Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Historical Archaeology

First Advisor

David B. Landon

Second Advisor

Douglas J. Bolender

Third Advisor

John M. Steinberg


Settlers to Iceland introduced livestock and imposed their agricultural practices upon the landscape. Over time changes in the landscape from grazing, introduction of new cultural ideas, such as Christianity, and the advent of the Little Ice Age had varying impacts on Icelandic animal husbandry. This project seeks to examine how sheep husbandry changed or persisted in light of these changes by studying the herd structure and seasonality of slaughter patterns over time. This thesis utilizes a collection of ovicaprine mandibles collected from the farm of Stóra-Seyla in Skagafjörður, northern Iceland to study the issues of why and how farmers were raising their sheep. In the first study of its kind in Iceland, I use cementum analysis in addition to tooth wear and morphology analyses to compare the season of death and herd structure for sheep across the A.D. 1000 and 1104 tephra. The herd structure appears to have consisted of only sheep that were mainly culled for meat. The results further demonstrate that there is a shift from culling mainly in the fall in the earlier periods to split between fall and winter in the later periods, with 1000-1104 being a transitional period. This change also corresponds with a switch from culling predominately one summer old lambs in the fall to culling two summer old sheep in the winter. While the exact cause remains unclear, two contributing factors can be attributed to bad year economics and the advent of Christianity in Iceland.


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