Iceland Mag

9 Reykjavik

Iceland Mag


Glacial outburst flood washed away unexplored ruins, believed to be from the Viking age

By Staff

  • Washing away earth and archaeology The outburst flood from the Skaftárketill calderas destroyed both farmlands and archaeological sites in South Iceland. Photo/Halldór Á. Lárusson.

The glacial outburst flood from the Skaftárketill calderas earlier this fall swept away an unexplored archaeological site in the Skaftártunga region. The site, which included old farm ruins, had neither been catalogued nor systematically studied. The Cultural heritage manager of South Iceland tells the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service RÚV the site could well have dated to the Viking age and the settlement of Iceland. Now, however, there is no way of knowing.

Most of the outburst flood flowed into the river Eldvötn, swelling the river which both flowed over nearby flatlands and ate out of its banks, digging new, deep paths through farmlands which were in its way. One of those areas were the fields by the farm Ytri Ásar where the ruins of an old farm, Fagra-flöt lay. Gísli Halldór Magnússon, a farmer at Ytri Ásar tells RÚV that the river has completely washed away these fields, taking everything with it. “There is not one thing left here which could tell you there once was a farm here, and with that a piece of history is gone.”

Uggi Ævarsson, the Cultural Heritage Manager of South Iceland tells RÚV that the ruins had neither been charted nor catalogued, let alone explored by archaeologists. This is all the more serious because the ruins could have dated back to the Viking Age, he tells RÚV: “This is a great loss. Now we are missing another piece of the puzzle which is the settlement history of Skaftártunga region. These floods come regularly here, and then the nearby volcano Hekla also has her regular eruptions, all of which makes the settlement history of this region extremely interesting.”

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