Viking Era Relics Found in Iceland Outlaw Cave Skip to content

Viking Era Relics Found in Iceland Outlaw Cave

Objects that were recently found in the floor of the cave Surtshellir in Hallmundarhraun lava field in Borgarfjörður, West Iceland, infamous for having served as a shelter for outlaws in past centuries, have shed new light on life in the cave.

borgarfjordur_psBorgarfjörður. Photo: Páll Stefánsson/Iceland Review.

“We just found these objects from the Viking Era lying in the surface. Because there’s an increased flow of tourists to the cave, we considered it necessary to save these remains before they’re completely destroyed,” archaeologist Guðmundur Ólafsson told

The objects were found last year when a 3D scan was made of remains in the cave as part of an archaeological research carried out by Guðmundur and Agnes Stefánsdóttir from the Cultural Heritage Agency of Iceland and Kevin Smith from Brown University in the U.S.

A U.S. grant made it possible for the scientists to return to the cave this summer and excavate the floor. “The floor isn’t particularly thick … but there are some cracks into which objects seem to have fallen and been preserved,” said Guðmundur.

“We have found interesting objects, like pearls, scales made of lead and a small metal cross, probably made of lead but maybe of silver,” Guðmundur added of their discoveries.

The Hallmundarhraun lava is believed to have flowed early in the 10th century. Sources state that people have lived in Surtshellir since the first centuries after the settlement but it has been disputed whether these people were farmers or outlaws.

The remains in the cave have been known about since it was explored by Eggert Ólafsson and Bjarni Pálsson in the 18th century. The cave’s residents have been a source of inspiration to many, including Icelandic Nobel Prize in Literature laureate Halldór Laxness.

This latest discovery raises new questions, such as whether the cave’s outlaws could have been Christian. “The general view is that outlaws resided there around the year 1000, or in the 11th century, maybe. But they must have been Christian and that is a little strange,” concluded Guðmundur.

Icelanders officially converted to Christianity in the year 1000.


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