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Historical Tidbit Thursdays - Vikings - Iceland - #TidbitThursday

Howdy! Last week we traced Leif Eriksson's jounrey to North America. This week we'll learn how Iceland was discovered and settled by Vikings. Hope you enjoy digging in!

Naddod from Norway attempted to escape his enemies by sailing to Faeroe Islands but he was blown off course and ended on Iceland. Getting off course was pretty common as sailors depended upon the sun, the stars, sea birds, and following the shoreline to navigate while utilizing the wind to push forward.

Naddod named the land "Snaeland" or "Snowland" due to all the snow on the ground and on the mountains. You can easily see this on the Google Map view of Iceland (above).

Around 861 AD, Swedish explorer Gardar "The Swede" Svavarsson had sailed toward the Hebrides when his ship was blown off course and he found himself into a bay surrounded by mountains and volcanoes. Since he'd landed in late summer and knew winter came quickly in this area, he decided to settle here until Spring. He built a house which he called Husavik ("House Bay"). When Spring came, Gardar and his men sailed back to Sweden. He named the island Gardarsholm.

Around 867 AD, Norwegian explorer Floki Vilgerdarson set out seeking Naddod's Snaeland which he found by sending ravens out and the one which didn't return signaled land (sounds like the story of the dove in the Bible). This method gave Floki the nickname "Raven Floki". Floki settled on the far side of the bay of Breidafjord ("Wide Fjord"). They brought cattle to graze in the green pastures and they found plenty of fish in the bay. However, the winters here were too harsh. All their cattle died when snow and ice covered their grass. When Spring arrived, he hoped to make another go of his settlement but still the ice persisted so Floki headed back to Norway instead. He named the land "Island" ("Iceland").

Between 870 AD and 930 AD, up to fifteen thousand settlers made their homes on the island. Despite the lack of extensive resources, the settlers and their livestock (cattle and sheep) survived. In the 12th century, Icelandic priest Ari Thorgilsson the Learned described the history of Iceland in his book, Íslendingabók or "The Book of Icelanders". Interstingly, Norwegian Ingolfr Arnarson and his brother Leif Arnarson are credited in this book as establishing the first permanent settlement in Iceland in 870 AD. He also contributed to book Landnámabók or "The Book of Settlements" which details the settlement of Iceland and names over 400 families who'd settled the island.

Iceland is covered with mountains and glaciers (the largest being Vatnajokull) but also to some beautiful landscapes like this waterfall. Ironically, Iceland is still growing thanks to its active volcanoes.

There were no cities or towns. People lived in farm-family units which might support hundreds of people. A chieftain called a "godi" helped keep order. Major disputes were heard at the "Law Rock" by the assembly known as the "Althing". Around 1000, the Althing voted for Icelanders to adopt Christianity as the official religion. By the 13th century, civil wars and disputes between units ended this stable government.

Picture References:
Iceland and Waterfall - Maps.Google.com


"Everyday Life in Viking Times" by Michael Gibson, ISBN#0-7500-1472-5

Cultural Atlas of the Viking World American Archaeology Uncovers the Vikings
What Life Was Like When Longships Sailed: Vikings Ad 800-1100 National Geographic Kids Everything Vikings: All the Incredible Facts and Fierce Fun You Can Plunder
Leif Eriksson: Viking Explorer of the New World (Great Explorers of the World) The Oxford Illustrated History of the Vikings (Oxford Illustrated Histories)
The World of the Vikings Encyclopaedia of the Viking Age
The Vikings: Voyagers of Discovery and Plunder (General Military) The Vikings (Journey into civilization)
Vikings, a Dark History Vikings: Warriors, Raiders, and Masters of the Sea (Oxford People)
The Vikings  

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