ICELAND'S GEOGRAPHICAL HISTORY: CONCEPTS OF ICELAND ITS NATURAL HISTORY AND RESEARCH BEFORE AND AFTER SETTLEMENT
PUBLISHED IN ICELANDIC BY THE LITERARY SOCIETY, REYKJAVIK, 1892
TRANSLATION BY SUZANNE CARLSON
Introduction While surfing Google digital books or works in Icelandic, I stumbled on this book on the geographical history of Iceland. The title of the first chapter intrigued me, "History of Iceland before Settlement, the Account of Pytheas." The author, Thorvaldur Thoroddsen, was a late nineteenth century geologist who presented a review of geography woven seamlessly into the history of Iceland, beginning with an analysis of the mystical island of Thule in the unknown reaches of the northern sea. I hope you enjoy this northern voyage to the mare congelaturn, which throbs like a "sea lung."
CHAPTER I [EXCERPT]. HISTORY OF ICELAND BEFORE SETTLEMENT: THE ACCOUNT OF PYTHEAS
Few thought it likely that any people could have inhabited Iceland before the Irish in the eighth century, nor had they found man-made evidence or confirmation of earlier human contact. Throughout Europe and America, evidence has been found of Neolithic people in earlier cultural levels. Whether on islands or elsewhere, research certainly shows that savages had lived in Northern Europe, Iceland had, no doubt, been severed from the continent long before Northern Europe had been settled by human clans during the Stone Age and long after. Using small boats poorly suited for the open ocean, they were not able to endure heavy seas; they followed the coasts, and did not risk the open ocean. Later, even the Phoenicians were lost if they could not see land, and dared not venture far from the coast.
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ICELAND'S GEOGRAPHICAL HISTORYTranslation by Suzanne Carlson, NEARA Journal Vol.45 No.1 Summer 2011