The settlement of Iceland


The first settlers in Iceland are believed to have come ashore in Reykjavík in the late ninth century and archaeological evidence suggests that the first settlement in the country was at the heart of the city centre, a stone’s throw from Reykjavík City Lake. In the Book of Settlements, usually attributed to Ari Thorgilsson the Learned (1067–1148), Ingólfur Arnarson is named as the first settler and the legend of his high-seat pillars told.

The Book of Icelanders, also attributed to Ari, is the oldest Icelandic history book and it recounts the country’s history from the time of settlement to the third or fourth decade of the 12th century, when the book was written. These texts are written in Icelandic even though it was customary at the time to write in Latin, and so from the very beginning Icelandic literature was written in the national language.

Icelanders wrote considerably more in their own tongue in the Middle Ages than their neighbours did, and the preserved medieval manuscripts are only a fraction of the texts produced in the country at the time. 

See further on the Reykjavík Settlement Exibition’s website


Photo: Saga Íslands. By Samúel Eggertsson (Ísafoldarprentsmiðja: 1930)