Whale Bone as Fuel at an Inland Farm in Early Modern Iceland

George Hambrecht and Kevin S. Gibbons

Abstract

Excavation at Gröf, an early modern inland farm in Iceland’s southern Skaftártunga region, reveals a faunal assemblage dominated by fragmented and burned whale bone. To date, no other inland assemblages exhibiting these characteristics have been reported in Iceland. The presence of whale bone at an inland farm site in Iceland is itself peculiar, but the fact that in it is heavily fragmented and burned is even more unusual. It is hypothesized that whale bone was being used as a source of fuel and that this may indicate this farm had increased access to coastal resources. The presence of these burnt whale bones is examined in the context of the environmental, climatic and political/economic conditions of early modern Iceland.

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