Professor Disputes Earlier Settlement in Iceland Skip to content

Professor Disputes Earlier Settlement in Iceland

By Iceland Review

The debate continues in Iceland on new evidence found in archeological research that there may have been people in Iceland before the “official” date of 874. In Hafnir remains of dwellings have been found, that may built earlier than that date.

This is not the first research of this type. Physicist Páll Theodórsson has written about a number of findings where C14 research has indicated burned wood that may be from the seventh century, hence placing men in Iceland 200 years before the “first” settler.

Professor Gunnar Karlsson, a historian, writes an article about these theories in the latest volume of Skírnir, a journal of literature, culture and history. Karlsson first says that one must realize that even if the results are correct, evidence of individuals coming to the country do not mean that it was settled earlier than indicated.

Professor Gunnar Karlsson

Secondly, Karlsson points out the uncertainty in the measurements, and that in many cases the confidence limits include the year 874.

Thirdly, the professor claims that the research shows the age of the tree, not the time when it was burned. Trees may have been growing in Iceland and burned later.

Finally, Karlsson cites an account by an Irish monk who wrote in 825 a Latin book called De mensurar orbis terrae (On the measurement of Earth). In this book he writes about “Thyle, the most remote island in the ocean” which is “constantly uninhabited”. The monk goes on saying that priests have told him 30 years earlier (i.e. around 800) that they stayed on the island from February to August. The light in summer was so bright that they “could pick lice from their shirts around midnight.” After sailing about one day to the north they found frozen ocean.

Hence, Karlsson says that the new findings are not inconsistent with what we already knew. They may or may not prove that there were people came to Iceland before 874, but even so that would not mean that the country was settled before that time.

We will write more about this very disputed subject later.


A story about the second settler in Iceland.

Our previous story lead to a number of comments:

Irish Monks


Re: A New View on the Origin of First Settlers in Iceland

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