From Iceland — Discovery of Man-Made Caves Brings History Into Focus

Discovery of Man-Made Caves Brings History Into Focus

Published August 4, 2021

Desirai Thompson
Photo by
Sigurjón Ólason/Vísir

A snapshot the Icelandic landscape during the time of historical figure Snorri Sturluson is becoming clearer.

Last summer, man-made caves were discovered southwest of Oddi in southern Iceland, tucked under verdant sandstone hills. With further excavation continuing from mid-July of this year, the entrance to the cave system has been dated to the Viking Age, roughly around the middle of the tenth century, Vísir reports.

Snorri Sturluson was a prolific Icelandic poet, historian and member of the nascent Icelandic Parliament. This likely situates the use of these extensive caves, geographically and chronologically, with the period Snorri inhabited the area. At the time, Oddi was a renowned center of culture and education; Snorri was sent there at a young age to live with Jón Loftsson, a member of the powerful Oddaverjar clan.

Archeologists on the site have discovered these caves to be surprisingly large, one reaching forty metres in length while the other surpasses a length of fifty metres. The people of Oddi were considered to some of the most powerful in Iceland at the time these caves are believed to have been in use. Considering these structures are presumed to have been part of a large Oddaverjar clan farm at the time, this only serves to bolster their presumptive wealth.

Visiting Oddi today you will find Oddakirkja, a quaint red and white church which sits on land that has been a church site since the dawn of Christianity. The current 100-seat building has been standing since 1924.

Further excavations are planned for next summer when the caves themselves are expected to be explored. As this discovery unfolds, it’s easy to imagine Snorri’s own historical fascination at this finding if he were alive today.

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