Viking Age Iceland: Front View of the Farmhouse at Stöng

A picture of Leif Eirksson's statue in Reykjavík, Iceland

This is Part 24 of our ongoing series about Viking Age Iceland. For centuries, this island country, unique in Medieval Europe, operated with no king, no great lords, no foreign policy, and no defense forces but which developed legal and judicial systems to limit the violence of bloodfeud and protect the rights of freemen. Far out in the North Atlantic, Iceland was where the famous sagas developed. To explore Iceland’s place in the medieval world, we present selections from Jesse Byock’s Viking Age Iceland that investigate the history, archaeology, culture, systems of feud, and sagas of this magical place.

Most of the cooking at Stöng was done on the long-fire in the centre of the main hall. The hearth was lined with stones and partly covered with slabs. As in earlier longhouses, smoke found its way out through a hole in the roof. The steep pitch of the roof gave room for the smoke to rise, decreasing the amount of smoke in the living spaces. There may also have been a row of small holes at the base of the roof for letting light into the hall. Along the walls on both sides of the main hall were the usual low wooden longhouse benches, 1.5 metres (almost 5 feet) wide. The household members probably used foldaway tables for meals. The sagas often mention a locked bed closet for the master of the house. The floor plan shows such a private, protected sleeping place for the húsbóndi and the mistress of the house on the bench against the back wall, but other inhabitants had to manage with less privacy. Most of the farmhands slept in the main hall, which may have been divided into separate sections for men and women.

— Jesse Byock, Viking Age Iceland

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