Man-made Viking-era cave discovered in Iceland

Excavations of a Viking-era site in Iceland has revealed a previously unknown man-made cave.

Archaeologists from the Archaeological Institute of Iceland have been excavating near the small village of Oddi in Rangárvellir, Iceland.

- Advertisement -

Oddi was the seat of the Oddaverjar, a powerful clan in the medieval Icelandic Commonwealth. One of the most famous clan members was Sæmundur the Learned (AD 1056-1133) who wrote the early histories of the Norwegian Kings. The settlement developed into a major centre for culture and learning, with Iceland’s patron saint, Þorlákur Þórhallsson, receiving his education at Oddi from the age of nine (AD 1142-1147) .

Man-made caves at Oddi were first discovered back in 2018. The latest research project, part of a two-year study, has now discovered a much larger cave interconnected to the wider cave system.

Archaeologists believe that the new cave may be a nautahellir, a medieval stall used for cattle and horses. Such caves are mentioned in Bishop Þorlákur’s “Legends of Saints” from AD 1210-1250, where he describes how a nautahellir collapsed with 12 bulls still inside, with only one of the animals being rescued from the rubble.

Archaeologist Kristborg Þórsdóttir said: “Although it’s older than that, it’s likely that [the cave] was used for livestock. Whether it was for that specific bull, we don’t know. But the history of its use obviously goes back further than we’ve managed to trace yet.”

- Advertisement -

Excavations has been a slow and hazardous process as the cave was cut from soft sandstone that is porous and prone to collapse. “We still have deeper to dig, we’re just working on making conditions safe” said Kristborg.

Header Image Credit : Archaeological Institute of Iceland

- Advertisement -
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan is multi-award-winning journalist and the Managing Editor at HeritageDaily. His background is in archaeology and computer science, having written over 7,500 articles across several online publications. Mark is a member of the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW), the World Federation of Science Journalists, and in 2023 was the recipient of the British Citizen Award for Education, the BCA Medal of Honour, and the UK Prime Minister's Points of Light Award.

Mobile Application


Related Articles

Archaeologists reveal hundreds of ancient monuments using LiDAR

A new study published in the journal Antiquity has revealed hundreds of previously unrecorded monuments at Baltinglass in County Wicklow, Ireland.

Archaeologists use revolutionary GPR robot to explore Viking Age site

Archaeologist from NIKU are using a revolutionary new GPR robot to explore a Viking Age site in Norway’s Sandefjord municipality.

Highway construction delayed following Bronze Age discoveries

Excavations in preparation for the S1 Expressway have delayed road construction following the discovery of two Bronze Age settlements.

Archaeologists uncover possible phallus carving at Roman Vindolanda

Excavations at the Roman fort of Vindolanda have uncovered a possible phallus carving near Hadrian’s Wall.

Carbonised Herculaneum papyrus reveals burial place of Plato

An analysis of carbonised papyrus from the Roman town of Herculaneum has revealed the burial place of Plato.

Sealed 18th century glass bottles discovered at George Washington’s Mount Vernon

As part of a $40 million Mansion Revitalisation Project, archaeologists have discovered two sealed 18th century glass bottles at George Washington's Mount Vernon.

Study suggests human occupation in Patagonia prior to the Younger Dryas period

Archaeologists have conducted a study of lithic material from the Pilauco and Los Notros sites in north-western Patagonia, revealing evidence of human occupation in the region prior to the Younger Dryas period.

Fort excavation uncovers Roman sculpture

Archaeologists excavating Stuttgart’s Roman fort have uncovered a statue depicting a Roman god.