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Durham University

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Heart of the Atlantic: cultural landscapes of Sandoy, Faroe Islands

A research project of the Department of Archaeology.


This multi-disciplinary project is exploring the changing cultural and natural landscapes on the island of Sandoy, from first settlement to modern time. Dr. Mike Church is co-directing this project with researchers from the Faroes, Iceland, UK and US. Archaeological, historical, geographical and palaeoecological techniques are being employed to investigate the timing and impact of human settlement on the landscape and the cultural adaptations needed for long-term settlement in the Faroes. Archaeological investigations are focusing on the extensive excavations at Undir Junkarinsfløtti and Á Søndum in the village of Sandur and a programme of systematic archaeological survey across various parts of the island.

The principal research collaborators are Símun Arge (Føroya Forminnissavn), Dr. Julie Bond (Bradford University), Steve Dockrill (Bradford University), Professor Andy Dugmore (University of Edinburgh), Ragnar Edvardsson (City University New York), Dr. Ian Lawson (Leeds University), Professor Tom McGovern (City University New York), Professor Ian Simpson (Stirling University), Dr. Jim Woollett (Laval University, Quebec). The principal funding bodies are Anadarko (Faroes), the Leverhulme Trust (UK), the National Science Foundation (US) and the Faroese Research Council (Fareos).

Part of the exposed coastal erosion section through the farm mound at Undir Junkarinsfløtti

Published Results

Journal Article

  • Church, M. J., Arge, S. V., Edwards, K. J., Ascough, P. L., Bond, J. M., Cook, G. T., Dockrill, S. J., Dugmore, A. J., McGovern, T. H., Nesbitt, C. & Simpson, I. A. (2013). The Vikings were not the first colonizers of the Faroe Islands. Quaternary Science Reviews 77: 228-232.
  • Arge, S.V., Church, M.J. & Brewington, S. (2009). Pigs in the Faroe Islands: An ancient facet of the islands’ paleoeconomy. Journal of the North Atlantic 2: 19-32.
  • Lawson, I T, Edwards, K J, Church, M J, Newton, A J, Cook, G T, Gathorne-Hardy, F J & Dugmore, A J (2008). Human impact on an island ecosystem: pollen data from Sandoy, Faroe Islands. Journal of Biogeography 35(6): 1130-1152.
  • Lawson, I T, Church, M J, Edwards, K J, Cook, G T & Dugmore, A J (2007). Peat initiation in the Faroe Islands: climate change, pedogenesis or human impact? Earth and Environmental Science Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 98(1): 15-28.
  • Gathorne-Hardy, F J, Lawson, I T Church, M J, Brooks, S J, Buckland, P C & Edwards, K J (2007). The Chironomidae of Gróthúsvatn, Sandoy, Faroe Islands: climatic and lake phosphorus reconstructions, and the impact of human settlement. The Holocene 17(8): 1259-1264.
  • Ascough, P L, Cook, G T, Church, M J, Dugmore, A J, Arge, S V & McGovern, T H (2006). Variability in North Atlantic marine radiocarbon reservoir effects at c.1000 AD. The Holocene 16(1): 131-136.
  • Church, M J, Arge, S V, Brewington, S, McGovern, T H, Woollett, J, Perdikaris, S, Lawson, I T, Cook, G T, Amundsen, C, Harrison, R, Krivogorskaya, K & Dunbar, E (2005). Puffins, Pigs, Cod, and Barley: Palaeoeconomy at Undir Junkarinsfløtti, Sandoy, Faroe Islands. Environmental Archaeology 10(2): 179-197.
  • 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.


From the Department of Archaeology