Sarah Maude Paquet
Master student
Department of History
Laval University

Supervised by:

James Woollett (Regular member)

Co-supervised by:

James Woollett (Regular member)

Research project description

Zooarchaelogical and archaeogenetics perspectives of sheep herding at Svalbarð manor, in Iceland, since Viking Age

Introduction: This research project is a continuation of a parent project that aimed to reconstruct changes in settlement patterns and subsistence economies of the Svalbarð manor’s farms. Those may be related to environmental changes, to changes in the socio-economic relationships of the manor to the outside world and to concomitant changes in the socio-economic interrelationships of the manor farm and its tenants. For example, the tenants herd the sheep to obtain the sheep’s wool in exchange of fishes captured by the manor. However, conventional zooarchaeological used in this work respond only partially and tangentially to questions related to the economic interrelations of those farms. Archaeogenetics permits the direct demonstration of local microevolution of sheep, of the extirpation of local herds and replacement via introductions and exchanges between farms of the manor’s community.Objectives: The main objectives of the project are to observe changes of the management of sheep herds on the Svalbarð manor, the resilience of these herds, the validation of exchanges of sheep between farms and to define local and exogenous economic links between farms on local and macro geographic scales. The timeframe of the proposed study begins with the 10th settlement of the region and continues into the post-medieval period.Study sites: There are six principal farm sites and farm ruins on the land belonging to the Svalbarð manor (in Svalbarðshreppur, N-E Iceland). These include the manor farm of Svalbarð and five tenant farms (Hjálmarvík, Brekknakot, Svalbarðssel, Kúðá et Bægistaðir). These farms date variously from the the 10th to late 19th century, and zooarchaelogical assemblages of various sizes (the largest site collection number over 50000 specimens) were excavated from these by the parent project. This collection is very large and well-preserved and it represents approximatively thousand years of occupation.Material and methods: Traditional zooarchaeological methods will be used to distinguish the remains of the sheep from the other species. The age and sex of these sheep are to be determined. The preservation state of specimens is also to be evaluated, with poorly preserved specimens put aside. Once those aspects of those bones studied, a sample comprising a significant number of bones and representing the demographic profile of the herds (in terms of age and sex) will be used for archeogenetics analyses. The specimens will have their genetic material isolated, purified, amplified and sequenced. Those different DNA sequences obtained will becompared. The variation of those sequences will allow to assess if there were exchanges between farms on different geographic scales and significant episodes of losses and introductions inside the herds. The importance of inter-individual variation of genetic sequences is determined with an appropriate statistical text.References: AMOROSI, Tom, BUCKLAND, Paul C. et al. « They did not Live by Grass Alone: the Politics and Palaeoecology of Animal Fodder in the North Atlantic Region ». Environmental Archaeology, 1,1(1998), p. 41-54. BROWN, Jennifer. « Human responses, resilience and vulnerability: An interdisciplinary approach to understanding past farm success and failure in Mývatnssveit, northern Iceland ». Thèse de doctorat, Stirling, Université de Stirling, 2010, 473 p. DUPONT - HÉBERT, Céline. 2020. « La dynamique du changement : Paysage économique de l’établissement rural islandais depuis le Landnám (IXe au XIXe siècle) ». Thèse de doctorat, Québec, Université Laval, 2020, 389 p. GÍSLADÓTTIR, Guðrun Alda, WOOLLETT, James, VÉSTEINSSON, Orri et al. « The Svalbarð Project ». Archaeologica Islandica, 10 (2013), p. 65-76.

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