Taking a new look at old data has indicated that the settlement of Iceland may have happened 100 to 200 years earlier than was previously thought.
While the historic conventional wisdom has maintained that Iceland’s settlement began in the late 9th century, Páll Theodórsson – a physicist of the University of Iceland’s Science Institute – maintains that there is evidence of permanent settlements from at least a century previous, RÚV reports.
Over the past few years, Páll has taken another look at archeological data collected around the country. Of particular interest to him were the findings of Sigurður Þórarinsson, who conducted digs in the Þjórsárdal area in 1939. The evidence shows that there was a permanent settlement in that area at the same time Ingólfur Arnarsson – credited as being the first permanent settler of Iceland in 874 – was newly established in Reykjavík.
Páll wondered how it could be that there were permanent settlers in the remote Þjórsárdal area when the more fertile area of south Iceland was completely unsettled.
“It just doesn’t hold up to reason,” he told attendees of a lecture at the university last Friday. “I think it is conclusive that the settlement [of Iceland] began much earlier. I would say 100 to 200 years earlier.”
Other evidence of human life in Iceland predates the established 870 date for the settlement, he said: traces of charcoal and soot found at different locations in the country. New ways of analysing this charcoal and soot have yielded some surprising results.
These samples indicate that “in Papey [an island off the east coast] there was a settlement around 845; in Mosfellssveit [just north of Reykjavík] around 850 and on [what is now] Aðalstræti in Reykjavík around 720. This analysing process could, in the years to come, give us a precise picture of when and how the country was built.”