In another set-back for the hotel industry, three prominent “Honorary Citizens of Reykjavík” delivered a statement asking city officials to cancel construction of a hotel on the site of an ancient graveyard.
The statement was signed by beloved former Icelandic president Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, Þorgerður Ingólfsdóttir, and Friðrík Ólafsson, RÚV reports. It protests the decision as unethical and potentially illegal. They believe burial grounds should not be disturbed for profit.
The project is near the southwest corner of Austurvöllur Square, the square in front of Parliament, and has begun with the demolition of the old Landssíminn building on that spot. Continued excavation revealed that the project is disturbing the site of a graveyeard used from the time of the Settlement to the early 19th century. Human remains and artefacts have already been removed several years ago, with more possibly undiscovered, yet construction has continued.
Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson said he would bring the subject up with the council but noted that a lot of time and care was taken before deciding to approve the project, and that the cemetery had not been used in almost two hundred years. City Council chair Þórdís Lóa Þórhallsdóttir added that it would be very difficult to stop construction because it was well underway.
A neighbouring hotel project on Lækjargata was delayed due to the discovery of another ancient site. That excavation is now being incorporated into the project design itself. It is unclear why that step was not taken at Austurvöllur.