Archaeologists are currently excavating one of the busiest locations in downtown Reykjavík: the Prime Minister’s Office, RÚV reports. Digging in the lot behind the office began around two weeks ago. Clay fragments are among the artefacts that have already been unearthed at the location, and experts say relics from the earliest period of settlement are likely to be found at the site.
Excavating before building
A blue-painted plywood wall has been erected on Bankastræti alongside the Prime Minister’s Office with information on the excavations as well as plexiglass windows to allow passers-by to peek in on archaeologists at work. The information panels also show pictures of the new building which has been drawn up for the site. Once archaeological remains are removed, a new structure will be raised on the lot that will house part of the activities of the Prime Minister’s Office.
“We now expect to find traces of maybe 25 or 30 buildings because, according to sources, there were numerous houses here in the 18th and 19th centuries,” explains Archaeologist Vala Garðarsdóttir. “Remains of older structures have also been found here under the Prime Minister’s Office when it was renovated in 1998. Remains of a building that had a tephra layer [evidence of a volcanic eruption] dating back to 1226 were also found.”
Farms and jailhouses
Construction on the Prime Minister’s Office began in 1765, and it was originally built to be a jailhouse. There are plenty of historical sources that describe the lot and building inspection records dating back to 1854. “There is naturally such a rich history which tells us so much,” Vala stated. “We are going to try to record it as well, both with the sources and the artefacts.”
The northernmost section of the lot belonged to Arnarhóll farmstead, and its possible that remains of larger farm buildings could be discovered on the lot. The dirt has already revealed some interesting artefacts. “A lot of broken pottery, glass, medicine vials, wood, and a lot of hewn stone that people used for building foundations and more,” Vala stated.
The first phase of the excavation focuses on the area by Bankastræti street, and wwill end in January. The next phase, closer to Hverfisgata street, will end by next fall.