Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Thomas H. McGovern

Subject Categories



Faroe Islands; Norse; North Atlantic; Social-ecological resilience; Zooarchaeology


This dissertation aims to evaluate the development and maintenance of social-ecological resilience during the settlement-period (ca. 9th through 11th centuries CE) in the Faroe Islands. In particular, the core objectives include the identification of the key social and natural variables involved, the examination of how these variables contributed to overall resilience, and the investigation of the initiation of the Faroese domestic economy.

This research focuses primarily on an analysis of the 9th through 13th century archaeofaunal assemblage from the site of Undir Junkarinsfløtti, located on the island of Sandoy. This analysis represents the first detailed study of the Faroese settlement-period domestic economy. In addition to the Undir Junkarinsfløtti archaeofaunal data, the research presented here draws from a wide range of archaeological, paleoenvironmental, and documentary evidence. These Faroese data are compared with contemporaneous datasets from elsewhere in the North Atlantic, including Iceland, Greenland, the Northern and Western Isles of Scotland, and western coastal Norway. Interpretation of this evidence is informed by a theoretical approach rooted in historical ecology, with an emphasis on the dynamic and dialectic nature of human-environment interactions, particularly as these relate to social-ecological resilience.

This study suggests that the overall resilience of the Faroese social-ecological system can largely be attributed not only to the maintenance of a broad-based domestic economy that was heavily subsidized by the sustained exploitation of robust natural resources, but also to the development of a collaborative, community-based approach to resource management and use. In particular, these factors contributed to robustness against food shortfalls. The available evidence suggests that this resilient economic regime was initiated by a culturally-hybridized, Hiberno-Norse population.

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