Mosfell Archaeological Project

The Mosfell Archaeological Project (MAP) under the direction of Professor Jesse Byock (Scandinavian, and the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology), is an international research project employing the tools of archaeology, history, anthropology, genetics, environmental sciences, and saga studies to construct a comprehensive picture of human habitation and environmental change in the Mosfell region of southwestern Iceland during the Middle Ages.

mosfell_byock_groupJesse Byock, shown on the left, is Project Director of the Mosfell Archaeological Project

MAP’s archaeological excavations at Hrísbrú in the Mosfell Valley have unearthed a Viking Age chieftain’s longhouse, the best-preserved known example of a Viking Age longhouse in Scandinavia, a conversion-age church, an early graveyard, and a pagan cremation burial site. MAP has also discovered monumental stone ship settings at the inland end of the valley and the perimeter of the Viking Age harbor at Leiruvogur (“Clay Bay”). The 2014 excavation season focused on Skiphóll (“ship hill”), one of the locations associated with the harbor, which was revealed to contain indications of a pre-Christian burial.

Since 2007, MAP has been funded in part by several generous grants from Arcadia, which were administered at UCLA by CMRS.

The Icelandic government has nominated Professor Byock, as director of the MAP project, to be the Icelandic Archaeological Representative to the international steering committee for nominations for UNESCO World Heritage Sites of the Viking Age. The committee , which selects and regulates some of the major historical monuments of Northern Europe, is sponsored by the governments of Britain, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden.

MAP works in full collaboration with the National Museum of Iceland (Þjóðminjasafn Íslands), the town of Mosfellsbær, and under the supervision of the state Archaeological Heritage Agency of Iceland (Fornleifavernd ríkisins). Professor Byock’s partners on the project are Professors Jon Erlandson (University of Oregon), Per Holck (University of Oslo), Helgi Þorláksson (University of Iceland), David Scott (UCLA), Richard Gatti (UCLA), Magnús Guðmundsson (University of Iceland), and the late Philip Walker (UC Santa Barbara). Davide Zori (Baylor) served as the project’s field director. For more information about the project, visit the MAP website.

An account of both the history and findings of the Mosfell Archaeological Project was published in Medieval Archaelogy, Journal of the Society for Medieval Archaeology, Volume XLIX, 2005. A comprehensive article about the Mosfell Archaeological Project is featured in the UCLA Cotsen Institute of Archaeology’s 2013 Annual Review Backdirt.

Professor Byock’s website is at His Viking Language Series textbooks for learning Old Norse are at is at