Site Overview

See a Viking-Age farmstead, burials and thing sites

Farmstead and Buildings

Knowledge of Faroe's early history is mainly based on archaeology as written sources are scarce. The classic example of a 10th-century Faroese Viking-Age farm is located in the village of Kvívík on Streymoy. There are the remains of two Viking-period buildings, but the south side of them has been badly eroded by the sea.
The erosion is partly due to wave action, partly to a general sinking of the land since the Viking Age.

On the right is the 20m-long hall, or skdlar. Like all Faroese halls it is located close to a stream and oriented north-south. The walls of the Faroese houses are built from an inner and an outer layer of stones and turf, the space between being filled with earth and small stones. These walls are about 150cm thick and are preserved to a height of between 50cm and 150cm. The interior of the house was timber lined. Even though building timber was a scarce commodity, the tradition of building with wood, as inspired by the Viking homelands, was adapted for the local conditions.

Along the inside of the walls were benches, made partly of stone, partly of earth, retained by wooden planks, as is demonstrated by rows of small post-holes. The benches served both as seats and beds. Exactly on the central axis of the hall was the long fireplace, built of flat stones with a round roasting pit in the middle. The floors were partly paved with stone and always overlaid by a trodden floor of ash, soot, clay and sand.

Excavations at Kvivik revealed the remains of two rows of posts that held up the straw, birch-bark and turf roof, traces of which survived; this was probably held in place by long cords twined from juniper branches.

Indoor Work

A few train-oil lamps made of stone and pumice have been found, but the long fire must have provided most of the light for indoor work. The main indoor occupation, other than cooking, was spinning on spindles with whorls of soapstone, lead or pumice, and weaving on looms with weights particularly of basalt, but also of soapstone. Pumice is found locally but soapstone was imported either from Norway or Shetland, particularly in the form of ready-made bowls with lines below the rim, some of which had convex bases and incurved necks. The Faroese potters modelled their cooking-vessels on these forms. Part of the diet of those who lived at Kvivik is revealed by finds of the bones of sheep, cows, pigs, seals and pilot whales, guillemots, razor bills, cormorants, seagulls, and, of course, cod. It is uncertain whether they ate horses, but bones tell us that they certainly had them, and we know that they gave toy horses to their children from finds such as a carved, wooden, toy stallion.

Byre and Barn

The building on the left is half byre, half barn, with other barns added later. As yet, the only byre known is that at Kvivik. It has the same curved walls as the hall, and by its size demonstrates that farmsteads of the Viking Age were quite large, at least by Faroese standards. At Kvivik there was room for eight to twelve animals which were stabled in stone-built stalls, 1.6m deep, with stone slabs between them. The bones indicate that the animals were of small stature.

Burials

One of only two known groups of Viking burials were found at Tjørnuvik on the northernmost point of Stremoy. The graves were uncovered when there was a landslip at the head of an inlet, and are marked with stones. Very few grave goods were discovered, which seems to be the normal burial custom in Faroe, but a 10th-century bronze-ringed pin was found, confirming this was a Viking burial.

Thing District

This area is probably the most populous thing district in the country and included the islands of Streymoy, Nólsoy, Hestur and Koltur. The thingstead was located in the village of Kollafjørður, where one of the houses is called í Tinggarðinum (in the thing farm). Slightly removed from the settlement there was a gallows, and stories are also told about a place where the condemned could save themselves if they managed to reach it.

Contact Details
Address

Bryggjubakki, P.O. Box 118, FO-110 Tórshavn

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