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Title: Evaluation of archaeoentomology for reconstructing rural life-ways and the process of modernisation in 19th and early 20th century Iceland
Author: Forbes, Véronique
ISNI:       0000 0004 2733 2777
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis addresses the potential of archaeoentomology for reconstructing rural life-ways and the processes of modernisation and the implementation of ‘improvement’ ideas in 19th- and early 20th-century Iceland. Previous archaeoentomological research employed insect remains to reconstruct activity areas, domestic practices and aspects of past living conditions in Icelandic turf farmhouses. However, as there is a lack of comparative modern and ethnoarchaeological data from analogous buildings, the ecological requirements of insect taxa exploiting indoor habitats and the processes by which they may become incorporated in the archaeological record are still poorly understood. To address this lacuna, this thesis presents two studies – a modern analogues study and an ethnoarchaeological one – aimed specifically at testing the potential and limitations of archaeoentomology in the Icelandic context. These studies provide an analytical framework for the reconstruction of life-ways and living conditions on two 19th- and early 20th-century Icelandic sites: Hornbrekka and Vatnsfjörður. These case studies also explore how insect remains may help to improve our understanding of the social and economic changes involved in the modernisation of daily life in rural Iceland. The modern analogues study includes a survey of live and dead insect faunas from farm buildings – animal houses, hay barns and eiderdown workshops – combined with the systematic recording of local environmental and material conditions in the sampling locations. The study refines our understanding of the ecological preferences and tolerances of synanthropic beetles exploiting microhabitats in stable manure and stored hay and identifies duck fleas as potential archaeoentomological indicators of eiderdown processing and storage areas. This dissertation also includes an analysis of insect remains preserved in floor layers in recently abandoned, extant 19th- and 20th-century turf buildings at the farm of Þverá, in Laxárdalur, northeast Iceland, where details regarding the rooms’ functions and cleaning and maintenance practices are known. This study clarifies some of the taphonomic processes involved in the formation of archaeological floors and archaeoentomological assemblages, while also highlighting difficulties related to the identification of resources such as peat, turf and hay using outdoor insects. It also reveals subtle variations between synanthropic communities and ectoparasites recovered from human living quarters, storage areas and animal stalls. Archaeoentomological analyses were applied to the investigation of past activities and living conditions on the 19th- and early 20th-century archaeological sites of Hornbrekka, in northern Iceland, and Vatnsfjörður, in northwest Iceland. Insect remains from Hornbrekka support the previous archaeological interpretations regarding the functions of the excavated rooms and provide new information regarding past activities on the site, including cleaning and floor maintenance practices, participation in trade, and local resource exploitation. At Vatnsfjörður, archaeoentomological assemblages help identify a room’s function as a storage room for animal products, including eiderdown. They also provide supporting evidence for the use of materials from byre and habitation floors as manure in the fields. The archaeoentomological evidence obtained from these 19th- and early 20th-century sites suggest that insect remains have the potential to contribute to a clarification of the processes by which Icelandic rural life-ways came to be modernised.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Commonwealth Scholarship Commission ; Department of Archaeology ; University of Aberdeen
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Insects ; Fossil ; Entomology