Abandoned Farms, Volcanic Impacts, and Woodland Management: Revisiting Þjórsárdalur, the “Pompeii of Iceland”

Andrew J. Dugmore, Mike J. Church, Kerry-Anne Mairs, Thomas H. McGovern, Sophia Perdikaris and Orri Vésteinsson

Abstract

Geomorphological maps and nine soil profiles containing 92 tephra layers have been examined to explore the nature of medieval environmental change in Þjórsárdalur, Iceland, where farms are thought to have been abandoned after the massive tephra fall from the eruption of Hekla in 1104 A.D. This paper presents evidence for continued human activity in the area in the two centuries following the 1104 A.D. eruption, indicating that continued utilization of the region changed after another major episode of volcanic fallout in 1300 A.D. The paper proposes that measures were taken in the fourteenth century to conserve woodland in Þjórsárdalur resulting in localized landscape stabilization that continued throughout the following Little Ice Age episodes of climate deterioration.

  • Andrew J. Dugmore, Institute of Geography, School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, EH8 9XP, UK

  • Mike J. Church, Department of Archaeology, Durham University, Durham, DH1 3LE, UK

  • Kerry-Anne Mairs, Institute of Geography, School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, EH8 9XP, UK

  • Thomas H. McGovern, Hunter Bioarchaeology Laboratory, Department of Anthropology, Hunter College City University of New York, 695 Park Ave, New York, New York 10021

  • Sophia Perdikaris, Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, Brooklyn College City University of New York, 2900 Bedford Avenue, New York, NY 11210-2889

  • Orri Vésteinsson, Archaeology Programme University of Iceland, v/Suđurgötu, 101 Reykjavik, Iceland

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