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Iceland Mag


Two more Viking age burials found at archaeological site in N. Iceland

By Staff

  • The Dysnes dig Archaeologists working at the site in Eyjafjörður fjord are just starting, but they have already uncovered six Viking age burials. Photo/Auðunn

Archaeologists exploring a site in Eyjafjörður fjord in Iceland, where a ship burial containing the bones of a Viking age chief who had been buried in his boat with his sword and dog, have found two more burials at the site. The total number of burials at the site is now up to at least six: Four regular burials and at least two boat burials. 

Exploration of the dig only just started


Dysnes The site is located midway between Hjalteyri village and the town of Akureyri. Photo/Loftmyndir, IcelandMag

Exploration of the site has only just begun, with the archeologists having done little more than to remove the vegetation from the site. Hildur Gestsdóttir, the archeologist in charge of the dig, told the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service RÚV that it was still too early to say anything about the burials which have been found, other than that they were definitely there. 

Read more: Archaeologists in N. Iceland discover Viking age chief buried in ship with his sword and dog

"We can't really say anything more at this stage," she told RÚV. The one boat burial which has already been explored was at the edge of the sea, where the waves had eroded a large part of the grave, washing away half of the boat and any contents which might have been in that part of the burial. The archeologists were nevertheless able to find human bones, a Viking sword and the teeth of a dog in the grave.

Undisturbed by grave robbers, damaged by ocean erosion
The second boat burial, which has been less affected by erosion, is yet to be explored, and Hildur believes there could be a third, and even a fourth boat burial at the site.

Read more: Second Viking Age ship burial found at archaeological site in N. Iceland

"The burials we have now been exploring have not been damaged by erosion," she pointed out. Although some of the graves have been damaged by ocean erosion, none seem to have been disturbed by grave robbers, raising hopes that they could contain artifacts and remains which can shed invaluable light on the lives of the people buried at the site. 

An extremely important find

Dysnes, Dysnes archaeological dig

Dysnes The archaeologists exploring the first boat burial. The site sits right at the edge of the water. Photo/Auðunn

The discoveries at Dysnes are extremely important as only ten boat burials have been found in Iceland. Out of these five have been found in Eyjafjörður: Two at Dysnes, a third which was found 11 years ago a short distance, 500 m (1600 ft), at Kumlholt south of Dysnes and two which were found near the village Dalvík, just north of Dysnes.

The Dysnes find is also unique as it is only the second site in Iceland where two boat burials are found at the same site. The only other site with two boat burials is at Dalvík.

Wealthy local chiefs and a site of great regional importance
During the Viking age people were frequently buried with some of their possessions, and the items found in burials tell us a great deal about the social status of the person buried. Swords were very valuable, and boats were even more valuable, especially in Iceland where timber was at a premium.

Guðmundur Stefán Sigurðsson, the head of archaeological preservation in NE. Iceland told RÚV that the people buried in Dysnes must have been wealthy chiefs. A  person who was buried in a boat, with his sword, must have been someone of significant wealth and status. 


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