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Durham University

Department of Archaeology


Publication details for Professor Mike Church

Ascough, P. L., Church, M. J., Cook, G. T., Einarsson, Á., McGovern, T. H., Dugmore, A. J. & Edwards, K. J. (2014). Stable isotopic (δ13C and δ15N) characterization of key faunal resources from Norse period settlements in North Iceland. Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume 7: 25-42.

Author(s) from Durham


During the Viking Age, Norse peoples established settlements across the North Atlantic, colonizing the pristine
and near-pristine landscapes of the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland, and the short-lived Vinland settlement in Newfoundland.
Current North Atlantic archaeological research themes include efforts to understand human adaptation and impact
in these environments. For example, early Icelandic settlements persisted despite substantial environmental impacts and climatic change, while the Greenlandic settlements were abandoned ca. AD 1450 in the face of similar environmental degradation.
The Norse settlers utilized both imported domestic livestock and natural fauna, including wild birds and aquatic
resources. The stable isotope ratios of carbon and nitrogen (expressed as δ13C and δ15N) in archaeofaunal bones provide a powerful tool for the reconstruction of Norse economy and diet. Here we assess the δ13C and δ15N values of faunal and floral
samples from sites in North Iceland within the context of Norse economic strategies. These strategies had a dramatic effect upon the ecology and environment of the North Atlantic islands, with impacts enduring to the present day.