Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Historical Archaeology

First Advisor

Heather B. Trigg

Second Advisor

John M. Steinberg

Third Advisor

Douglas J. Bolender


In Viking Age and Medieval Iceland, livestock forage was a critical resource in the Norse agropastoral economy. Cereal cultivation, typically an important part of the Norse economy, may have been more limited in marginal sub-Arctic Iceland. An analysis of macrobotanical seed assemblages from archaeological excavations at 42 Viking Age and Medieval farmsteads in the Skagafjörður region of North Iceland suggests both broad trends and substantial variation over time and space in agropastoral production practices. This study finds that the main components of livestock forage (grass, sedge, and perhaps cereal) are highly variable between regions and over time. Interestingly, barley (Hordeum vulgare) cereal grains are remarkably ubiquitous across farmsteads of varying size and status during the Viking Age, but are absent in Medieval deposits. In some regions, farmers seem to have been emphasizing marsh and wetland resources, resulting in greater sedge (Cyperaceae) seed presence, while grass (Poaceae), seeds dominate the assemblage at other farmsteads. Case studies of two farmsteads are presented, which characterize the variability between farms during the Viking Age. The variation in the basic and robust agropastoral package of grass and sedge forage and barley cultivation recovered from paleoethnobotanical samples of domestic midden deposits—along with possible oat utilization—point to the Norse farmers’ versatility in farm management and subsistence strategies during the chiefly settlement and medieval manorial consolidation of Iceland.

Additional Files

ritchey-appendix-1.xlsx (92 kB)

ritchey-appendix-2.xlsx (93 kB)