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32nd Annual Arctic Workshop Abstracts
March 14-16, 2002
INSTAAR, University of Colorado at Boulder

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THE DEVELOPMENT OF FISHING IN THE NORTHWEST OF ICELAND

AUTHORS

EDVARDSSON, RAGNAR . The City University of New York, Graduate Center.

The environment has always played an important part in Icelandic society from the settlement of the country in the 9th century. The history of Iceland is well documented and the historic documents frequently refer to the climate and other natural phenomenons that dramatically affected Icelandic society.

Icelandís vulnerability to climate impacts in the past, and potentially in the future, is due in large measure to the variability of the climate. This results principally from the countryís geographical location at a point where contrasting air and ocean currents meet. The sea ice which drifts to the coasts of Iceland on the East Greenland current has also been of great importance as it has had a number of both direct and indirect climate impacts.

The effects of climatic changes in Iceland have long been known but poorly understood. It is only recently that scholars have begun paying attention to this important factor in the development of Icelandic society.

Archaeological research in Iceland in the past 10 years has shown that any change in the dynamic society is a result of a critical set of interactions between both cultural and environmental factors. These interactions have a strong spatial pattern, a development through time and leave a physical legacy in the environmental record.

The research into the development of fishing in the Northwest of Iceland focuses on understanding the fishing industry during the period from the settlement of the country to 1700. The project uses both archaeological and historical data in its approach and the goal is to try to detect social and environmental factors that caused changes in the fishing industry. The fishing industry seems to have played a much more important role in the economy of the society until 1200 than previously thought.

The Northwest contains multiple fishing stations of different size and date, many of which have associated deep bone middens. A major focus of this project will be to systematically compare evidence for changing balance of marine/terrestrial resources through time in this area in light of differential impacts of climate change and erosion on terrestrial ecosystems and of sea ice and current fluctuations on marine ecosystems.

 

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