Shark Teeth from the 1100s Found in North Iceland Skip to content

Shark Teeth from the 1100s Found in North Iceland

Shark teeth from the 12th century were recently discovered as part of an archeological excavation project at Kolkuós in Skagafjördur, north Iceland. The teeth are probably the oldest that have been excavated in Iceland.

From Skagafjördur. View of Drangey island. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.

The shark teeth are another clue of a diverse industry in the area, according to archeologist Ragnheidur Traustadóttir, who leads the project. Kolkuós was the main harbor in Skagafjördur in ancient times and a center for international trade, Morgunbladid reports.

“The teeth indicate [shark] processing at Kolkuós at that time. The oil from the liver was good for lighting and the shark meat was eaten. There was a lot of shark in Skagafjördur and early in the 20th century people only had to row for a half an hour to find good shark waters,” said Traustadóttir.

This is the seventh summer in a row that excavation takes place at Kolkuós in relation to the archeological research at Hólar, an ancient bishopric.

Traustadóttir believes that the harbor at Kolkuós was most definitely the deciding factor when Hólar was chosen for a bishopric in 1106. The harbor was damaged in the 16th century and the power of the bishops at Hólar may possibly have decreased as a consequence.

In addition to shark processing, indications of iron and coal production have been found at Kolkuós, carving and carpentry was likely practiced there, along with fishing and bird hunting.

Furthermore, indications of the import of various products and material have been found, such as flint, sharpeners, baking trays from Norway, clay vessels, knives, nails and other tools.

Bones from domestic animals have been found, including some from small dogs, which Traustadóttir says were a status symbol in the Middle Ages. A pagan grave, silver coins from southern Germany and England and a medieval anchor are also among discoveries.

Traustadóttir stated that invaluable cultural and historical objects would have been lost had the Kolkuós archeological excavation project not been undertaken. Now the future of the project depends on state-funding.

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