Farmers, Sorting Folds, Earmarks, and Sheep in Iceland

  • Oscar AldredEmail author
Part of the Contributions To Global Historical Archaeology book series (CGHA, volume 35)


Taking past movement seriously creates archaeological accounts that emphasize the entanglements between the human and nonhuman mobilities, giving them precedence in understanding a dynamic past. In this chapter, an archaeology of movement moves beyond its conventional treatment in which moving bodies are used to simply add weight to an already made narrative structured by the fixed parts of movement—its material systems—or in which moving bodies add an inhabited discourse to a series of generalized objects in a landscape. Instead, three interdependent aspects are explored. First, there is a focus on the relation itself between material systems and moving bodies by following specific objects as they moved in the past. Second, by attaching the concepts that underlie chaîne opératoire or operational chain, these relations are considered to be a part of a materializing set of practices. And third, by drawing a virtual line between different objects, the idea that objects were rarely fixed is introduced, in which they are considered to be highly mobile. These aspects are explored in a landscape context associated with nineteenth to early twentieth-century sheep farming in Northeast Iceland. As a result, the flows and forces that have shaped this community, the specific connections among these mobile objects, and their potential feedback emerge to reveal that movement is the key social connector. In this respect, movement is not something to be reduced to the background, but is given prominence at the foreground of our archaeological discourses.


Archaeological Record Operational Chain Mobile Object Grazing Area Sheep Farming 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



There are a number of people and institutions that have helped to shape this chapter. I would like to thank Gavin Lucas for his clear and insightful comments on my research; as my mentor and friend, I am very grateful for his unflagging support during my research endeavors. Also, I thank Rodney Harrison, who pointed me in the direction of research he had done in Australia; although not referenced, this has provided some ballast for my own thinking. And also I would like to thank Chris Witmore, who provided much of the initial stimulus for this thinking while I was at Brown University, during our many discussions on human and nonhuman relations over a cup of Blue State coffee. Institutional support (and funding) has come from the University of Iceland (PhD scholarship and travel fund), Fornleifasjóður (The Archaeology Fund for fieldwork), and National Science Foundation (via Thomas McGovern, CUNY). Furthermore, I would like to acknowledge those who reviewed and commented on my paper: Scott Joseph Allen, Visa Immonen, as well as the editors of the volume Mary Beaudry and Travis Parno. Any errors are, however, my own.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of History, Classics and ArchaeologyNewcastle UniversityNewcastle-Upon-TyneUK

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