Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Historical Archaeology

First Advisor

John M. Steinberg

Second Advisor

Douglas J. Bolender

Third Advisor

David Landon


Iron played a key role in the Viking Age settlement of Iceland and the subsequent medieval economy on the island. Iron smelting was a time-consuming process, but the product was valuable and necessary for the maintenance of a farmstead. This thesis examines the scale of production at a single iron production site in northern Iceland. In 2017 the site of Stekkjarborg, located in an outfield of the farm of Keldudalur, was surveyed using extensive coring and geophysical methods and partially excavated as part of the SCASS project on Hegranes. These surveys investigated a domestic ash midden and slag heap dating to the early 10th century confirming a short-term domestic occupation and iron production activity. Intensive coring and excavations of the slag heap produced a series of measurements from which the scale of iron production was estimated. Using slag samples and an ArcGIS volumetric model, the amount of slag present on the site was calculated to determine what amount of produced iron the slag heap represented. When put into a local context, Stekkjarborg produced enough iron to supply the farms within the local community. The site is located on the contemporary property of Keldudalur, it is easily accessible from the five surrounding farms. The site of Stekkjarborg is not intervisible with any of the neighboring farmsteads, suggesting that the location might not have been under the control of a single household. Thus, production of iron at the site probably operated at the communal level serving multiple farms. In the broader context of iron production in the North Atlantic, Stekkjarborg is a unique site as its iron production activities are occurring congruently with domestic activities. While medieval Icelandic iron production has generally been recovered from large-scale production sites, this communal small-scale production indicates a potential variation of smelting practices during the settlement of Iceland.


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