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Excavating and Reconstructing a 10th Century Farm

Eiríksstaðir from above, showing the outlines of both the longhouse and pithouse.

                                                                 The original farm at Eiríksstaðir seems to have been abandoned when Eirík and his family                                                                         left in the middle of the 10th century, leaving the longhouse, barn and outbuilding(s) to fall                                                                     to ruins. Luckily for us, this means that we are able to interpret the archeology they left                                                                             behind and get a snapshot of what life was like for the family.

                                                                  The first scholar to record the site was a man named Brynjúlfur Jónsson all the way back in                                                                       1894, with Þorsteinn Erlingsson excavating part of the ruins a year later. Incredibly, it seems                                                                     that back then the barn (now totally lost) was still clearly visable without any digging.

                                                                  These first investigators didn't have the knowlage or technology to do a very good job of                                                                       excavating by modern standards, but the excavations in 1938 and 1997–2002 were much                                                                          more useful. We now know that there were at least two buildings on the farm - not including the barn - dating to between 850 and 1000CE. One was a small longhouse for the people to live inside, and the other was a sunken pithouse which was probably used as a women's space to weave, spin and bathe. It is certainly possible that there were more buildings on the site, and the midden (the rubbish pile) has yet to be found. Perhaps we will know even more about what the site looked like in the future!

Not a lot of objects were found inside the houses, just a few nails, weaving weights, sharpening stones and a broken spindle whorl. But even these show us what kind of tasks were going on on the farm, such as making their own cloth from wool and plant fibres, and honing their farming tools. One interesting find was remains from refining iron, which could tell us that they produced there own metal from the desposits in the valley. The land itself was also very different back then, with the area Eiríksstaðir now stand on being covered in a birch forest, providing them with building materials and fuel for fires.

The farmhouse was built through a local initiative with assistance from an advisory committee of archaeologists from the National Museum. The current building is based on research about the oldest known structures of this type from Iceland and neighboring countries of the same period. All the timber used in the building is driftwood.


The house was built using recreated Settlement Age tools which were reconstructed using archaeological finds and experimental archeological techniques. The carvings and decorations are based on models from the same period. Paneling is used for the interior, and the ceiling rafters have a brushwood lining with a triple layer of turf to form the roof. The turf walls were built using turf clumps with twine connecting them, which was probably the original building technique as revealed during excavation.

You can read more at:

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The ends of the longhouse are not covered with grass like the roof, but show the zig-zagging turf bricks.
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