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Post-excavation and publication of archaeological excavations at Á Sondum, Sandoy


Mike Church

Føroya Fornminnissavn og Durham University

Aðrir luttakarar:
Símun V. Arge, Claire Nesbit


Samlaður kostnaður:
920.838 DKK

Stuðul úr Granskingargrunninum:
400.000 DKK

Overall research aim:
The project team will complete the post-excavation analysis and publication of the archaeological excavations at the coastal-eroding farm mound at Á Sondum, Sandoy. The remains include the first archaeological evidence for pre-Viking human occupation of the Faroes, a Viking longhouse and Medieval structural and occupation deposits.
Research to date:
The site consists of a series of structural and occupation deposits dating from the 4-6th centuries AD to 15th century AD. Coastal erosion has cut a section through the farm mound that has revealed over 3m of archaeological remains along approximately 50m of beach front. These remains have been recorded and sampled by an international team from the Faroes National Museum and researchers from UK and US universities, as part of the North Atlantic Biocultural Organisation research network (http://www.nabohome.org/).
International research significance:
The basal deposits at Á Sondum represent the earliest archaeological evidence in the Faroes that places human colonization in the 4th-6th centuries AD, at least 300-500 years earlier than previously demonstrated. The Faroes are the first stepping-stone for the Viking diaspora across the North Atlantic that culminated in the first European discovery of continental North America in the 11th century AD and our new data radically alters the timeline for this colonization. Also, the overlying farm mound deposits are exceptionally rich in archaeobotanical and wood remains, allowing a detailed understanding of the nature and development of the use of plants in the Viking and Medieval periods in the Faroes in the wider context of North Atlantic archaeology.
Post-excavation analysis and reporting:
Funds are sought to complete the archaeobotanical, archaeoentomological and artefact analysis and the production of two academic papers for international peer-reviewed journals.


We report on the earliest archaeological evidence from the Faroe Islands, placing human colonization in the 4th-6th centuries AD, at least 300-500 years earlier than previously demonstrated archaeologically. The evidence consists of an extensive wind-blown sand deposit containing patches of burnt peat ash of anthropogenic origin at the base of a multiphase archaeological sequence at Á Sondum, Sandoy. Samples of carbonised barley grains from two of these ash patches produced 14C dates of two pre-Viking phases within the 4th-6th and late 6th-8th centuries AD. A re-evaluation is required of the nature, scale and timing of the human colonization of the Faroes and the wider North Atlantic region. The archaeological sequence also contains the remnants of a Viking longhouse and multiple phases of Medieval settlement occupation.


Submitted in Feb 2013: Multi-author academic paper to the international peer-reviewed journal, Quaternary Science Reviews.

Completed in Feb 2013: First draft of major excavation report for submission to the international peer-reviewed journal, Journal of North Atlantic in late 2013.

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