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Keynote Lecture - March 27, 2010

Dr. Michele Hayeur Smith of the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology presented Out on the town in 10th century Reykajvik, a survey of jewelry dress and textiles in early Iceland


The Vikings settled Iceland in 873 AD bringing with them Scandinavian culture and cultural traits. What did these people wear and how did dress express the social and cultural identity of these Scandinavian settlers? Using burial data sets from Icelandís Viking period and recent textile finds from the site of Gilsbakki an elite farm in Western Iceland, this paper will address, among other things, the social and gender roles in Norse society expressed through body concealment and the bodyís intentional manipulation with the use of jewellery, adornment and textiles. It will also discuss experimental trials conducted on Norse oval brooch production in an attempt to shed light on the ongoing debate of local Icelandic jewellery production. This paper is based in part on preliminary research undertaken in 2008-2009 with funding from the National Science Foundation looking at issues of dress, gender and textiles.

Dr. Michèle Hayeur Smith is an archaeologist with fieldwork experience in Iceland, and North America. Her research interests are in material culture, dress, the body, and gender. Her doctoral research, conducted on jewellery, and dress from Viking Age Icelandic burials, looked at items of dress for clues about the projection of social and cultural identity. Her postdoctoral research addressed these same theoretical issues, but applied to Aboriginal populations along the Gulf of the St. Lawrence prior and after the contact period. This project was a part of the Great Lakes Research Alliance for the Study of Aboriginal Cultures (GRASAC), organized by Dr. Ruth Phillips at Carleton University. More recently she has returned to the North Atlantic and Iceland and is currently preparing a research project on gender and the production and circulation of textiles from the Viking Age to the early 19th century. This project will hopefully bring womenís lives and womenís roles in the Icelandic economy, household organization, regional politics, and culture into the forefront.