Gásir Medieval Market


Gásir is located on the west side of Eyjafjördur and after always talking about it on the tours last weekend we finally decided to visit the area. In the middle ages this used to be the main trading post in Northern Iceland and is mentioned in several sagas and legends, first records are from 1163. Foreign traders came to Gásir with their goods and it was not only a trading point but also a major transit point for people coming to or leaving Iceland. Foreign merchants came especially from Norway and the norwegians actually build a Church so that it could be seen from the fjord right away. This Church was more of a symbol though and not used by the icelandic people. Archeological digging has shown how important Gásir must have been in that time for the North of Iceland. The first time archeologists looked at this area was in 1907 and they completely uncovered one of the trading booth. Extensive digging was done between 2001 and 2006 by the icelandic Institute of Archeology. This is when they found the remains of the Church and several more booths from the trading camp site.

The trading camp at Gásir was seasonal and no evidence has been found that would suggest people lived there year round. It is much more likely that the camp was set up over the summer and then taken down over the winter months. The booths where build a little into the earth with tents made out of canvas or animal hides. The archeological digging showed that some of these were connected by narrow passages and almost all contained a fire place as well.

Gásir is last mentioned in records in the 14th century and it is not clearly what happened to stop trading there but sand bars  forming at the mouth of the river Hörgá, silting up of the harbour could have played a role. It is clear that in the 16th century trading started up in Akureyri but what happened to Gásir in the 15th century is unclear.

Every year in mid-July there is a medieval market set up in Gásir to show how the people lived there and how it might have looked. It was a lot of fun to visit and the area is really beautiful.


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