5th Experimental Archaeology Conference Abstract – Dawn Mooney et al

From the 5th Experimental Archaeology Conference, Reading, 2011.

Firewood in Viking age Iceland: an experimental approach

Dawn Mooney (1), Nikola Trbojevic (2) & Aidan Bell (2)

1) University of Aberdeenand 2) University of Iceland

This paper presents the results of one of the first archaeological experiments to be carried out in Iceland, which aims to clarify the use of birch as firewood in the Viking Age longhouses of Iceland. Although more than a century of academic research on the subject of Landnám deforestation has confirmed that the Icelandic birch woodlands declined significantly after the Viking colonisation of the island around 870 AD, it has failed to offer a detailed account of the deforestation process and particularly to quantify the impacts made on woodlands in order to meet the requirements of households for firewood.

This experiment, carried out in the reconstructed Viking Age house at Eiríksstaðir in western Iceland, demonstrates the amount of wood required for interior heating and cooking facilities, and therefore enables us to postulate the degree of impact on woodlands of the basic needs of early Icelandic households. Furthermore, the results of this experiment have implications for archaeological interpretations of the daily life of Viking Age people and the spatial organisation of Viking Age longhouses.

The work presented in this paper was later published:

Trbojevic, N., Mooney, D.E., & Bell, A.J. 2012. ‘A Firewood Experiment at Eiríksstaðir: A Step Towards Quantifying the Use of Firewood for Daily Household Needs in Viking Age Iceland’. Archaeologia Islandica 9:29-40.

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