Archaeologists have found what is believed to be the oldest drawing in Iceland at Stöð Farm in Stöðvarfjörður, East Iceland. A small, rounded sandstone with an engraved image of a sailing ship was found in the wall of a Viking longhouse from the early 9th century. These types of ship carvings in bone, wood and stone are quite common in Scandinavia, but they are the first to be found in Iceland.
A Viking site on the northern shore of the fjord was discovered by accident in 2003. Exploratory excavations began in 2015, followed by systematic excavations in 2018, which unearthed the remains of two Viking Age longhouses, one built on top of the remains of an old house. one. They were found under a layer of volcanic tephra that covered Iceland at some point between 869-873 AD. This was an important find because it meant that the longhouses were built and inhabited before the official year 874 of settlement recorded in written sources (the Icelandic sagas Landnámabók, or Book of Settlements).
Radiocarbon analysis of the oldest longhouse dates it to around 800 AD, indicating that the east fjords were at least occupied by Norwegian settlers 75 years before Ingolfur Arnarson left Norway and sailed to Iceland, founding Reykjavik as Iceland’s first permanent settlement. Archaeologists believe that the Stöd site was a seasonal camp used in the summer for fishing, hunting, processing whale oil into oil and collecting swamp iron, and not a permanent settlement.
Excavations continue every summer. A huge number of artifacts and remains have been unearthed, indicating large-scale whaling and fish processing. This is supported by the enormous size of the longhouse, 103 feet long, twice the length of the earliest longhouses in Reykjavík. It is the richest longhouse ever excavated in Iceland, with 92 beads and 29 silver artifacts (including Roman and Arabic coins) found.
A geophysical survey of the site, conducted this spring before the start of the excavation season, found evidence of more buildings and boats underground, the latter most likely ship burials rather than wreckage. The boats and buildings are yet to be excavated.