The longhouse dates back to when the Vikings first settled in Iceland, between 870 and 930 AD. Archaeologists expect to obtain a more exact date following completion of the excavation. The team has discovered a number of artifacts inside the hut, including weaving implements, a silver ring and a pearl.
“This find came as a great surprise for everybody” Þorsteinn Bergsson told The Iceland Monitor. “This rewrites the history of Reykjavik.” Mr. Bergsson is the Managing Director of Minjavernd, an independent association working for the preservation of old buildings in Iceland.
Stamps Showing Everyday Life in the Viking Age (Wikimedia Commons)Although it would be nice to find out who actually lived in the longhouse, the chances of ever doing this are exceedingly difficult if not impossible, according to Lísabet Guðmundsdóttir, archaeologist at the Icelandic Institute of Archaeology.
“We have no records of any building on this spot other than the cottage built in 1799” Ms Guðmundsdóttir explained. “The cottage was built on a meadow with no remnants of anything else.”
- The Sagas of the Icelanders shed light on Golden Age
- Newly-discovered ancient fortress reveals architectural accomplishments of Vikings
- New study reveals Vikings could navigate after dark using sun-compass and mythical sunstone
- The Headless Vikings of Dorset
The fire was a source of heat and light but there was no chimney and that meant the longhouse would have been very smoky. Sometimes, additional lighting was provided in the form of stone lamps with fish liver oil or whale oil as the fuel. Seating was either in the form of wooden benches along the walls or an available spot on the floor. The benches also served as beds.
Reconstruction of Viking Longhouse, Iceland (Wikimedia Commons)Longhouses were constructed in a number of ways but generally according to the same basic plan. The walls were commonly made from a structure of wooden poles with wattle and daub infilling. In Denmark, some longhouses had forges inside them, although more commonly the forge was housed in a separate building. The size of the longhouse depended on the wealth of the owner. Some of the largest were decorated with tapestries and rugs. The occupants may also have hung their shields on the walls. Some of the Norse sagas mention the use of tables for feasting as well. The Viking diet largely consisted of salted meat, porridge, stew, bread, cheese and honey. Viking settlers in more northerly regions hunted polar bear and seals.
In some areas of Denmark, royal longhouses were located in settlements within round earthen embankments consisting of four longhouses. Each longhouse accommodated the crew of a ship and their families. The roof was made of thatch or wooden shingles
Ingolf tager Island i besiddelse,by P. Raadsig (1850). Depicting Ingólfur Arnarson, the first permanent settler in Iceland. Legend says he threw two pillars overboard and vowed to settle wherever they landed. They landed in what is known today as Reykjavik (Cove of Smoke). (Wikimedia Commons)The last time a longhouse was discovered in Iceland was in 2001, at Aðalstræti. The relics found at this site represented the oldest evidence of human habitation in Reykjavik, dating back to before 871 AD. The longhouse has been preserved as the center for an exhibition about the Viking settlement of the site.
Featured Image: The long fire pit in the center of the longhouse. (Kristinn Ingvarsson/Iceland Monitor)