Insects, activity areas and turf buildings’ interiors: an ethno-archaeoentomological case study from 19th to early 20th-century Þverá, northeast Iceland

Veronique Forbes (Corresponding Author), Karen Milek

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4 Citations (Scopus)


This paper presents the results of an investigation of insect remains preserved in the floors of 19th- and early 20th-century turf buildings. Its aim is to test the potential and limitations of archaeoentomology as a basis for the reconstruction of indoor environments and activities on archaeological sites. The study focuses on the site of Þverá, in northeast Iceland, where previous ethnoarchaeological and geoarchaeological work enabled a detailed understanding of floor formation processes and the cultural practices that took place inside the buildings. Descriptive and multivariate statistics were employed to investigate the formation processes of archaeoentomological assemblages in floors and the extent to which insect faunas can be indicative of functional areas or of the presence of particular materials. The results identify subtle variations between the synanthropic communities and ectoparasites recovered from human living quarters, storage areas and animal stalls, but suggest that it would be difficult to identify a room’s function solely on the basis of entomological evidence. Outdoor insects are likely to have become incorporated into floor layers as a result of their transport with hay, turf, peat and water, but as these can be collected from similar environments, it would be difficult to distinguish the entomological signatures for these resources. The insect assemblages from Þverá can be compared confidently
with insect faunas preserved in archaeological floor layers from turf buildings and highlight the dangers of uncritical interpretation of entomological data.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)195-215
Number of pages22
JournalQuaternary International
Early online date30 Oct 2013
Publication statusPublished - 18 Aug 2014



  • archaeoentomology
  • turf buildings
  • floor formation processes
  • Icelandic archaeology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology

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