Skip to comments.Secrets of Ancient Iceland, Dispatch 3: Seeing the context
Posted on 09/17/2005 10:53:52 PM PDT by SunkenCiv
Day after day, the Glaumbaer group moved dirt, looking first for the chalky white tephra left by the eruption of Mount Hekla in 1104, and then for any sign of peat ash or bone or the mottled earthy colors of a turf wall under the tephra. I worked mostly on my knees in the shallow, wide holes, using a dustpan and trowel... For medieval Iceland, Durrenberger has yet another source of ethnographic information: sagas written down in the 12th and 13th centuries that tell of the settlement of Iceland 200 or more years before... In Durrenberger's reading of the sagas, substantial inequality existed early on in Iceland, as opposed to the more egalitarian society that other scholars have described. Steinberg and Bolender asked Durrenberger to collaborate with them in Iceland, since economic inequality can be seen in how the pattern of settlement in an area changes over the years. According to this pattern, the initial settlers in this part of Skagafjord established large farms along the river. After a hundred years or so, Durrenberger says, "they created small farms on the margins of the large ones, renting out parcels to tenants who provided labor at crucial times like haymaking and the fall sheep round-up. This arrangement forced the dependents to provide for their own subsistence during the rest of the year, so that the large land-owners did not have to support them." ..."Until we get the date from the bone, we don't know the age of the house," says Steinberg. "We know it's earlier than 1104. If it's between 1000 and 1104, then it's a hjaleiga--a tenant farm--of Glaumbaer. If it's earlier than 1000, then we've got trouble."
(Excerpt) Read more at live.psu.edu ...
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