The Operation of International Trade in Iceland and Shetland (ca. 1400-1700)
OITIS is an international archaeological research project that examines the development, operation and impact of European trade during the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries in two areas in the north Atlantic - Iceland and Shetland. There, a number of trading sites emerged, from where dried fish was exported to Europe. Their understanding is significant because it allows us to increase and deepen our ideas of the nature of colonialism and the development of the practice of mercantilism in the late medieval and early modern periods. In many cases the ruins of those trading posts are still visible. Sites will be identified using historical sources and place-names, and located in the field using the normal archaeological techniques of aerial photography and field inspection of earthworks. The survey will be undertaken using differential GPS to map the sites in relationship to the local topography. Some sites will be excavated.
Both Iceland and Shetland were included in a network of hanseatic trading posts. All coastal areas accessible by boat were equipped with small trading stations, which were also easy to reach for Icelanders and Shetlanders. Those settlements consisted of enclosures, landing places and small buildings where goods were stored and the merchants could sleep during the summer. One of those is Gunnister (Shetland), where in 1582 the Hamburg merchant Simon Harriestede erected a small trading post and went there each summer for the next twenty years. The remains of that site were excavated during this project. Simon´s ship took part in the extensive marine traffic that emerged in the late middle ages between German Hansa towns and the islands in the North Atlantic.
The presence of foreign merchants had considerable cultural and economical consequences both for Iceland and Shetland. Trade in stockfish allowed economic growth for the islands that previously had only little contact with Europe. During the late middle ages both lost their peripheral status and were now a part of Europe.
Contact details: Dr. Natascha Mehler, Römisch-Germanische Kommission des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts, Frankfurt am Main (firstname.lastname@example.org)