Excavation of Reykjavík Parliament Site Completed Skip to content

Excavation of Reykjavík Parliament Site Completed

The excavation of an area near the Icelandic parliament, Alþingi, in central Reykjavík will conclude in the autumn. A car park will probably be built where workshops were located in the Settlement Era. Yesterday, the last guided tour around the area took place.


One of the artifacts found during the dig. Click here to read more about it on the project’s website.

“What we are digging up now dates back to the 9th-11th century. There was continued habitation of the area from that time and we have had to dig through the remains. It was an industrial area where people came to work,” explained Masters student in archaeology Una Helga Jónsdóttir to Morgunblaðið.

Una Helga has, along with others, worked on excavating the parliament site and guided visitors around it this summer. She stated the discovery is noteworthy because an industrial site like this has never been found in Iceland before, at least not in Reykjavík. “An iron workshop and fish and wool processing facilities were located here.”

“We are now finishing what was left of the excavations in 2008 and 2009. What we have found this summer includes fractions of pearls, a silver bracelet, fractions of baking plates and all sorts of objects. We have also found lots of animal bones,” Una Helga said in description of their discoveries, adding that one of the bones came from a cat.

Una Helga said the area looked quite different in the 9th century than it does today. The sea reached further inland, a stream ran from the Reykjavík pond and into the ocean and the hills around the city center were covered in birch woods.

The area was well suited for habitation and Una Helga believes further archaeological discoveries can be made. “The remains extend underneath nearby streets and buildings. There is a wall which lies underneath Tjarnargata. We just saw a part of it.”

She and her colleagues are a bit frustrated that they have to leave it at that. “Maybe at some point a permit will issued to dig up Tjarnargata to examine it further but we will just have to wait and see.”

When asked what of the most interesting discovery, Una Helga said it is hard to name just one thing. “But the silver bracelet came as a surprise as it didn’t fit in with the rest of the objects. It was peculiar to find a silver bracelet at an industrial area; someone must have lost it there. It was dug up with the piece of dirt around it and taken to the National Museum.”

Other objects found during the excavation include 12 spindle whorls and fishing gear, such as hooks. “The remains are in poor condition. There have been so many people in the area that the remains haven’t been left untouched.”

Click here to read the project’s website and here to read other excavation news.


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