Iceland Mag

14 Reykjavik

Iceland Mag

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See the old harbour emerge in an archaeological dig in a downtown parking lot

By Staff

Fifty meters of the oldest stone quay of the old harbour has emerged from beneath a parking lot in downtown Reykjavík. In addition to the old quay the archaeological dig, began on May 13, has uncovered the remains of several warehouses and one of the early wooden piers.

The archaeological dig is scheduled to be finished on August 1, when construction work on luxury apartments and shopping will begin. In the meantime tourists and pedestrians can catch a glimpse of what the old harbour looked like a century ago.

The largest public works project of its time
The quay, which was constructed in 1913-1917 as the old harbour was expanded to handle growing shipping and fishing, as well as the growth of the trawling fleet, was the largest public works project in Iceland to that date.

The quay which has been uncovered is a small part of a much larger structure which stretched all the way from Ingólfsgarður-quay at the eastern opening to the harbour by Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre to Grandagarður quay, which lies beneath Grandagarður street, where Vikin Maritime Museum stands. The construction of the quay was a great leap forward for Reykjavík, which was slowly transforming from a tiny fishing village into a small capital city.

Stones for the quay were transported by railway (one of the few railroads to have been constructed in Iceland) from Öskjuhliðin hill, east of Reykjavík Airport, while gravel was transported from Skólavörðuhlíð hill, where Hallgrímskirkja church stands today.

See it before it vanishes again!
The old quay was in use for only a few decades, as in 1939 work began on a larger, concrete quay. The old quay was therefore slowly swallowed by the forward march of progress, disappearing under new warehouses, docks and parking lots. On August 1 the quay is then set to disappear again as construction work starts at the site.

Read more: Archaeologists discover the remains of a Viking era settlement in Reykjavík

The Icelandic National Broadcasting Service, RÚV, reports that The Cultural Heritage Agency is currently reviewing whether and how the quay could be preserved for future generations to glimpse this small but important piece of Reykjavík history.

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