Stephen Wickler: The Centrality of Small Islands in Arctic Norway From the Viking Age to Recent Historic Period. 2016

Map showing the distribution of settlement mound sites in Norway


The definition of island marginality in northern Norway was radically altered by the advent of motorized fishing vessels in the early twentieth century. Prior to this development, small offshore islands were of central importance for marine related activity due to their proximity to fishing grounds. This article presents four settlements on small and “marginal” islands in Arctic Norway from 68◦19’ to 71◦05’ N latitude as cases that illustrate the centrality of such locations in a maritime context since the Viking Age (AD 800–1050). Although the islands are situated in exposed locations that appear inhospitable and barren, they were the focus of fishing activity spanning nearly a millennium from the medieval period (AD 1050–1540) through the nineteenth century.

Settlement mounds are a distinctive northern Norwegian coastal site type where favourable conditions have resulted in the accumulation of substantial cultural deposits from long-term use and occupation of specific locations. Results of recent mound site excavations from each of the four island settlements are reviewed in relation to the insights they provide into small island contexts linked to larger networks of maritime interaction.


Published in The Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology, 11:171–194, 2016

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