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Unexpected and exciting finds on Grímsey

18.05.2022 - 15:22
Mynd: Óðinn Svan Óðinsson / RÚV
Artefacts from the Middle Ages have been discovered by archaeologists working on the site of Miðgarðakirkja on the island of Grímsey.

The church serving the community on Grímsey, which is the only part of Iceland to extend north of the Arctic Circle, was razed to the ground in a huge fire on 21st September last year. The flames took hold so fast that there was little left for fire fighters to save when they arrived. The church was destroyed, along with all its furniture, fittings, and other contents—some of which were very old and irreplaceable. 

A new church will rise on the same spot, and work has in fact already begun. 

A look at the past 

Arna Björg Bjarnadóttir, project manager for the new church’s construction, says notable artefacts have been discovered during archaeological surveys where the old church stood and the new one will rise. 

A cemetery wall from the Middle Ages and several old graves have been discovered, as well as a rubbish dump that may contain important information and clues about life on Grímsey hundreds of years ago. “Which is naturally an absolute goldmine for archaeologists, and for us all. Because there is likely invaluable information there about diets, living conditions, and people’s lifestyle in times gone by,” Arna explains.  

The discoveries have come as a genuine surprise to the archaeologists who were doing their jobs but not expecting to find anything of note. 

New church rising 

The ground was formally broken on the 8th May and preparations for the construction of the new Miðgarðakirkja are well underway. 

Arna says it is not likely the construction will be delayed by the archaeological finds—but confirms that the whole building is to move four metres because of the location of the finds. The small move will not affect the project in any significant way, however. 

“Carpenters are now on the way to Grímsey and the details of the new church will be finalised in the coming days and construction start full pace,” Arna Björg said on RÚV radio this morning. 

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