Excavation Underway at the Árbær Open Air Museum Skip to content

Excavation Underway at the Árbær Open Air Museum

By Ragnar Tómas

Archaeology
Photo: City of Reykjavík (Árbær Open Air Museum).

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.”

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