Project Description

A thousand years of everyday life on the shores of Mývatn

  • Keywords:

    • Zooarchaeology
  • Project Leader:

    Megan Hicks

Until the excavation of Skútustaðir, the majority of research in the Mývatn region has focused on settlement history, paleoecology and paleoeconomy of the first settlement circa AD 871 through the middle ages. In 2007, additional NSF International Polar Year funding enabled North Atlantic Biocultural Organization (NABO) collaborators to survey the Mývatn area for a farm settlement with a long-term material record (McGovern 2007, Vésteinsson 2008). One of many farms tested during the 2007 survey was Skútustaðir; named as an early Mývatn farm in Reykdæla Saga (Clark 1997). Coring results showed that Skútustaðir´s midden layers were well preserved, nearly two meters deep in some areas, and separated by several dateable volcanic tephra layers providing excellent chronological relationships. Excavations of the farm´s middens began with a year of test trenching in 2008 and crews moved on to open large excavation areas in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2013. The project has unearthed well-preserved continuous evidence of the farm’s economy between the Viking age and the period of modernization; in total, AD 871 through approximately AD 1910.

The most recent 2013 excavation was supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation Grant Centennial Scale Human Ecodynamics in Skútustaðir, Mývatn Northern Iceland (PIs Thomas H. McGovern and Megan Hicks (CUNY) (NSF Office of Polar Programs (OPP) Grant 1203286) and supported by the Comparative Island Ecodynamics OPP Grant 1202692) (PIs Thomas H. McGovern, Orri Vésteinsson and George Hambrecht). Megan Hicks and Adolf Friðriksson (FSI) directed the excavation. For more information on recent excavation resutls, collaborators and the excellent crew please find the 2013 excavation report on the FSI and NABO websites (Hicks et al. 2013). The excavations have contributed data to several ongoing collaborative projects, some of which are outlined in the report and appear as standalone reports online.

Excavations at Skútustaðir have run side by side with a long-term community collaboration including partners from the Thingeyarsveit Archaeological Society (in IcelandicÆ Hið þingeyska Fornleifafélag) and The Kid’s Archaeology Project, Iceland (KAPI: in Icelandic, Fornleifaskóli barnanna). Outdoor and indoor projects, crafted each year by archaeologists, educators and community leaders focus on sharing archaeological thinking, discovery, professional methods, and techniques while emphasizing ecological interconnections and landscape.

Reports pertaining to other project years as well as zooarchaeological reports can be found online at and They include: Vésteinsson (ed.) 2008, Edwald and McGovern 2008, Edwald 2009 Hicks et al. 2011, Hicks et al. 2012, Hicks et al. 2013 and others. Many thanks are extended to Gerður Benediktsdóttir and Þorlákur Jónsson who so kindly have let us excavate in beside their home since 2008. Special thanks are also due to Árni Einarsson; beyond extensive scientific collaboration, he has kindly been a liason in many ways for archaeological fieldwork in Mývatn.