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Race against time: new boat graves in Iceland

Last Update: 30 July 2017.

Quick summary

An ongoing archaeological excavation in Iceland has excitingly revealed two (possibly three) boat graves and several regular graves from the Viking Age. Results so far: a man was buried with his dog, sword and spears in one boat, the other boat includes human remains and the shield. In one of the others graves, a woman has been found.

Full Story

Icelandic archaeologists struck gold last week. They were trying to save cultural heritage from erosion by the sea. Their excavations are taking place right on the Atlantic shore in Eyjafjörður, Iceland.

About a decade ago, a boat grave was discovered near Kumlholt. This week three Viking Age boat graves were found to the north near Dysnes. And that’s by only scraping away the first layer of dirt in the ground. So, the story is still developing.

For the timeline below, the main sources are Icelandic National Broadcasting Service – RÚVIceland Magazine, and Twitter.


June 13, Start excavation led by Hildur Gestsdóttir.
June 14, The Iceland Magazine reports about a boat grave of a man with his dog and a sword. Few swords have been found in Icelandic graves. It is the mark of rich man’s or chieftains grave. The grave is already partly lost to the sea.
June 15, The Iceland Magazine reports about a second, undisturbed boat grave. It also confirms two more graves at the site. Both boat burials date back to the ninth and tenth centuries.
In a second update the same day, it reports of a possible third, undisturbed boat grave. For three wooden nails it isn’t clear if they are from the boat or another object.
June 17, The Iceland Monitor publishes the video that shows the sword lifted from the grave.

Video: Removing a Viking sword from the boat grave at Dysnes (2017).

June 20, The team reports that excavation on the first boat grave has started. #Kumlaleit
June 23, The Iceland Magazine reveals the yield of the second boat grave: a shield, further human bones and two spear points.
June 27, The RÚV reports that one of the other graves contain the remains of a woman. Check the link for another video.
July 7, The Icelandic Magazine reports two out of six burials are fully excavated and a third is nearly done, too. The graves are relatively large in size. Two have uncovered what seem to be chieftains graves. Two swords, three spears, and three shields, among other things such as pearls… See more photos on the site of Visir.
July 10, Via #kumlaleit or #dysnes the team of archaeologists show a photo of horse’s teeth and a bit.
July 30, The excavation has been wrapped up and that also concludes this timeline. Time for research has begun! The one of the most beautiful pictures taken of the excavation: Excavation July 2017. Photo Hildur Gestsdóttir.

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