All the early settlements in Iceland were hidden
Except for the very first settlement which I described here.
Before you delve into this please read this short page on how L'Anse aux Meadows in the New World was hidden.
Since almost allmost all the men left to trade, fish or hunt for months at a time the women and children were left alone in the settlements. They were very vulnerable to foreign invaders who would wait until the Viking men were gone before they would attack. How we would trap and kill them
The first line of defense was for the Icelandic men to never tell anyone where they were from. If pressed they would say they were from Norway. If pressed further they would use the name of a large city in Norway and say they were from a town near it. Another deterrent was to name the island 'Iceland' so that nobody would ever want to come to the island in the first place. We were so effective at keeping Iceland settlements secret that nobody realizes that Iceland was occupied long before 800 AD.* I can easily prove this with radiocarbon and other forms of dating of objects that can found in some of the older settlements that I can recall from memory. In fact there should be some caves near Dalvik with the charred remains of bones that can be dated to around 600 AD.
The women were in total charge of the defense of Iceland which was only logical since they had to defend it when the men were away being Vikings. I was in charge of the defense of the entire island when I was a woman in about ~1200 AD and I have absolutely no idea why they gave me the job. Women know the force of a man first hand. Men don't though. Each man usually think that they are the most powerful man around and that all other men are incapable or inept. Women know better than to think such foolish thoughts and know exactly what men are capable of. Women also know what is needed to stop a man in any situation and what will prevent them from coming back. We know what the other women and each distinct child is capable of doing in defense of their home..
The best defense was to make it possible to completely hide each settlements. That is the main reason none of the early settlements faced the open ocean to the south or east and in fact most of them were located in a valley far up a long fjord.
There was almost always a low hill located between the valley and the entrance to the fjord. From the hill, where a lookout was stationed, a person could often see any approaching ship at least 30 Km. away. Usually that was also hours before the approaching ship could see any of our ships in the harbor. (They only came to raid when the Viking men were gone and there were only small ships and boats left to hide.) The pegs that were in the rocks which the ships were tied to would be removed. (See missing Iceland.) The masts of any large ships would be removed. Then they along with the cross beams would be used as rollers to so all large ships would then be literally rolled into the valley. The boats hidden in depressions or behind large rocks and usually hidden under rapidly cut sod. If there was not enough time then rocks would be put in the ships and they would be temporarily sunk in deep water.
Most of the homes were built so they could not be seen. (Now that I have pointed this out it is so evident that you won't be able to look at Viking settlement the same.) In most of the reconstructed villages you can see how easy it would be to hide the houses since they were partially underground.
By the time a ship got to the settlement it would appear that the valley was completely unoccupied with nothing in it but sod, rocks and perhaps an old wall or two indicating that it had been abandoned for many years. Each town could completely disappear in an hour and a half.
It's easy to see the locations of old settlements on maps and combine that with the common knowledge about sod homes of early Iceland to see just how easy it was to hide everything. However, the next part of this you will just have to take my word for as it cannot be backed up by such strong proof. Once they finished hiding the settlement most of the women and large children (that included me in one of at least four lifetimes in Iceland) would go into the six homes nearest the water. There we would use a special paste made of finely ground brown stone (Ochra) and a vegetable binder to darken our skin. We would then put special furs (with horns) over our heads to hide our light color hair.
If the ships landed then they would send a small scouting patrol into the valley. After they got past the first hidden homes, out from 'holes in the ground' would come boiling about 80 'savage Amazon women' with stone spears who would kill them. Fires would be started and the women would pretend to eat the bodies of the fallen men. Strangely I often recall memories minor aspects and one was of two sisters who had put together a great act where they would pretend to fight over the liver of one of the invaders.
The rest of the invader ships always sailed away and they never came back. There were lots of variation on the theme of 'homeland defense' but they all had in common an early warning system and the ability to quickly hide the settlement.
Even today most of the older towns in Iceland seem to be senselessly far from the ideal location for anything except for hiding them. Just compare the location of the old Iceland ports with ports in other countries and you will see this clearly.
An excellent example is Akureyri which is a very old and the third largest city in Iceland. Even though it took a day and a half sailing to even get to the ocean (and impossible with a fair north wind) it was still favored as a port since it was in a very safe location. Lookouts were hidden in the two places indicated on the map where they could see any ships from far away. (I never went up on that mountain so I would not know where the ruins of the lookout station are.) The protrusion of land at Hjalteyri blocked the view of Akureyri from further out. By the time marauders ever got as far as Hjalteyri we would have hidden the settlement. The Viking ships were always kept up the river where they could not be seen from Hjalteyri.
Half way between Hjalteyri and Akureyri looks like a much better place for a settlement doesn't it? That is why we did not use it and left it as a ruse. It was left pristine and unoccupied. Marauders would go as far as that area and they could see to Akureyri and tell it looked too forbidding to be populated and then just turn and leave. They thought that if anyone lived in that fjord they would not live that far from the ocean. Since they found no evidence of people farther out they would assumed that the rest of the fjord was unoccupied. They would usually just turn around and leave. The fact that they came in sailing ships that could not sail into the wind and could not be rowed made them fear they would get caught in a north wind and not be able to get out of the fjord only added to their resolve to turn around and leave as soon as possible.
The city of Akureyri is in a very poor location with almost no flat land. Anybody who builds there almost has to make their own land and most of the land there has been made by dredging.
Anyone who looks at this map of the eleventh century Mosfell settlement, near the capital of Iceland, Reykjavik, can see how the towns were once hidden. First notice that the buildings were not located very near the ocean but back in the valley where they could not be seen by any approaching ships.
In this photograph you can see how the low ridge hid the settlement in Mosfell valley. The low islands in the distance would hide them as they moved the boats up into the valley using the river. Mosfell had two other things going for it as well. It and of course Reykjavik (which you can see in the distance) had the best early warning system of any place in Iceland.
Behind those two communities there is a ridge located about fifteen Km away. From it you can see approaching ships from the South East. A thousand years ago when most of the invading marauders came from England (which includes Wales, Ireland, Scotland and most of the rest of the world) we used to say that from the ridge 'you could see half way to England'. There were observers on that ridge 24/7 and they had trained dogs that would to take messages to Reykjavik in less than an hour. It would still take invaders at least one whole day to round the point at Keflavik about 50 Km to the west and south. Then it took another half day before they could get to the settlements. (The foundations of the two buildings near the top of the ridge may be intact and that would make a good archeology project for some University student.)
By the time any ship reached the settlements not only would it be hidden but a lot of the men who were farmers from inland would have arrived to help the women at the settlements. That group would be hidden nearby armed and waiting behind hills in case the marauders discovered Mosfell.
Then later, about the 1100's the Moslem slavers came with dogs that could find anyone who was hiding. Two villages disappeared before we caught on to them. Then they started coming in force. They must have tortured those that they took and found out where most of the Iceland population was since they headed straight to the Reykjavik area. From then on we had to leave the Reykjavik area. The population would sail to the fjords to the north along the coast and be hidden long before the slavers would even round the point near Keflavik. When the slavers landed they would find nothing but abandoned villages so they would go looking for the Reykjavik Icelanders.
Of course they would check the fjords. Icelanders by this time would be arriving from all over the island. We would take the offensive and have a couple of fast rowers lead them into the narrowest fjord with the steepest walls. By then half of the island farmers would have arrived from inland and from high up we would all cause huge avalanches of rocks, throw large boulders, burning branches of trees and flaming pots of whale oil on to their ships. The rocks would go right through the ships and make them sink but probably the best was the burning whale oil with lots of finger length strips of whale blubber. The blubber would stick like napalm to the marauders but it would burn a long time.
[The strips of blubber firghtened them so much that one little burning piece made them run around their ship screaming like they were crazy. I did not realize it until just now but I'm certain they thought that they were strips of pork. No wonder they were so effective since contact with one piece would keep them from getting into paradise! It's amazing how a little knowlege about a religion changes a persons perspective about an event.]
The ships were dragged up by our men and all the metal was removed. Even the chains that they were going to use on us were reworked into tools and I distinctly recall that many of the links were reworked like this:
The ships should still be at the bottom of those fjords and are probably pretty well preserved because of the cold water.
We pulled no punches with those who came to enslave our people.**
For some reason the slavers never expected us to fight them with any sort of an organized defense. All the rest of Europe just lived in fear of the slavers and did not organize against them.*** For so long the slavers had put the Europeans in fear that they would just ignore their raids and run away when they came to their villages (or fight them one on one to defeat when they were cornered). Because of this mentality of the rest of Europe the slavers never took into account even the possibility of an organized intelligent attack on them being made by us. One on one the slavers were the most ruthless warriors so we simply avoided falling to their level of one on one combat. Because of our unified defense our part of Iceland never knew defeat at their hands.
The defense network was so good that it appears the only raids of slavers that were successful occurred much later on in 1627 but that raid was not on the mainland. That is when the Barbary pirates invaded Vestmannaeyjar, the Westman Islands off the south coast. (Heimaey Island on the lower part of the map) They enslaved 300-400 Icelanders but they were probably only successful then because those islands are to far away to be part of the 'early warning system' that protected the rest of Iceland (and mainly the Reykjavik coast).
*The common thought is that the first colonies on Iceland were established in the 800's but I don't understand why people take this date as fact. There is only one reference to this date and it was first written down at least 300 years later. Too much credence has been given that date. Iceland was just a secret before then.
The 800's is only when the hoards of Scandinavians came from Norway to get away from the wars in Europe. The new arrivals did not want to learn how to hide their settlements. That is when the secret got out that Iceland was populated.
However, the 800's is when the population also got large enough to defend the island so the settlements no longer needed to be hidden. A change in thinking occurred then. The men formed militia and so roads were also built (which could not be hidden) in order to transport those men along the coast to defend Iceland's settlements from invaders.
**These are from my memories of this life about 1200 AD. Yes they had slave raids in Iceland but we never told other countries about them. We kept lots of secrets and these attacks were some of them. I went to Akureyri one spring to help them set up better defenses and that is why I know about that place. My family was put in charge of all the defenses of Iceland as part of having to be the leader of the Althing. Mainly it was because I could understand the way the slavers thought. Although it sometimes bothered others, one of my gifts is that I can understand how just about anyone thinks (without it affecting me in the least). I guess it bothers others because they think that I am the same as the monsters I understood but I only understood them because nobody else could. Somebody had to second guess the slavers or else everyone on Iceland would have been taken captive within 50 years. It was easy to stop them once I knew how they thought.
By then the location of Akureyri had become common knowledge. Since we could not hide that settlement any longer we had to figure out a new defense for it. So we cut logs at angles and put them just under the water level to peirce their ships. When the slavers came we had to put most possessions in the Viking ships and sink them in deep water where they could not be located by the slavers. I think my idea was to make a 'fortress' on the side of the hill above it with only five boys in it. When the invaders came the five boys in the fort would yell at them and throw rocks making challenges. The invaders would think all the women and children of the town were there so they would come charging up the hill. Then the five boys rode away on horses right before the slavers got to the fort. The slavers would take over the fort which had no back on it so it was not even a fort. Since each person they caught was their personal property they would leave their ships unattended to go as fast as possible to where they thought Icelanders were hiding. They would all run up the hill and their ships would be left unguarded. While they were in the fake fort all the women and children of Akureyri would emerge from hiding places and caves down below and sail off in the slavers own ships leaving them stranded. They and the boys on horses would go gather about a thousand Viking men who were inland farmers who would come back and kill the slavers. I think this was at Akureyri that we built the 'great fort' but locations blur together. In any case it was on that side of the island and it worked so well that we used fake forts in at least two other locations and those worked too. HERE IS ONE OF THE FORTS
Later we would put the fake forts almost at the edge of a cliff. Then we would make fires right inside the wall. We would have the boys throw water on the fires to make steam. When the slavers went running into the fort they would run through the steam and right off a 60 meter cliff. Over 100 fell to their death once as the Viking boys rode off and the rest of the women and children sail away in the slavers ships. Once they liberated 20 Orkney women who had been taken slave on their way to Iceland. They told us that the Moslems ate their babies and killed all their children in front of them. These Orkney women had no reason at all to lie to us.
By the way it was no fun being the leader of the Althing since I had to sign my name to everything and I knew I was really signing for the whole island's population. Then someone would violate it or something would go wrong often and I'd feel responsible. If I didn't sign my name then they would vote and have somebody else sign my name. I wonder if they still allow the Althing to sign the name of the leader if he gets out voted.
***Fear and terror were the slavers greatest weapons and they made certain that everyone feared them. Fear works for most races except Scandinavians. Most races have as their greatest enemy other people so fear makes them panic and automatically run away so they can survive longer. However, Scandinavians have the emotion of fear largely breed out of us since our greatest enemy is the weather and not other people. Running away would drive us Scandinavians senselessly into the cold where we would perish from harsh weather. Over time our genetics have actually been modified so that we are not susceptible to being overwhelmed by fear. For survival the logic part of our brains have been changed. A greater part of our brain seems to be devoted to thinking ahead and organizing it better than other western races. A different change in the brain structure causes the automatic integration of this concern about the future into every single thought we have. It makes very responsible people.
On land and especially on the sea it has always been the cool headed Scandanvian that survives and not those other races. As such we make great responsible ships captains who almost never make mistakes. In Norway the Nazis found out the hard way that terror did not work at all on it's citizens who made every gain of theirs a bloody drawn out fight. Everything the Nazi's tried made the Norwegian resistance even worse. The invasion I am pretty certain ended up costing the Nazis far more than ever gained.
In 1942 Germany installed
a puppet government in Norway under National Union leader Vidkun Quisling.
However, resistance to the Germans and to the puppet regime was widespread.
As the Norwegian opposition became more organized, general strikes and
other forms of passive resistance gave way to large-scale industrial sabotage
and espionage on behalf of the Allied Powers. Germany’s response,
which included declarations of martial law and death sentences for conspirators,
did little to contain the resistance.
The slavers that came had actions that were almost as predictable as the weather. We simply took this into account and treated their threat similar to the way that we treated the weather.
Iv 'e noticed that this seems to be a true genetic trait of Scandinavians and not a learned behavior. Maybe three times as much of our brains are devoted to the art of planning ahead. It's also in every thought that we had. It's a dominate set of gene's that seems to remain in control even when diluted 3/4 with the genes of most other races.
My genetics in this life must be less than one forth Scandinavian since I often have found myself driving around my car with less than 1/4 tank of gas.
© 2005 John Pini