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Jökulhlaups Circa Landnám: Mid- to Late First Millennium AD Floods in South Iceland and their Implications for Landscapes of Settlement

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This paper presents geomorphological and sedimentological evidence for three large-scale floods to the west of the ice-capped volcano Katla around the time of Norse settlement or Landnám (AD 870–930). These glacial outburst floods (jökulhlaups), the most recent prehistoric events in a series of Holocene floods in the Markarfljót valley, are securely dated by tephrochronology and radiocarbon dating to between c. AD 500 and c. AD 900. The environmental impact of these events would have been extensive, affecting both the highlands and about 40–50 km2 of the coastal lowlands where about 15 of the 400 or so landnám farms in Iceland were sited. An awareness of environmental conditions and landscape stability around the time of the Norse colonisation of Iceland is important to understand the earliest settlement patterns because of the different constraints and opportunities that they represent.

Keywords: Iceland; Landnám; hyperconcentrated flow; jökulhlaup

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Institute of Earth Sciences, University of Iceland 2: Institute of Geography, School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh

Publication date: June 1, 2006


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