Iceland Mag

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Iceland Mag

Archeology

Millions needed to save priceless archaeological remains from coastal erosion

By Staff

  • Waves The advancing seas are eroding beaches along Iceland's coasts and imperiling archeological remains that have not yet been researched. Photo/Vísir.

Archeological remains of great cultural value are in danger of being washed away by coastal erosion on many of Iceland's shores, according to the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture. An MP for the Left Green Movement warns of an impending "cultural disaster" due to a lack of financing for their preservation. Documenting and preserving the remains might cost hundreds of millions of ISK, according to an official estimate. 

Only a quarter of known remains has been documented
In a written response to questions from MPs in the Icelandic parliament, the Minister of Education, Science and Culture, said that the ministry was aware of a number of places around the country where valuable remains were in danger of being lost. However, the Cultural Heritage Agency of Iceland has only documented around a quarter of the remains that are protected by law due to their age.

Read more: Invaluable treasures being washed to sea as erosion threatens archaeological sites

The ministry estimates it will cost in the region of 330 million ISK to document all the remains on the shoreline of Iceland. However, preliminary plans for the protection of such remains cannot be implemented due to a lack of funding, according to the National Broadcasting Service RÚV.

Icelanders can afford to preserve historical remains
Lilja Rafney Magnúsdóttir, an MP for the Left Green Movement, criticizes the government for not doing more to protect archeological remains. 

"We have to get our act together before we suffer a cultural disaster. I believe we can afford to protect our history and our remains. We don't have the palaces and the architecture of the European metropoleis but this is our history and we should respect it," Lilja Rafney told her fellow MPs.

Sæból, coastal erosion, remains
Erosion The settlement farm Sæból in the Westfjords being washed away by coastal erosion. Photo/Vísir.

Increased erosion due to rising sea levels
The complaints about lack of funding for the preservation of archeological remains, some of which are thought to date from the Viking age, are not new.

Experts have warned that old fisherman huts, boathouses and even cemeteries are among the archeological remains along Icelandic shores that are imperiled by increased coastal erosion due to rising sea levels.

Few of these sites have been researched due to a lack of funding. The remains there are now in danger of being lost forever.

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