Eiríksstađir: The Farm of Eiríkr the Red

According to Landnámabók and Eiriks saga rauđa, Eiríkr the Red married Ţjóđhildr Jörundardóttir from the farm Vatn, cleared land in Haukadalur in west Iceland, and built his farm at Eiríksstađir by Vatnshorn. He lived there for several years before being outlawed from the Haukadalur valley after killing his neighbours. Eiríksstađir is also mentioned in an early eighteenth-century land register, located between the farms Stóra-Vatnshorn and Skriđukotl. The place-name is also registered at the Örnefnastofnun islands [Icelandic Place-Name Institute] in Reykjavik.

Only one site is now known within the land belonging to Vatn and Stóra-Vatnshorn that can be classified as a Viking-Age farm and that is also the site that has been recognised as Eiríksstađir for over two centuries according to local tradition (Fig. 1). It has been assumed by many that this site was the farm of Eirikr the Red and the birthplace of his son Leifr the Lucky.

In 1998-1999, a full-scale excavation of the hall took place and revealed the actual outlines of the walls so that its size and shape could be established with reasonable certainty. In spite of some misinterpretations of the structures by earlier archaeologists, their main results proved to be surprisingly accurate.

The hall proved to be 12.5 metres long, 4 metres wide at the centre, and 3 metres wide at both gables. The walls were built of turf on foundations of stone and the north wall was partly integrated into a pre-settlement landslide. The north wall is formed in a straight line while the south wall is markedly curved.[…]

The entrance (D) and fireplace (H) probably belonged to an early building phase, the remains of which have been mostly destroyed by a second building phase or earlier excavations. This was confirmed by the 1999 excavation when the earlier floor traced c. 90 cm futher north, also indicating that a small landslide may have damaged the north wall during the earlier building phase, making repairs and a second building phase necessary. The initial hall was therefore somewhat wider than the later second phase.

Paved stone paths were found in front of the two entrances. The pavement in front of the eastern entrance is almost 4 metres long. These entrances and the two fireplaces indicate that the house was modified at least once during its lifetime when it may also have been enlarged to the west. In spite of the modifications it seems that the house was abandoned very shortly afterwards and never inhabited again. The housetype is a typical Viking-Age hall and can be dated by its form to the ninth, tenth or even the eleventh century A.D. It is built some time after the so called landnám' tephra layer (dated to 872 A.D. ± 2 years) was deposited. Three 14thC datings, AAR-3963, AAR-4741 and AAR-4743, indicate a late tenth-century origin for the site.[…]

Further excavations are planned at the site in the next couple of years to help establish a fuller picture of the economy and the daily life of the farm. The little pit-house (a bath-house according to Ţorsteinn Erlingsson) south of the hall and a newly discovered ruin west of the hall will be the focus of that study.


A full-scale replica, to some extent based on the archaeological evidence of the Eiríksstađir site, was built in 1999, approximately 100 metres south-east of the original site.

Source: Guđmundur Ólafsson, "Eiríksstađir: The Farm of Eiríkr the Red" in Approaches to Vínland: A conference on the written and archaeological sources for the Norse settlements in the North-Atlantic, Andrew Wawn and Ţórunn Sigurđardóttir (Reykjavík: Sigurđur Nordal Institute, 2001), 147-152.

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