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The Settlement of Iceland

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The Settlement of Iceland -By Dr. Gunnar Karlsson

Iceland remained uninhabited far longer than most habitable places on earth. It wasn’t until the beginning of the Viking Age, around 800 AD, that Norsemen began to build ships that could carry them safely out into the North Atlantic. The Book of Icelanders states that the island was settled from about 870 to 930 AD. Most of the settlers were from the west coast of Norway or other parts of Scandinavia, and a handful are said to be of Irish origin.

Long before this, an island called Thule, where the sun shone all night in summer, was known in European geographical treatises; some of these accounts are consistent with Iceland. Medieval Icelandic sources also say that there were Irish monks living in Iceland when the settlers arrived. But why Iceland? And how did the settlers survive the first years?

Dr. Gunnar Karlsson was a professor of history at the University of Iceland and is the author of many historical works.