The Farmhouse

The Farmhouse

A decision was taken on the occasion of the 1100th anniversary of Icelandic  in 1974, to attemt to endeavour to re-create a large farmhouse from the Commonwealth Era (930-1262).

The well higly suitable for a reconstruction. The construction of the Commonwealth Era farmhouse was begun in 1974 and completed three years later. The building was formally opened on 24 June 1977.

In recreating the early medieval or so called Commonwealth Era farm, the following perspectives in particular were borne in mind.

  • To base the reconstruction as closely as possible on the remains of the farm at Stöng and thus attempt to present a credible picture of the homes of Iceland's leading families in the Commonwealth Era.
  • To make the farmhouse a type of museum for objects and craftsmanship to have been practiced during this era and for some time afterwards; where the evidence is lacking, imagination was brought into play, as is the case in an historical novel.
  • Thirdly, the reconstructed building should demonstrate that the houses of medieval Icelanders were not lowly turf huts, but carefullyconstructed and imposing structures.

The size, position and form of the building remains at Stöng were followed in all details. Close regard was also had for all the interior furnishings, to the extent this could be deduced from the remains, such as the size and position of platforms, benchseats, seats, chambers, doors, and large vats in the ground.

Carpentry in the reconstructed building

There was also some evidence of the carpentry work at Stöng. The excavation revealed many wooden remains, showing where interior panelling, partitions, benches, ans seating platforms had been. In some instances the thickness of the timber could be estimated quite precisely. Clear signs were visible of the type of bottom in one of the vats in the toreroom, marks left by the ends of barrel staves and bottom braces, hacked into the sandstone base. Where information from Stöng was not sufficent, five types of sources were used:

  1. remains of ancient Icelandic carpentry work, whick can still be found in many areas of the country;
  2. remains og fuldings from medieval settlements in Greenland;
  3. descriptions of buildings in Icelandic sagas and inventories;
  4. medieval wooden stave buildings in the Nordic area, both those still in existence an excavated sites;
  5. ethnographic information, mainly from Iceland.

Examples

The doors of the patry and lavatory are replicas of doors found in one piece in Greenland.

The door of the hall was patterned on the construction of the door from Valþjófsstaður, which dates from around 1200.

The tables and chairs are modelled on the oldes Norwegian types from around 1250.

The footing stones, flagstones, herth stone, pit at the entracne and stone slabs under the churn have been created as closely as possible to the original. The same is true of the outer wall construction, with some deviations, however. To judge from the remains, logn sods of turf were used for the hall and the sitting room. This is also the case in the reconstruction. On the other hand, wedge blocks (klömbruhnaus) were used for the storeroom and lavatory, to provide an example of the building material and type of laying which is known to have been practiced in Iceland from the earliest times.

A guide to individual rooms

The next section takes a closer look at each of the different rooms in the reconstructed house. Roman numerals refer to the numbers on the floor plan of the farmhouse.

The Saga Age farm

Entrance (I): The entrance or hallway lies behind the entrance doorway. Here people would have removed their wet, outer clothing and stored various things, such as saddles and bridles, tools and utensils which were not in everyday use outdoors. The storage space is not assumed to have been walled off from the entrance, or the outer walls to have had wooden panelling. The purpose of a stone vessel, which was sunk into the ground by the hall partition, opposite the chamber, is not known.

Storeroom (II): A panelled chamber in the entrance was conceivably a storeroom. It was probably locked, with the mistress of the house holding the key. It would have housed food stores, including stockfish, smoked meat and even grain when this was available.

Lavatory (III): Ancient writings assume that several people can use the toilet at a time. This explains the size of the presumed lavatory at Stöng. A long pole to sit on was placed horizontally on a stone at the end of the trench reaching to the wall. In Sweden, lavatories of a similar sort have been known right up until the 20th century. Perhaps the farm got its name Stöng, which means “pole”, from its splendid lavatory?

Hall (IV): The central hall was the main part of the farmhouse. It is assumed to have been built with care in all details, and panelled on the inside. Here people worked at various daily jobs, ate and sat around the fire; this was above all the sleeping quarters of the entire household. This part of the house was probably referred to as the eldaskáli, meaning fire hall. There is a long hearth running down the middle of the floor. The seats on both sides are very wide. They have not been divided up into bedsteads, as can be considered likely to have been the case here. In the inner corner of the hall on the left is a grinding stone for grinding grain.

Bed closet (V): It was common for the heads of households on better farms to sleep in a sleeping chamber or bed closet. The one here is located to the inner side of the middle of the hall on the right side, with the bench panelled off.

Storeroom/Dairy (VI): The storeroom/dairy was used for food storage, for dairy products in particular. Skyr and sour whey were collected in large vats which were sunk into the ground.

Here the roof rests on uprights standing near the outer wall and joined by cross-braces.

Sitting room (stofa) (VII): The stofa served many purposes, it was the women's dwelling place and workroom, sitting room and dining hall on festive occasions. There are sitting benches along the walls and the upright weaving loom stood on the women's platform at the gable end. Weaving was very hard work. The women stood while they wove homespun cloth and walked miles every day around the loom. There is a small fire in the middle of the sitting room


 

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