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EMAS Day School

Iceland: the Landscape of the Sagas

by David Beard MA, FSA, FSA Scot

Saturday, 14 July 2018

The Íslendingasögur (in English the Sagas of the Icelanders, or the Family Sagas) comprise the largest group of Icelandic sagas, and are the best known.

Although mostly written in the 13th century, as their name implies these sagas tell the stories of the great families that settled Iceland in the later 9th century and the descendants of those families - great heroes and great outlaws, and family disputes and vendettas. Yet there is another protagonist in these sagas - the land itself.

The settlement of Iceland, and its subsequent history, was dominated by the Icelandic landscape and its resources. One feud has its beginnings in a disagreement about the sharing of a beached whale that was cast up on the border of two properties!

Although they are works of fiction, recent archaeological work such as that carried out in Mosfell, has shown that a solid basis of historical truth underlies these stories. This day school examines the archaeological, historical, and landscape evidence that adds a new dimension to one of the world’s great genre of medieval literature.