For the second year in a row, NIKU archaeological experts will support research in Iceland with their unique set of high-tech skills. 

The second part of the archaeological investigations at the Fjörður farm in Seyðisfjörður in Iceland is already underway, and NIKU archaeologists are supporting the excavations throughout the summer. 

The excavation at Fjörður is one of the largest archaeological investigations in Iceland, with 15 archaeologists focusing on the project this summer.

The story of Fjörður

Fjörður is a Viking Age farm built around 900 CE. According to Landnåmsboka (Landnámabók), a book from the 12th century that describes the settlement of Iceland, Bjólfur from Voss in Norway was the first person to settle there. 

This year, excavations are taking place at the site. A landslide probably hit a part of the farm in 1150, but archaeologists have found remains that may go as far back as Bjólfur's time.

So far, many important discoveries have been made, including a hnefatafl piece, pearls, and whetstone. Hnefatafl was a board game that was popular in the Viking Age but which was replaced by the more popular chess during the Middle Ages. 

New technology

In this project, NIKU is joining Icelandic archaeologists and contributing to the process of creating 3D models by using high-resolution images taken both from the air and the ground. 

In addition, NIKU will use a heat-seeking camera on a drone to see if it can reveal even more traces of buildings and structures underground.

The equipment was first sent by boat to Denmark and then to Iceland. The NIKU will also use its technological expertise at multiple other Icelandic locations.

"We hope to be able to identify church sites and parts of monastery facilities from the late Viking Age and early Middle Ages," Knut Paasche, project manager for NIKU, stated. 

During the project named "Archaeological mapping above and below ground in eastern Iceland," NIKU will assist Ragnheiður Traustadóttir from Antikva and Rannveig Þórhallsdóttir from the University of Iceland in the investigation of several possible church sites and several older courtyards.  

The geo-radar is being transported by boat to Iceland. Photo: Manuel Gabler / NIKU

Monastery complex 

The two monastery facilities - Kirkjubæjarklaustur and Þingeyrar - will be investigated with the help of Steinunn Kristjánsdóttir from the University of Iceland.

The project aims to study the Benedictine premises on Þingeyrar and Kirkjubær with a view to finding out how these religious houses and their natural environments influenced each other.

The project's main focus is the extensive and resource-intensive production of textiles and manuscripts, the landscape's role in everyday life, and its interaction with liturgy and prayer. 

In addition, the diet of both religious and lay people in the monastery houses and the associated land use will be examined.

NIKU will run geo-radar surveys to map the distribution of the facilities.

Geo-radar technology, drone, heat-seeking camera... 

Georadar technology has previously been used with good results in Iceland, but not on this scale. 

"Finally, we have the opportunity to test advanced archaeological geophysics in Iceland. We have been looking forward to this," Manuel Gabler, the head of the fieldwork part of the study at NIKU, told the NIKU website.

While the geo-radar scans structures found underground using radar signals, a heat-seeking camera will be used to see the difference in heat energy. Underground walls store heat differently than the earth surrounding them, and this difference can be measured using thermal images. 

A drone with a heat-seeking camera will take pictures from above and also provide the opportunity to create a 3D model of the landscape being studied. 

"The projects in Iceland give us valuable experience under conditions other than those we are used to in Norway," Paasche added.

"NIKU will have the opportunity to take part in extremely exciting archaeological investigations and research on the Viking Age and early Middle Ages in Iceland. 

"We believe these projects can provide mutual benefit and a basis for further research collaboration between Iceland and Norway," he concluded.

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