Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Thomas H. McGovern

Committee Members

Andrew J. Dugmore

Orri Véstensson

Gavin Lucas

Subject Categories

Animal Studies | Archaeological Anthropology | Environmental Studies | Food Studies | Human Geography | Nature and Society Relations | Social and Cultural Anthropology


Iceland, colonialism, capitalism, zooarchaeology, archaeofaunal analysis, herding, fishing, birding, hunting, modernization, conservation, Local Traditional Knowledge, enlightenment, commodification


This dissertation examines the archaeofaunal remains from Skútustaðir, a middle to high-status farm in Mývatnssveit, Northern Iceland, to understand the experience of rural communities and their ecologies during Iceland’s transition from regulated colonial exchange to a capitalist economy during the 17th through 19th centuries. Archaeofaunal analysis is used to reconstruct changes in the ways that people herded, hunted, and fished, providing insights into how they managed their local environments for subsistence and novel contexts of exchange. In addition to archaeofaunal analysis, primary textual sources are explored to assess how the Skútustaðir household and its rural community mobilized long-term knowledge and adopted forms of scientific knowledge production as they converted local ecologies into economic resources. This research is aimed at generating an understanding of the engagement of Iceland’s people and nature within broader Atlantic World economies. It also presents a view of the changing ecologies of a region that is widely recognized for its uncommon arctic biodiversity.