Iceland Mag

4 Reykjavik

Iceland Mag


Central highland ruins confirmed to have been the home of 18th century outlaws

By Staff

  • Vatnajökull Glacier in the Kverkfjöll mountains Hvannalindir oasis is surrounded by barren highland deserts, mountains and glacial rivers on all sides. Photo: Wikimedia commons

Carbon dating has confirmed that ruins in the Hvannalindir highland oasis date to the 18th century. The ruins are believed to have been the home of historic 18th century outlaws, Fjalla-Eyvindur and his wife Halla.

A hidden highland oasis, home to outlaws
The bones were found in ruins of a small farm and shed hidden in the lava field in a highland oasis north of Vatnajökull glacier. The location of the farm 640 metres (2100 feet) above sea level, surrounded by barren desert and glacial rivers, and its primitive nature indicates it was inhabited by someone who had left society and wished to remain hidden. Rúnar Leifsson, Cultural heritage manager for Eastern Iceland tells the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service the farm could only have been occupied by outlaws.

“This oasis in in the middle of a highland desert which stretches dozens of kilometres in all directions. The people who lived there would have had to carry sheep on their back across glacial rivers. It’s impossible anyone would have gone up there unless he wanted to leave society.”

Proof the ruins date to the time of a historic outlaw
The carbon dating of the bones which were found in the ruins confirms the ruins are from the mid-18th century. The dating provides the first concrete proof of the age of the ruins which were first discovered in 1880 and studied by archaeologists in 1941. According to legend the outlaw Fjalla Eyvindur and his wife Halla lived in the area in the second half of the 18th century.

Related: Archaeologists discover a cave believed to have been occupied by a Viking Age outlaw

The farm is in the Hvannalindir oasis in the Lindaharaun lavafield, which is nestled under the Lindafjöll mountains to the west and Kreppuhryggur mountains to the east. The oasis is inside the Vatnajökull glacier national park, north of Kverkfjöll mountains. The ruins have been designated a protected cultural heritage site.

A legendary man, a villain or a victim of vengeful and unjust authorities
Fjalla Eyvindur, which translates as “Eyvindur of the Mountains” is the best known outlaw of Icelandic history and the source of countless myths and stories. Eyvindur fled along with his wife Halla into the highlands in in 1760 after having been accused of stealing, wrongly, some of the stories claim.

Eyvindur and Halla lived as outlaws in the highlands for more than 20 years, killing sheep and living off the land. According to legend Eyvindur only killed the sheep of men who had wronged him while he was a free man. Eyvindur and Halla returned to civilization in their eighties, and spent the last few years of their lives in the care of a family who lived at a farm Eyvindur himself had built as a young man, before he was exiled by the authorities.

And a beautiful, but very sad lullaby
One of the best known Icelandic lullabies, "Sofðu unga ástin mín" was sung by Halla in a play by 19th century playwright Jóhann Sigurjónsson about the couple. Although it is considered the most beautiful Icelandic lullaby, the words are both sad and harrowing.

Read more: Icelandic lullabies considered somewhat horrifying

Halla and Eyvindur had three children while on the run from the law, all of which died young. 

Related content

Editor's Picks