of both local and regional development as well as throwing a light on a time period which is, essentially, the earliest historical period in Iceland but which is also, to a great extent, lacking in written sources.

Guðný Zoëga, the department head at the department of archaeology at the Skagafjörður Heritage Museum, will defending her Ph.D. dissertation on the archaeological site at Keldurdalur and, notably, human skeletal remains from the 11th-12th century in the light of the social, political and religious changes that occurred in the 11th-12th century in Skagafjörður.

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