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Durham University

Department of Archaeology


Publication details for Professor Mike Church

Church, M J, Dugmore, A J, Mairs, K-A, Millard, A, Cook, G T, Sveinbjarnardóttir, G, Ascough, P A, Newton, A J & Roucoux, K (2007). Charcoal production during the Norse and early medieval periods in Eyjafjallahreppur, Southern Iceland. Radiocarbon 49(2): 659-672.

Author(s) from Durham


Timber procurement and the use of woodlands is a key issue in the Norse and Medieval period in the North Atlantic islands. This paper outlines evidence for the timing and mechanisms of Norse deforestation in an area of southern Iceland which is tracked through the mapping and analysis of charcoal production pits. Precise dating of the use of these charcoal production pits within a Bayesian framework is demonstrated through the combination of tephrochronology, sediment accumulation rates and multiple radiocarbon dates on the archaeological charcoal. The implications for using charcoal as a dating medium for radiocarbon dating in Iceland and the wider North Atlantic are then explored. Finally, the nature of the deforestation and human impact on the environment is placed into the context of the Norse landnám across the North Atlantic.