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Title: Environmental change around the time of the Norse settlement of Iceland
Author: Erlendsson, Egill
ISNI:       0000 0001 3448 8436
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 2007
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Iceland was settled in the 1ate 9th century AD by Scandinavian (Norse) peoples, popularly known as the Vikings. The principal aims of this study have been to investigate the floristic landscapes in existence at the time of settlement and the impact that Norse colonisation had upon the vegetation. The focal period is AD 500-1500. Three main study areas were selected, Ketilsstaðir in Mýrdalur and Stóra-Mörk in Eyjafjöll, both in southern Iceland, and Reykholtsdalur in western Iceland. Four detailed palynological profiles are presented. The main study tool is high-resolution pollen analysis, supplemented by stratigraphic analysis consisting especially of organic content measurement and magnetic susceptibility. The determination of chronologies has been greatly facilitated by tephrochronology. In Reykholtsdalur, more distant from much volcanic activity, a combination of tephrochronology and radiocarbon dating had to be applied. This study has revealed that the landscapes at the time of settlement were perhaps more varied than commonly perceived. The areas in which the Ketilsstaðir farm was established were without woodlands before AD 870 and remained so. In these open landscapes, the impact of settlement on vegetation was minimal, and major changes in the development of vegetation were driven by volcanic activity as much as land-use. The wooded landscapes in which the farms at Stóra-Mörk and Reykholt in Reykholtsdalur were established reacted differently to the arrival of humans. Around the farms, the woodland soon retreated as landscapes became increasingly open, and taxa common in meadows and pastures became increasingly dominant. Further away from farms, woodland lingered into late medieval times. The pollen analysis of lake sediments from Breiðavatn, ca. 2 km from Reykholt, has revealed that despite a minimal decrease in the pollen of Betula pubescens soon after settlement, woodland was able to thrive until between AD 1150-1300.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available