Excavation Underway at the Árbær Open Air Museum

Archaeology

Archaeological excavations are currently underway at the Árbær Open Air Museum in Reykjavík. As noted in a press release, the research project primarily focuses on structures dating back to the 13th-17th centuries, with museum guests afforded the opportunity of witnessing the unveiling of new knowledge “‘live.”

Over 1,800 artefacts discovered since 2016

Árbær was an established farm well into the 20th century, prior to being converted to a museum in 1957. Today, the Árbær Open Air Museum is home to more than 20 buildings – most of which have been relocated from central Reykjavík – that form a town square, a village, and a farm.

As noted in a press release from the City of Reykjavík, archaeological excavations are currently underway at the museum, where a team of archaeologists and archaeology students from the University of Iceland are delving into the ancient origins of the Árbær farm. Unearthing relics spanning from the 10th to the 20th century – when the last inhabitants departed from the farm – the research primarily focuses on structures dating back to the 13th-17th centuries. Additionally, attention is being given to Árbær’s ash heap, which holds a treasure trove of artefacts from various periods, as well as animal bones and fireplace ashes.

“Since its commencement in 2016,” the press release notes, “the investigation has yielded over 1,800 artefacts, ranging from screws, nails, and scissors to sharpeners, sledgehammers, glass bottles, beads, numbers, and ornamental book decorations. The findings provide compelling evidence of Árbær’s abundant access to imported household goods during the 17th century, particularly pertaining to tableware associated with dining and beverages. Among the discoveries are fragments of intricate glass containers, knives, and cooking vessels once employed during grand feasts.”

Titled “The Ancient Roots of Árbær” (i.e. Fornar rætur Árbæjar), the research project aims to explore the farm’s history from its inception, shedding light on its economy and the daily lives of its inhabitants. “Considering that the earliest written sources about the farm date back to the mid-15th century, this endeavour promises to significantly augment the researchers’ understanding of life within this locale. It is a rare occurrence for town mounds in Iceland to be subjected to such comprehensive scrutiny, and the fact that these excavations are transpiring within a museum setting, where visitors can witness the unveiling of new knowledge ‘live,’ makes this undertaking truly unique.”

Further Strike Action by BSRB Members Begins Today

reykjavík leikskóli preschool

Further strike action by members of BSRB began today. A week has passed since preschool and primary school workers went on strike in Kópavogur, Mosfellsbær, Garðabær, and Seltjarnarnes. Today, strikes will extend to the same workers in Hveragerði, Árborg, and the Westman Islands, including primary school employees in Hafnarfjörður.

Further strike action beginning today

On May 15, BSRB – Iceland’s largest federation of public sector unions, comprising 19 labour unions with some 23,000 members – began strike action as part of its ongoing negotiations with the Icelandic Association of Local Authorities (SNS). Some 1,000 workers – including staff in preschools in Kópavogur, Garðabær, and Mosfellsbær, and primary schools in Kópavogur, Seltjarnarnes, and Mosfellsbær – went on strike.

Last Friday, BSRB members in 29 municipalities approved strike action in a vote that ended at noon. Votes were cast in each municipality separately, but the measures were approved by an overwhelming majority in all of them, according to information from BSRB.

Primary school workers in Hafnarfjörður and Ölfus will begin strikes today. On Tuesday and Wednesday, four other municipalities will join in the strike action. On Thursday, only primary school workers in Seltjarnarnes will be on strike (preschool staff in five municipalities will also be on strike). As noted by Mbl.is, port workers in Ölfus will also go on strike today.

The strike actions will have some effect in the coming weeks, except in Reykjavík. As noted by RÚV, Reykjavík is the only municipality in the country that negotiates directly with BSRB, and a collective agreement was signed last month. Other local authorities normally delegate their bargaining authority to the Icelandic Association of Local Authorities (SNS).

Same wages for the same jobs

Sonja Ýr Þorbergsdóttir, chairperson of BSRB, has emphasised the federation’s demand that the Icelandic Association of Local Authorities pay the same wages to BSRB union members as others in similar jobs. BSRB is demanding retroactive wage increases from January 1, when the last collective agreement was still in effect.

A schedule of BSRB’s strike action over the coming days and weeks may be viewed here:

BSRB

Record Number of Reports to Child Protection Services

school children

The first three months of the year have seen a record number of reports to Reykjavík Child Protection Services (CPS). Katrín Helga Hallgrímsdóttir, General Manager of Reykjavík CPS, has told RÚV that raising awareness among institutions and society is critical.

80% increase during the first three months of the year

Reykjavík Child Protection Services (CPS) is currently experiencing a surge in reports, with the first three months of the year setting a record high, RÚV reports. Data from the institution reveals an 80% increase in reports received by the CPS from elementary schools. These figures, pertaining to the period between January and March, highlight the unparalleled volume of reports received by CPS during this three-month timeframe.

“We are now seeing that in the first three months of the year, the number of reports that we’ve received has increased by 20% compared to last year. And that’s quite the increase. Percentage-wise, this is a similar increase, if not greater, than during COVID-19 – and even if we go back as far as the Financial Crisis,” Katrín Helga Hallgrímsdóttir, General Manager of Reykjavík Child Protection Services, told RÚV.

As noted by RÚV, a closer look at the statistics reveals serious ramifications. Specifically, there has been a 64% increase in reports concerning children exhibiting violent behaviour. It is important, however, to note that such cases compose a relatively low percentage of overall cases; out of the 1,400-plus reports received, the total count of reports regarding violent behaviour among children amounts to 97.

From 50-60 reports to 100

“During the first three months of the year, we have received approximately 100 reports concerning children exhibiting violent behaviour, whereas, in the corresponding period of the past four or five years, we typically received 50 to 60 reports,” highlighted Katrín Helga.

Equally noteworthy is the fact that, as indicated by the statistics, reports from schools in Reykjavík to the Child Protection Committee have experienced an 80% increase.

“There is a specific subset of reports that we have been examining for the first three months. We have noticed a significant surge in notifications originating from schools. While we are not yet aware of the precise nature of these reports, we do have the overall count of reports received from schools. It represents an 80% increase for the first three months of this year,” Katrín explained.

RÚV reached out to the School and Recreation Department for a response but was informed that a survey, yet to be completed, had been initiated to delve into the matter.

Those in the immediate environment must be vigilant

In her discussion with RÚV, Katrín Helga emphasised the significance of institutions and society being informed about the alarming increase in these numbers. She noted that the prevalence of violence among young people has been the subject of intense public discourse.

“It is essential to raise awareness about this situation, particularly among individuals who are in close proximity to the children. This way, we can ensure that the children’s issues are addressed as promptly and as closely as possible,” stated Katrín Helga.

Puffin Population Declining More Rapidly than Previously Believed

puffins iceland

The Icelandic puffin population has shrunk by 70% in the last thirty years. The Managing Director of the Icelandic Travel Industry Association (SAF) has stated that this is bad news for the ecosystem and for companies within the tourist sector, who have marketed the puffin as a kind of national symbol.

Decline much worse than previously believed

Iceland plays host to a significant portion of the world’s puffins, with approximately 20% of the global population nesting in the Westman Islands every year. While the Icelandic puffin population may not be as substantial as that of other bird species in the country, it has experienced a substantial decline over the past thirty years.

In an interview with RÚV, biologist Erpur Snær Hansen revealed that the latest data indicates a staggering 70% decline in the puffin population since 1995, surpassing the previously believed figure of 40%.

“We hadn’t analysed population trends from such an early period before, and it was shocking to discover that the decline was much more severe than previously estimated,” Erpur stated.

While puffin populations naturally fluctuate over time, the recent measurements unveiled an unprecedented pattern. “This recent decline appears to be distinct. This consistent delay in nesting and poor breeding is unprecedented in the 140-year history we have been studying.”

The primary cause of this decline stems from a scarcity of food for the birds, which can be attributed to rising sea temperatures. Additionally, puffin hunting accounts for at least 10% of the population decrease. Erpur emphasised that puffin hunting is not sustainable, despite recent declines in its prevalence. “Generally speaking, hunting declining populations is not a good philosophy.”

When asked about the potential ban on puffin hunting, Erpur responded:

“This spring, there was a consideration, in collaboration with the Environment Agency, to have scientists assess the impact of a sales ban because protecting this species is a challenging endeavour. This form of hunting, tied to land ownership, appears to have a peculiar exemption from common sense.”

Bad news for Icelandic tourism

In an interview with Vísir, Jóhannes Þór Skúlason, the Managing Director of the Icelandic Travel Industry Association (SAF), highlighted the negative consequences of the declining puffin population, particularly for the tourism industry:

“Naturally, this is detrimental to the ecosystem and to the tourism industry, too, which has embraced the puffin as its emblem. The puffin is an incredibly beautiful and unique bird. When people visit Iceland, being able to witness puffin nests in places like Borgarfjörður Eystri, Reynisjfara, West Iceland, and the Westman Islands enhances their experience. It would be truly unfortunate if the population fails to recover.”

Jóhannes further emphasised that some tourists specifically travel to Iceland for the opportunity to see puffins: “It is quite possible that individuals come here solely to observe the puffin, especially those from countries where the puffin is protected and, therefore, less visible.”

The constant changes in the biosphere can significantly impact tourism, as Jóhannes noted: “We have already witnessed changes in the distribution of other bird species, such as arctic terns. These developments raise various concerns.”