Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Historical Archaeology

First Advisor

Douglas J. Bolender

Second Advisor

John M. Steinberg

Third Advisor

Stephen Mrozowski


The initial colonization of Iceland in the late 9th century had a profound impact on the fragile environment of the North Atlantic island. Settlement and the introduction of livestock resulted in widespread erosion and the replacement of woodlands with meadows and heaths. Changes in the environment are assumed to have played a role in determining settlement patterning and subsistence strategies. While marginal highland areas were most seriously affected, resulting in farmstead abandonment, the nature of changes in lowland areas and their impact on the productivity of individual farms is poorly understood. Local patterns of landscape change in Iceland could be highly varied as erosion in one area often resulted in soil accumulation in another. Focusing on the lowland region of Hegranes in northern Iceland, this thesis examined patterns of erosion and sediment accumulation in relation to fluctuations in farmstead size during three periods of occupation: pre-1104 A.D., 1104-1300 A.D., and post-1300 A.D. This study considers when and where soil erosion and accumulation occurred and its implications for farmstead activity and the long-term viability and productivity of individual farms and households.