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Gu?R?N Alda Gisladottir

Member of the Department of Archaeology


Research Topic

Resilience in the Arctic: Norse domestic spaces and artefact disposal patterns on North Atlantic settlements ca. 9th -15th century AD


Iceland and Greenland were the last territories to be settled by the Norse in the North Atlantic during the Viking Age, along with short lived settlement in Newfoundland. These areas define the Northwest margins of the Norse world during the 9th-15th centuries AD. A characteristic of these settlements was that they were farthest away from the cultural melting pots of towns, courts, and the routes of Viking raiders and traders. Urbanism never occurred and these places developed differently. The aim of this project is to assess the material culture at “the far end” by looking at the development of culturally and chronologically diagnostic artefacts on 9th-15th century Norse settlement sites in Iceland and Greenland to see how they differ and when changes occur. This will be done through the lens of archaeology, by systematic analysis of Viking and Medieval artefact assemblages that are geographically set in commonly perceived marginal settings. This provides an opportunity to examine availability of objects and materials, adaptation to local resources and environment, and geographical connectivity between settlements for import and export.


Since 2001, I have worked for The Institute of Archaeology, Iceland, primarily as a Finds Specialist and Finds Manager. The work consists of management of finds data retrieved during the Institute excavations and involves recording, identification, and study of artefactual material including publication and lectures. I also work as a curatorial, exhibition, and general consultant at the regional museum in Skógar, South Iceland. I have directed and participated in a number of rescue and research excavations and post-excavation, as well as participating in several documentary and archaeological field surveys throughout Iceland. The sites are diverse, spanning the 9th-20th century. In addition to field and lab work, I have managed and taught courses in material culture at the University of Iceland for several years.

2004 MA in Archaeology. Faculty of History and Philosophy. University of Iceland.

1997 B.Ed. Faculty of Education and Pedagogy. University of Iceland.

Selected grants
  • 2019: DDS, Durham Doctoral Studentship, 3 years funding.
  • 2013-2018: The Archaeological Research Fund. Grants for several projects including:
    • Stóraborg – an artefactual material. Management of the Post-excavation study of finds from the farm mound Stóraborg c. 1200-1800. Awarded to Guðrún Alda Gísladóttir and Mjöll Snæsdóttir. In process.
    • Post-excavation on the artefactual material from the medieval sites of Svalbarð and Hjálmarvík in NE-Iceland. Awarded to Guðrún Alda Gísladóttir and Dr. James Woollett, Université Laval, Canada. Completed.
    • A post-excavation on the medieval site Útskálar in Garður, S-Iceland. Awarded to Guðrún Alda Gísladóttir.
    • Combs in Iceland from the Viking Age to 1800. Dating of medieval artefacts. Awarded to Guðrún Alda Gísladóttir and Mjöll Snæsdóttir. Published 2019.

2019 “Dating of Medieval finds - Combs in Iceland.” Lecture series of the Society for Archaeologists, University of Iceland Department of Archaeology and the National Museum of Iceland. 

2017 “The Viking age burials at Dysnes, N-Iceland – Preliminary results.” Annual general meeting of The Society for Archaeologists, Reykjavík, 9th November 2017 (with Howell Roberts and Dr. Hildur Gestsdóttir)

2017 “Combs in Iceland.” Lecture for The Icelandic Archaeological Society.

2016 “Viking age cemetery in Hrífunes in Skaftártunga. The finds.” Workshop: Buried Things. Recent Discoveries of Viking Graves in Iceland and Western Norway, Reykholt, Borgarfjörður, Iceland.

2015 “Oddbjarnarsker, a fishing station in Breiðafjörður, W-Iceland.” A lecture in a conference honouring the memory of Dr. Kristján Eldjárn, former president of Iceland and director of the National Museum of Iceland. The subject was climate changes and coastline erosion ´Hafið gefur, hafið tekur´ (The sea gives, and the sea takes).

Museum exhibition participation

2019-2020 Exhibition Curation Committee—“Saga of Hofstaðir, Unearthing the Past in North Iceland,” a Viking Age exhibition in the National Museum of Iceland. This is a temporary two-year exhibition. Link: . The exhibition opened 22nd of February 2020.

2018 Exhibition Committee—“Dysnes, a Viking age burial site,” temporary exhibition at The National Museum of Iceland.

2016 Consultant for restoration of one part of the exhibition “Hekla/Þjórsárdalur” at the National Museum of Iceland.

2011 Exhibition Committee—"Hinar nýju Innréttingar. Skúli Magnússon og Reykjavík 18. aldar” (Establishment of a town, Reykjavík in the 18th century), Reykjavík City Museum.

Recent publications

Guðrún Alda Gísladóttir, Hildur Gestsdóttir og Orri Vésteinsson (eds.) 2020. Minjaþing – helgað Mjöll Snæsdóttur. Reykjavík, Fornleifastofnun Íslands. (An honorary book for a colleague and friend, Mjöll Snæsdóttir, with Prof. Orri Vésteinsson and Dr. Hildur Gestsdóttir).

Guðrún Alda Gísladóttir og Oddgeir Isaksen. 2019. „The final phase of the Vatnsfjörður turf farmhouse.“ Archaeologia Islandica 13, 73-94.

Guðrún Alda Gísladóttir og Mjöll Snæsdóttir. 2019. „Jarðfundnir kambar á Íslandi frá landámi til 1800.“ Árbók hins íslenska fornleifafélags 108, 7-54. (Combs in Iceland from the settlement period to 18th century, incl. English summary)

Hildur Gestsdóttir, Guðrún Alda Gísladóttir, Lísabet Guðmundsdóttir, Howell M. Roberts, Mjöll Snæsdóttir & Orri Vésteinsson. 2017. New discoveries: Dysnes. Archaeologia Islandica 12, 93-106.

Guðrún Alda Gísladóttir, Garðar Guðmundsson, Oscar Aldred og Uggi Ævarsson. 2016. „Fornleifakönnun í Oddbjarnarskeri“. Árbók hins íslenska fornleifafélags 2015, 49-76. (Archaeological and coastal erosion survey on the island of Oddbjarnarsker, incl. English summary).

Hildur Gestsdóttir, Uggi Ævarsson, Guðrún Alda Gísladóttir og Elín Ósk Hreiðarsdóttir. 2015. „Kumlateigur í Hrífunesi í Skaftártungu V“. Árbók hins íslenska fornleifafélags 2014, 7-34. (Viking Age cemetery in Hrífunes, Skaftártunga, english summary).

Kupiec, Patrycja, Karen Milek, Guðrún Alda Gísladóttir and James Woollett. 2015. „Elusive sel sites: the geoarchaeological quest for Icelandic shielings and the case of Þorvaldsstaðasel, in northeast Iceland. In: Summer Farms Seasonal Exploitation of the Uplands from Prehistory to the Present. Edited by John R. Collis, Mark Pearce and Franco Nicolis. Equinox/JR Collis Publications.

Elín Ósk Hreiðarsdóttir, Guðrún Alda Gísladóttir, Kristborg Þórsdóttir and Ragnheiður Gló Gylfadóttir. 2015. Abandoned settlements at the foot of Mt. Hekla: A study based on field survey in Rangárvellir. In: Archaeologica Islandica 11. Rit Fornleifastofnunar Íslands. Orri Vésteinsson (ed.)., Reykjavík, Fornleifastofnun Íslands, 33-56.

Guðrún Alda Gísladóttir, James Woollett, Uggi Ævarsson, Céline Dupont-Hébert, Anthony Newton and Orri Vésteinsson. 2013. The Svalbarð Project. In: Archaeologica Islandica 10. Rit Fornleifastofnunar Íslands. Gavin Lucas (ed.)., Reykjavík, Fornleifastofnun Íslands.

Guðrún Alda Gísladóttir. 2011. Fornleifarannsókn að Hofsstöðum í Þorskafirði. In: Árbók hins íslenska fornleifafélags 2011, 95-116. (Archaeological investigation on a farmsite with hof=heathen temple, place name and research history since 19th century, incl. English summary). 

Guðrún Alda Gísladóttir og Mjöll Snæsdóttir. 2011. Steinar fyrir brauð. Norsk eldhústíska á Íslandi. In: Upp á yfirborðið. Nýjar rannsóknir í íslenskri fornleifafræði. Orri Vésteinsson, Gavin Lucas, Kristborg Þórsdóttir og Ragnheiður Gló Gylfadóttir (eds.). Reykjavík, Fornleifastofnun Íslands, 51-68. (Presence of Norwegian baking plates in Iceland, artefactual study, incl. English summary).

Is supervised by
  • Dr. Colleen Batey
  • Dr. Jette Arneborg, National Museum of Denmark