Ice, Fire and Water

Snæfellsjökull at sunset, taken 12 June 2009 by Atli Harðarson, found in flickr, and available under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license.

Iceland, settled from 874, was far enough from Norway to develop a comprehensive autonomy under a representative national alþingi (meeting annually at Þingvellir, thirty miles from present-day Reykjavík) that endured for over three hundred years (930-1262). A major source on the settlement of Iceland is Landnámabók (Book of Settlements), which dates from the twelfth century.


The emphasis on landnám (land-taking) and the proliferation of farmsteads throughout Iceland underscore the nature of a Norse society based on ovine, bovine, and equine husbandry. Several Icelandic sagas also refer to significant interests in merchant shipping and commerce in luxury goods such as Icelandic falcons.


With Christianization of the island nation in 1000, the Latin alphabet (modified) became the vehicle for transmission of Old Norse-Icelandic annals and religious works as well as sagas and skaldic poetry down to our time.