Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant: The Archaeological Investigation of Erosion and its Effect on Social Processes in the Arctic

Project: Research project

Project Details


The proposed project will investigate the relationship between erosion and economic inequality over the environmentally and socially dynamic first 500 years of settlement in Hegranes, Skagafjörður, North Iceland. The agricultural practices of the first settlers of Iceland, ca. 870 AD, caused widespread deforestation and soil erosion. Erosion moves sediments from one place to another, and can lead to either landscape degradation or augmentation. On Hegranes, small abandoned farms lie very close to successful farms that still operate today. This patchwork landscape allows me to investigate how farmstead abandonment was related to erosion, degradation, and the development of social inequality. I will use tephrochronology to compare the settlement sequence of these small farms with the associated environmental sequence of soil erosion and landscape change. The goal is to explore changes in the number and distribution of small household farms, document the process of erosion and degradation, and investigate whether social reorganization of the landscape corresponds to increases in degradation. Larger, more powerful households likely benefited from the failure and abandonment of small farms, and my project will suggest how abandonment was managed to their advantage. This work will contribute to ongoing discussions about the social and political consequences of human-initiated environmental change, by focusing on the unequal power relations between households that facilitate both environmental degradation and social inequality.
Effective start/end date9/15/158/31/17


  • National Science Foundation (PLR-1523025)


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