Soapstone, why is it important?

Written by Hrönn Konráðsdóttir.

 

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Quite a few artifacts have been unearthed this summer and among them was this part of a bowl or a pot made out of soapstone. It is a type of stone which is very easy to whittle down and has a similar consistency as soap, as the name indicates. This type of soapstone tolerates heat well and can therefore be used to make pots and other cookware. Artifacts made out of soapstone are quite a common find in excavations of viking age material in Iceland. Some smaller objects have also been recovered which were made out of soapstone, spindle whorls and even decorative beads. Soapstone cannot be found in nature in Iceland so all these artifacts or the material that they were made from was imported. It probably came from Norway, Shetland or Greenland as these are the closest resorces of soapstone, both in readymade objects and in raw form. One block of unwhittled soapstone has been found in the country, showing that it was also imported as material. The reason why soapstone is an important find in any excavation in Iceland is therefore of course that it depicts a story of trading or import by the early Icelanders.

 

Guided tours

Written by Hrönn Konráðsdóttir.

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This summer archaeologists at the Alþingi excavation site offer guided tours in english every day at 11 am. They have been very well received and we have met a lot of people with a keen interest in the project. Everyone is welcome and we will happily try to answer any questions.