Rúnar Leifsson, a PhD candidate in archaeology at the University of Iceland, has been examining bones from animals such as horses and dogs that had been buried with their owners. The bones stem mostly from the 10th century and have been kept in the national museum, he told Vísir.
Rúnar’s PhD project is titled “Animal Sacrifices and Burial Sites from the Viking Age in Iceland” and he has been able to discover some new information about life during this period of early Icelandic history. “The horses were mostly male animals who would fit our image of a modern Icelandic horse, although the Icelandic horse has grown slightly in recent decades,” he says. It appears to have been very common to bury horses with their owners, as around half of all the excavation sites featured equine remains.
Dogs have also been found, varying in size and type, which indicates the different roles they might have played during their lifetimes, such as watchdogs, sheepdogs or even pets.
Rúnar’s findings also show how society developed and offer information about the state of landowners and connections between Nordic states. He says it’s even possible that some of the people buried in the pagan graves might have been immigrants. “Maybe they came to Iceland to take over land from settlers or to marry,” he explained.