Norwegian Vikings in Iceland

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Not only excellent traders and sailors, the Vikings were also pirates and murderers, being outcasts in their original homeland, Norway; for this reason they simply had to escape and "emigrate" to foreign lands, and the first shores they reached when going northwest from the Norwegian fiords, were the Faeroe Islands. Among themselves they also fought for power, and were again outcasts by their own clan(s) in the new settlements. For this reason one of the more brutal and cruel ones, known as Erik the Red, sailed northwest for "the unknown", and with his men landed on Iceland in the second half of the 9th century. 

Iceland 1994. St. Brendan discovering the Faeroe Islands and Iceland. Iceland 2003. Souvenir sheet issued for the benefit of the stamp exhibition NORDIA '03 in Reykjavik.
  • Iceland 1994. St. Brendan discovering the Faeroe Islands and Iceland. Note the black raven on the left, which was used as navigation means to make land. The name "Faeroe Islands" literally means "Islands of the Sheep", illustrated on the top stamp of 55 kr., while the volcano Hekla in eruption is illustrative for Iceland, together with the black raven in the selvedge. 
  • Iceland 2003. Souvenir sheet issued for the benefit of the stamp exhibition NORDIA '03 in Reykjavik. Erik the Red leaves the Faeroe Islands and heads off  northwest to land on Iceland, using the black raven to make land. 

According to the Icelandic sagas Erik the Red had brought a couple of black ravens with him on the boat, when leaving the Faeroe Islands. The first day after leaving he released one of the birds, who immediately headed towards southeast, back to the Faeroes. On the second day another raven was sent out, but only circled only around the ship. Then, on the third day the raven flew off in a northwesterly direction; the ship followed the bird, thus reaching the land which is today known as Iceland.  

Their landing place happened to be Thingvellir which in 1994 was designated World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO. The place is located on an active volcanic site, and includes the Žingvellir National Park and the remains of the Althing itself. 

Iceland. World Cultural Heritage. Postcard showing a view of Thingvellir National Park.

Fragments of around 50 booths built of turf and stone. Remains from the 10th century are thought to be buried underground. 

The site also includes remains of agricultural use from 18th and 19th centuries, the Thingvellir Church and adjacent farm, and the population of arctic char in Lake Thingvallavatn.  

The park shows evidence of the way the landscape was husbanded over 1,000 years. 

  • A very nice framed postcard, showing a view from Thingvellir National Park, with various Icelandic stamps in the frame. None of the stamps are related to Thingvellir as such, but all of them to Icelandic social and cultural life. 

The Althing and its hinterland, the Žingvellir National Park, represent, through the remains of the assembly ground, the booths for those who attended, and through landscape evidence of settlement extending back possibly to the time the assembly was established, a unique reflection of mediaeval Norse/Germanic culture and one that persisted in essence from its foundation in 980 AD until the 18th century. 

The saga of the Norwegian Vikings in 
Norway     Faeroe Islands     Iceland     Greenland     Canada     Isle of Man

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Copyrighted © 14th January 2007. All Rights Reserved
Revised 15-feb-2007

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Contact me: Ann Mette Heindorff