Bilder från National Museum of Iceland.
The Books of Icelanders, Íslendingabók, written by Ari the Wise and the Book of Settlement, Landnamabok, are historic sources that document the settlement of Iceland. According to these sources Norse people established settlements on the island c. 870 AD.
Íslendingabók also tells that the island was ihabited by Christian people, ”…that the Norse men call papar”, Irish monks. Archaelogical research largely supports the written sources in relation to settlement, in terms of date and scope. A few place names are associated with Irish monks, papar, but no archaeological evidence has been found that supports any such settlement prior to 870 AD.
1. Four Roman coins, from 3rd century AD. Three of them came from Norse deposits from East and South Iceland. They are thought to have been brought ti Celand by Norse people from Britain in the medieval period.
2. Roman cup from the island of Viðey. Archaelogical research during the 1980:s unearthed a small ceramic cup made from yellow clay with a black surface. It is thought to be Roman from the 2:nd century AD.
3. Paper manuscript of The Books of Icelanders, Íslendingabók, dating frpm 1681. Written by Ari the Wise around 1130 AD, it gives a brief history of the Icelandic people from the settlement to c. 1120. The book begins: ”Iceland was first settled from Norway in the days of Harald Fairhair…”.
Women of the Settlement Age wore ornaments similar to those worn elsewhere in the Nordic world, and many items came from these places. Most of the preserved artifacts indicate a common fashion in clothing and ornaments.
Most of the earliest jewellery is ornamented similarly to that from Viking Age Scandinavia. The most frequent finds are women’s brooches, which used to fasten the over-tinics at the shoulders.
From the earliest times, the horse was indispensable for transport, travel and farm work, and it was known as ”the most useful servant.” Horses and riding gear were also status symbols. Most equestrian equipment was made in Iceland, including iron items.
The warp-weighted loom was familiar in Europé in ancient times. Looms of this kind remained in use in Iceland until the 19th century, longest probably in Öræfasveit in the South of Iceland. In a day’s work, a good weaver could produce en ell (alin), around half a metre of metre-with cloth.
Few textiles have survived from the early centuries of Icelandic history, but remnants of clothing have been found on farm sites and in graves where soil conditions are favourable. The garments are usually made of homespund cloth or vaðmál. Knitting was not introduced to Iceland until the 16th century.
Many medieval Icelandic churches were ornamented with woodcarving. Few such carvings have survived, as they were mostly reused in other buildings. Some carvings are in the Romanesque style with vines, acanthus leaves and zoomorphic motifs, while others show fantastical beats in the Gothic style. Some appear to have been painted, while the majority of carvings were not.
The weakness of the Old Commonwealth emerged in the Sturlung Age, when chieftains of powerful families strove to increase theirs power and win the favour of the king of Norway. Iceland had no executice authority to maintain law and order and chaos reigned. Armed bands of men terrorised the countryside using weapons of the same kind as the settlers of Iceland – swords, spears, axes and knives – but their weapons were made differently.
Governors and sheriffs shared the executive power in the country forming a new ruling class, along with lawmen. The upper class was wealthy and indulged in various luxuries. Brooches and clasps were common types of jewellery, along with gold or brass rings. Drinking horns were common in the Nordic world in the Middle Ages, used for toasts on special occasions. Only in Iceland were such horns decorated with carvings, the oldest one still in existence dating to the first half of the 15th century.
The oldest surviving textile framgments in Iceland are sewn from vaðmál, woven woolen cloth. The vast majority of garments were made from this material, including gloves. Knitting was not known in Iceland until the 16th century. One article, a mitten, has survived, however, produced using the needle-coiling technique, an ancient method known in many countries, which was largely superseded by knitting. However, needle coiling did persist into the 20th century in the manufacture of milk sieves made from cow tail-hair.
Handcrafts were practiced on all farms. It was necessary for each home to be self-sufficient in this area as in others. There were many skilled craftsmen who also made and sold items. Some were jacks of all trades, while others specialised in carpentry or metalwork.
Carved panel, probably 15th century. May originally have been in a church. The carving consists of large tendrils together with branches and leaves in which a lion is entangled. It has the characteristiscs of the Icelandic style common in much manuscript illuminations, on carved horns and metal objects. This is the only example of this style carved in wood.
Chair of Þórunn Jónsdóttir, mistress of Grund and the daughter of Bishop Jón Arason. Carved mostly in birch. (Before 1550)
Chair of Lawman Ari Jónsson, son of Bishop Jón Arason. Carved mostly in birch. (Before 1550)
Stone relief of two human figures, probably from a church foundation built in the 12th century when there were plans for building a cloister. Another stone, carved with a human face remains in Hítardalur.
Part of a sculpure from the churchyard at Gardar, West Iceland, believed to date from 1450-1600 AD. The sculpure depicts a woman, probably the Virgin Mary, with her left hand on her cheek and her right hand under her left elbow. Only a fragment of the sculpture has been found. Icelandic work, made of a type of stone local to Garðar.
Whalebone was used to make a variety of objects, as it was both durable and decorative. Small items such as chessman were generally turned from wahlebone, while larger objects were carved.
MORE RECENT ITEMS
19th century home
Young icelanders from nineteen sixties
Intryck efter en resa till Island
Bilder från Island – del 1
Bilder från Island – del 2
National museum of Iceland
Bref rörande en resa till Island (1777)