A team of Icelandic archaeologists working in central Reykjavik were looking for the remnants of a farm cottage built in 1799—so imagine their surprise when they found a longhouse dating back to the 9th century AD instead.

Above: The “long fire” in the center of the hut.

As reported in the Iceland Monitor, the longhouse measures 65 feet (20 meters) long and 18 feet (5.5 meters) at its widest point. Its long fire—the hut’s source of heat and light—is one of the largest ever found in Iceland, and it may have been well over 17 feet (5.2 meters) in length.

According to Lísabet Guðmundsdóttir, an archaeologist with the Icelandic Institute of Archaeology, there’s is no way of knowing who could have lived in the longhouse. The researchers have no records of any habitation on that particular spot other than the cottage built in 1799, which was constructed on a featureless meadow.

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The longhouse dates back to the first years of Iceland’s settlement, a period from about 870 to 930 AD. More precise dating will be performed to confirm these estimates. Excavations have only just begun, but the archaeologists have already uncovered a silver ring and a pearl.

This is not the first time a longhouse has been discovered in Reykjavik. Back in 2001, archaeologists discovered a similar structure dating back to before 871 AD—and it looked a bit like this computer-generated reconstruction:

(Credit: Gargarin)

[ Iceland Monitor via Medieval Histories ]


Contact the author at george@io9.com and @dvorsky. Images: Kristinn Ingvarsson/Iceland Monitor