From Iceland — Archeologists Fight Lava To Map Out Ancient Monuments

Archeologists Fight Lava To Map Out Ancient Monuments

Published June 22, 2021

Alina Maurer
Photo by
John Pearson

As lava continues to flow further from Fagradalsfjall, more problems appear.

Apart from the soon-expected lava flood over Suðurstrandarvegur, archaeologists from Minjastofnun, the Cultural Heritage Agency of Iceland, are now trying to map and register buried relics and monuments close to the eruption site.

Monuments from the settlement period might be lost

According to RÚV, descendants of farmers on the land of Ísólfsskáli, east of Grindavík, fear losing ancient artifacts to the lava flow. Oddgeir Isaksen, an archaeologist, claims that nearly 240 monuments, not yet submerged in lava, have already been mapped.

When the earthquakes on the Reykjanes peninsula began in February, Oddgeir and his colleagues immediately started to act. “We went to see the area affected by the earthquake. It was not known where the magma would come up so we went to register relics in the area and collected data.”

Luckily, a few hidden relics are already mapped and registered by the Cultural Heritage Agency of Iceland. It is believed that some relics might even be from the settlement period, but the oldest ones have probably gone to sea, as there have been many landslides in the area.

The whole Reykjanes peninsula will be explored next

Oddgeir believes that the monuments of a hut, located on the land of Ísólfsskáli, could possibly escape being buried under the lava, but he is more worried about Grindavík. Þórkötlustaðahverfi, a protected area with settlement monuments and relics is situated there.

The archeologist states that registration of artifacts is the simplest form of protection, but the work is a race against both time and lava. The team of Minjastofnun is now concentrating on Grindavík and its surroundings, but the whole Reykjanes peninsula is next.

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