A review of the mounting archaeological evidence for the colonization of Iceland suggests that the whole country was occupied within a couple of decades towards the end of the 9th century AD. Analyses of strontium in human bones show, however, that immigrants continued to arrive in Iceland throughout the 10th century. Here we discuss this apparent contradiction, suggesting that while continued immigration may have been needed to sustain the population, these patterns arise also from biases within the burial data. We argue that formal burial, of the kind that allows isotopic analyses, reflects growing affluence and the emergence of an indigenous gentry that sought to legitimate its power through association with the perceived homeland and its upper class.
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Vol. 2014 • No. sp7