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Durham University

Department of Archaeology


Publication details for Professor Mike Church

Lawson, I T, Church, M J, McGovern, T H, Arge, S V, Woollet, J, Edwards, K J, Gathorne-Hardy, F J, Dugmore, A J, Cook, G, Mairs, K-A, Thomson, A M & Sveinbjarnardóttir, G (2005). Historical ecology on Sandoy, Faroe Islands: palaeoenvironmental and archaeological perspectives. Human Ecology 33(5): 651-684.

Author(s) from Durham


We present palaeoenvironmental, geomorphological, archaeological, and place-name data which allow a holistic assessment of the history of landscape change on Sandoy, Faroe Islands, especially in terms of the changes that occurred in response to the colonization of the island by humans. In contrast to
other situations in the North Atlantic region, there is considerable continuity in the patterns and processes of
landscape evolution across the initial settlement horizon. Many of the characteristic features of postsettlement North Atlantic landscapes - absence of trees, widespread blanket mires, high rates of soil erosion

  • were already in place when the first people arrived. Although human impact on Sandoy appears to have been light, conversely, the unusual environment forced major alterations of the subsistence economy imported by the colonists. Settlement-era archaeological records suggest that, from the start, patterns of resource use differed substantially from the regional norm, and these differences became amplified over time as the Faroese economy created a locally sustainable cultural landscape.