Archaeologists digging on Lækjargata in central Reykjavik were looking for traces of a farm cottage built in 1799 – and found a Viking longhouse 900 years older
The longhouse is at least 20 m long at 5.5m wide at it widest point. The ‘long fire’ in the centre of the hut is one of the largest ever found in Iceland, which visible traces suggesting it was over 5.2 m long.
“This find came as a great surprise for everybody,” says Þorsteinn Bergsson, Managing Director of Minjavernd, an independent association working for the preservation of old buildings in Iceland.
“This rewrites the history of Reykjavik”, said Lísabet Guðmundsdóttir, archaeologist at the Icelandic Institute of Archaeology to the Iceland Monitor. She says there is no way of knowing who could have lived in the longhouse. “We have no records of any building on this spot other than the cottage built in 1799,” she explains.
The building is from the first years of the settlement of Iceland – a period usually dated 870-930 AD; but more exact dating will need to wait until after the excavation has been completed.
The long Fire
The exact size of the hall cannot me measured as part of it is hidden beneath neighbouring houses. However, the size of the long-fire is on par with that found during the excavations at Hrísbrú; perhaps the new hall or longhouse measured the same: 30 m.
Such fires were both a source of heat and light. However, as there was no chimney, longhouses were very smoky and uncomfortable to stay in. An experimental archaeology project in two Danish reconstructed Viking Age Houses have shown that the exposure to woodsmoke must have been a contributing factor to health problems . However, in another study the archaeologists teamed up with scientists and found that “even a high inhalation exposure to wood smoke was associated with limited systemic effects on markers of oxidative stress, DNA damage, inflammation, and monocyte activation” . In a series of simulated experiments another Danish archaeologist has shown that the heating of such a large building poised enormous challenges 
The Settlement Exhibition
The last time a longhouse was discovered in Reykjavik was in 2001, at Aðalstræti. The relics found at this site represented the oldest evidence of human habitation in Reykjavik, dating back to before 871 AD. This longhouse has been preserved as the centre for an exhibition about the Viking settlement in Reykjavik.
The construction of Viking Age buildings is explained using multimedia technology. Computer technology is used to give an impression of what life was like in the hall.
The exhibition aims to provide insights into the environment of the Reykjavík farm at the time of the first settlers. Exhibits include artefacts from archaeological excavations in central Reykjavík.
The remains of the two longhouses were located approximately 250 meters from each other
The Settlement Exhibition Reykjavik 871 +/- 2
Reykjavík center, Aðalstræti 16, Iceland
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