South Iceland Hopes for Second UNESCO Heritage Site Skip to content

South Iceland Hopes for Second UNESCO Heritage Site

A group calling itself the ‘Friends of Keldur in Rangárvellir’ wants to renovate the farm’s secret underground tunnel, a centuries-old outhouse and generally improve maintenance of the South Iceland site with over a thousand years of human history—with the aim of it becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

One of the most unusual features of Keldur is its secret tunnel, forgotten even by the farm’s inhabitants for decades—maybe even centuries—and rediscovered around 1930. “When people saw the enemy approaching, it was possible to escape into the tunnel down to the riverbank and get off the farm unseen,” Friends of Keldur founder Sigurður Sigurðarson told RÚV.

Sigurður believes that Ingjaldur Höskuldsson, who was the first named farmer at Keldur, had the tunnel built after having failed Flosi at the beginning of Njál’s Saga and needing, therefore, a route of escape if Flosi came for revenge.

The tunnel is now partially collapsed. “This is a significant place,” Sigurður says. “It is one of the most significant buildings in Iceland. The hut was believed to be from the Age of the Sturlungs, around 1200, but the newest research suggests it is maybe even older.”

The original hut partially burnt down and other parts collapsed and the oldest timbers today are from around 1500; but Sigurður believes the foundations are probably from as long ago as the year 1000—“The oldest standing building of its type in Iceland.”

Most features of the farm itself have been erased by centuries of sand erosion, but Sigurður believes the remaining site is not beyond repair, and of significance further afield than just Iceland—not least due to featuring in one of the most famous Sagas of the Icelanders.

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