Theory of fencing

We would like to draw everybody's attention to an open lecture, to be held in Verið on Friday morning November 11th.

Dr Árni Einarsson, director of the Mývatn Research Centre and guest professor at the University of Iceland, will give a talk on the ancient turf walls in NE Iceland.

Theory of fencing – Narrating the Icelandic Settlement period based on 600km of turf walls

We are in the final stages of a project that has mapped 600 km of an extensive system of turf walls built in NE Iceland in the period c. 940-1100 A.D. The project provides an unprecedented snapshot of the settlement pattern during the Saga period. The turf-wall system, separating the inhabited lowland from the upland, and reaching from Mývatn to the coast, challenges current concepts of land division and continuity in medieval Iceland. We are developing a "theory of fencing" that uses cost-benefit analyses (such as used in behavioural and economic sciences) to predict the size and shape of fenced areas according to environmental variables and human population density. This theory is based on two presuppositions: that the walls were for managing livestock movements, and that there was competition for space between neighbouring farms. The theory attempts to explain fencing patterns in terms of landscape dimensionality (1D or 2D), the quality and use (confined or free-range) of grazing and haymaking areas, distances from farmhouses, and the need to delimit territorial boundaries. The family Sagas rarely mention turf walls, even though they must have been a prominent part of the landscape well into the Saga-writing period. The walls were part of a land management system that emerged during the settlement period and both generated and responded to the political friction that sparked many of the epic events in the Sagas. 

The lecture will be in English. All welcome - coffee and cakes afterwards.

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