Gröf og dauði á Íslandi í 1150 ár / Death and burial in Iceland for 1150 years /

Laugardagur 10. mars kl. 13-16.30
Stofa 229 í Aðalbyggingu Háskóla Íslands

Málstofan er liður í samnefndu rannsóknarverkefni  sem styrkt er af Rannís 2011-2013.  Grafir og grafreitir eru meginheimildir í fornleifafræði en sterk hefð er fyrir því að rannsaka greftrunarsið með tilvísun í ríkjandi trúarbrögð; kuml sem heimild um heiðni, bænhúsgrafreiti sem heimild um kaþólsku o.s.fr.v.  Fyrir vikið falla margir greftrunarstaðir, sem ekki verða merktir tilteknum sið, milli þils og veggjar.  Í þessu rannsóknarverkefni um greftrunarsið á Íslandi frá 850 til 2000 er litið á þetta mikla heimildasafn heildstætt, sem heimild um langtímaþróun íslensks samfélags, útfrá hugmyndum Íslendinga um dauðann, táknrænu gildi greftrunarstaða og þeim vísbendingum sem þeir gefa um skipulag byggðar og nærsamfélags.  Erindin á málstofunni fjalla um þessi efni frá ýmsum hliðum, kynntar eru niðurstöður úr öðrum rannsóknarverkefnum um tengd efni, m.a. skagfirsku kirkjurannsókninni, uppgreftinum á Hofstöðum í Mývatnssveit og kirkjurannsóknum á Grænlandi, auk þess sem kynntar verða niðurstaður sem þegar hafa fengist innan verkefnisins Gröf og dauði.

The session as a component of the eponymous research project supported by Rannís in 2011-2013. Graves and cemeteries constitute a major part of all archaeological evidence but it is traditional to look at burial practice within the context of particular religions; pagan burials are studied as evidence for pagan religion, medieval chapel cemeteries for catholic Christianity et c.  As a result large numbers of burials which cannot be consigned to such categories fall in between and are not studied.  In this project about  the longue durée of burial practice in Iceland, from 850 to

2000 AD, burial practice is viewed comprehensively, as evidence for long-term developments in Icelandic society, with reference to Icelandic ideas about death, the symbolic meaning of burial grounds and their evidence for settlement organisation and the structure of local communities.  The papers in this session discuss these issues from a variety of viewpoints, presenting results from projects dealing with similar themes, including the Skagafjörður church project, the Hofstaðir excavation and archaeological research in Greenland, as well as from the Death and burial project itself.

Fyrirlestrar verða fluttir á ensku.

Fyrirlesarar:

  • Orri Vésteinsson, prófessor í fornleifafræði: Deciphering the longue durée of Icelandic burial topography
  • Janis Mitchell, doktorsnemi í fornleifafræði: The ‘missing’ objects in the disturbed burials of Viking Age Iceland
  • Rúnar Leifsson, doktorsnemi í fornleifafræði: The distribution of horse burials in Iceland:  taphonomic bias or regional difference in burial customs
  • Jette Arneborg, vísindamaður við danska þjóðminjasafnið: Burials in the Norse Eastern Settlement in Greenland - from landnam to abandonment
  • Guðný Zoega, doktorsnemi í fornleifafræði: The geography of a cemetery – early Christian cemeteries in Skagafjörður
  • Hildur Gestsdóttir, doktorsnemi í fornleifafræði: Hofstaðir. A medieval cemetery

Málstofustjóri: Adolf Friðriksson fornleifafræðingur

Útdrættir:

 

Orri Vésteinsson, prófessor í fornleifafræði
Deciphering the longue durée of Icelandic burial topography

Taking a long term view of cemetery distribution in Iceland reveals a general trend towards fewer and larger cemeteries with sharp reductions in numbers associated with the conversion to Christianity in the 11th century and the Reformation in the 16th.  This paper will briefly discuss the state of knowledge about cemetery distributions in different periods but the main focus will be on developing explanatory models for this development.  This issue will be explored from the point of view that the location of burial reflects at least three fundamental associations: attitudes towards death; attitudes toward the land and attitudes towards other people, i.e. community.  Seen in this way the distribution of burials becomes a key to understanding both social history as well as the history of ideas.

 

Janis Mitchell, doktorsnemi í fornleifafræði
The ‘missing’ objects in the disturbed burials of Viking Age Iceland 

This presentation is an overview of research on the disturbed burials of Viking Age Iceland undertaken as part of the Death and Burial in Iceland Project. The aim was to begin a dialogue on the disturbed, potentially robbed graves, with a particular focus on the ‘missing’ objects from burial. A summary of the results of data collected and preliminary interpretations of the material will be discussed. Why and when were graves disturbed? What are the possible missing objects? How do disturbed graves affect our view of burial practice and does placement in the landscape play a part in burial disturbance, re-discovery and our archaeological interpretations?

A case study of the Ytra Garðshorn cemetery in North Iceland will be placed in focus as a means to discuss some of these issues in relation to the disturbed burials, missing objects and placement in the landscape.

 

Rúnar Leifsson, doktorsnemi í fornleifafræði
The distribution of horse burials in Iceland:  taphonomic bias or regional difference in burial customs

Ritual killing and burial of horses was common in Viking Age Iceland. The animals usually shared a grave with a human body, but were sometimes laid to rest in separate graves. Kristján Eldjárn argued that this custom was more common in Iceland than elsewhere and the presence of horse bone has been regarded as one of the major defining elements of pre-Christian graves in Iceland. However, the distribution of horse burials is quite uneven between regions within Iceland. They are very common in certain areas while virtually unknown elsewhere. This paper discusses where ritually killed horses are found and where they are absent and explores the possible causes behind the observed topographical pattern in the archaeological record.

 

Jette Arneborg, vísindamaður við danska þjóðminjasafnið
Burials in the Norse Eastern Settlement in Greenland - from landnam to abandonment

According to the written sources Southwest Greenland was settled from Iceland in the middle of the 980s, and in the year 1000 the Greenlanders were Christianized. In the landscape church buildings surrounded by cemeteries have been recorded at 16 farms in the Norse Eastern Settlement. No pagan graves have till now been found.

Cemeteries and churches have been the main targets for archaeological excavations since the beginning of the 19th century; the cemeteries mainly to identify the church building and the church building to link together the anonymous churches in the landscape with the named churches in the written sources.

The find of the small and evidently early church in Qassiarsuk (Brattahlid) in the beginning of the 1960s gave rise to new research questions focusing especially on a group of “small” churches.  True to the historical tradition the small church at Brattahlid had promptly been identified with the first church ever built in Norse Greenland according to the sagas. Nevertheless, despite the early date ofTjodhildes Church the discussion about  the group of “small” churches focused on the date and function of these churches, often with analogies to Iceland.

In 2001 a new project was launched in the Eastern Settlement by the Danish National Museum for the main purpose of drawing archaeology into the discussion, dating the small churches and evaluating them in a landscape socio-economic perspective. In the field seasons of 2001, 2002, 2007, 2008 and 2010 minor excavations have taken place  at seven of the small churches and a picture emerges of a dynamic social and economic landscape with close physical connections between the dwelling of the living and the burial grounds of the dead. Still, we have not found pagan graves in the landscape and the oldest churches and cemeteries seem to belong to the very initial settlement.

The case studies from the excavations 2001 – 2010 will be presented and discussed focusing on the dating of the “small” churches, and the socio economic implications will be discussed with focus on settlement organization.

 

Guðný Zoega, doktorsnemi í fornleifafræði
The geography of a cemetery – early Christian cemeteries in Skagafjörður

Since 2007 the Skagafjörður Church Project has aimed at locating and registering the earliest Christian cemetery remains in the county of Skagafjörður.  To date 14 cemeteries have been examined.  Some of the core questions of the project deal with the external and internal geography of these cemeteries. How many are there, when they  fall out of use, where are they positioned and what is the internal layout and architecture of these structures? The internal geography deals with the social aspects of individual households, burials and burial practices, who are interred and what can the burial customs and cemetery architecture tell us about their religious/social affiliations? External geography gives an indication of the settlement organization  and changes in functions of churches and the farmsteads themselves. In this lecture I will give an outline of the results of the project so far.

 

Hildur Gestsdóttir, doktorsnemi í fornleifafræði 
Hofstaðir. A medieval cemetery

This paper will present the ongoing investigations of the medieval cemetery at Hofstaðir in Mývatnssveit. The cemetery was in use from the 10th-13th century and to date 120 skeletons, as well as the remains of at least two church structures have been excavated at the site. The discussion will focus on the use and development of the site, emphasising the importance of complete open area excavations to understand how the cemetery was organised and changed through time. In addition osteaoarchaeological, and in particular palaeopathological analysis of the skeletal remains from the cemetery will be discussed, with a focus on how such analysis inform our understanding of the population which the cemetery served.

 

 

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