Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Thomas H. McGovern

Committee Members

Andrew J. Dugmore

James Woollett

Douglas J. Bolender

Subject Categories

Archaeological Anthropology


Iceland, zooarchaeology, Viking Age, marine resource exploitation, avifauna, gadid fish


This dissertation focuses on the zooarchaeology of four Viking Age sites on Hegranes, located in Skagafjörður, north Iceland, in order to understand the early economy of the region and place it in a broader context with other settlement sites across the island. This research helps to understand the ways the earliest people in Iceland provided for themselves through niche construction activities that included landscape domestication, animal husbandry, bird hunting, and fishing. It also looks at the zooarchaeological indicators of household autonomy to understand the early social and political landscape in Skagafjörður. At these sites, there is evidence for a specialized focus on wild marine resources. In particular, I explore the signatures of pre- commercial artisanal processing of gadid fish into a dried product, which show both the producers and consumers within Skagafjörður. The data also show specialized butchery of seabirds in the Alcidae family, which suggest cultural continuity of their use across the North Atlantic.

This dissertation project aims to highlight the early animal use strategies in one region of Iceland, while also recognizing that other areas have different signatures. As more and more research is showing, there is no singular model for initial settlement strategies in Iceland, and by examining the first sites, we can understand the different paths peoples engaged in colonization movements took to make a living in their new homes. By studying the earliest sites, we can gain insight into the social, political, and economic (re)organizations that took place as people set up their new society, focusing in this case on the Skagafjörður region in northern Iceland.