ABSTRACT

Even though societies in Scandinavia were essentially provincial at the time Iceland was colonised, the expansion of royal aristocracy had started to alter previous social structures. In Norway this resulted in some local chieftains relocating to Iceland, sometimes via the British Isles, bringing along their household members and slaves. Iceland came under the control of a handful of families of privileged Norwegian descent who developed an administrative structure and established the country’s first national assembly. The legal and administrative systems in early Iceland were largely based on memories of Scandinavian traditions, which rested greatly on kinship and the locations of ancestral gravemounds marking the boundaries of family lands. For early Icelanders these physical markers were absent and alternative means had to be employed.