The Peopling of Iceland

Orri Vésteinsson*, Thomas H. McGovern

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalEditorial

44 Citations (Scopus)


In recent years intensive archaeological research on the Viking Age in Iceland has produced much new evidence supporting a late 9th century colonization of the country. It can now be stated not only that people had arrived in Iceland before AD 870 but also that comprehensive occupation only took place after that date. The increased temporal resolution of the new archaeological data not only allows the characterization of different phases of the colonization but also supports assessments of the scale and rate of the immigration. In this paper we report the results of fieldwork in Mývatnssveit, NE-Iceland, where more than 30 sites have been investigated, ranging from small test trenches to large-scale open area excavations. We argue, based on the Mývatnssveit data, that a minimum of 24,000 people must have been transported to Iceland in less than 20 years to account for the dates and density of the Mývatn sites. In the absence, so far, of comparable data from other parts of the country these conclusions must remain hypothetical but if supported by further work they will have significant implications for our understanding of first peopling of Holocene farming populations in general and of Viking Age migrations in particular.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)206-218
Number of pages13
JournalNorwegian Archaeological Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2012

Other keywords

  • colonization
  • demography
  • Iceland
  • settlement
  • Viking Age


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