Ólafía Einarsdóttir

Ólafía Einarsdóttir (28 July 1924 – 19 December 2017) was an Icelandic archaeologist and historian, specialising in Icelandic chronology. She was the first Icelander to complete a degree in archaeology. After completing her PhD from Lund University in 1964, she taught at the University of Copenhagen and published many works about Icelandic sagas and Viking history.


Ólafía Einarsdóttir
Ólafía Einarsdóttir.jpg
Born28 July 1924
Died19 December 2017
OccupationArchaeologist; Historian
Spouse(s)Bent Fuglede
Academic background
EducationUniversity of London
Alma materLund University
ThesisStudier i kronologisk metode i tidlig islandsk historieskrivning (Studies in chronological method in early Icelandic historiography) (1964)
Academic advisorsV Gordon Childe
Academic work
DisciplineViking Studies

Early lifeEdit

Ólafía was born in Hafnafjördur, a suburb of Reykjavík, on 28 July 1924. Her parents were Einar Þorkelsson, Secretary General of the Althing, and Ólafía Guðmundsdóttir.[1] One of six children, her mother died in childbirth when Ólafía was five; soon after her father became blind.[2] She was then adopted by some friends of her mother's and raised by them.[2] She was educated at Reykjavik High School and graduated from there in 1944.[1]


Ólafía moved to London and began a degree in archaeology at the University of London, studying under V. Gordon Childe.[1] She graduated in 1948 and became the first Icelandic person to earn a degree in archaeology.[3]

After graduation she returned to Iceland and worked at the National Museum of Iceland, excavating pagan remains at the town of Brennistaði (is) in Eiðaþinghá (is). She then moved to Sweden to study for a MA in medieval history at Lund University, which she graduated from in 1951.[1] She returned to work at National Museum of Iceland as a curator, but later resigned in protest at the conservative reforms the institution was making.[2] Ólafía began her doctoral research at the Lund University where she examined Icelandic sagas as historical texts. She completed her PhD in 1964.[4]

In 1963 she began work as an assistant professor at the University of Copenhagen and held the position until her retirement.[2]


Ólafía’s research was concerned with the chronology and temporal structure of Icelandic saga literature. She recognised three different dating systems used by Ari in the Íslendingabók.[5] She was also a proponent for an earlier timing for the conversion to Christianity in Iceland.[2] Her research also encompassed the use of Latin by Icelandic writers,[6] the cult of Guðmundr Arason,[7] Archbishop Absalon,[8] and many other subjects, including the role of women.[2]


Ólafía was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Faculty of History and Philosophy at the University of Iceland in 2009.[1]


The journal Ólafía, published by the Icelandic Association of Archaeologists since 2013, is named after her.[3]

Personal lifeEdit

Ólafía was married to Bent Fuglede, a mathematician, who she met whilst on a trip to Copenhagen, Denmark.[9][2] Their son, Einar, was born in 1966. Ólafía died in Copenhagen on 19 December 2017.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Andlát: Ólafía Einarsdóttir". www.mbl.is (in Icelandic). Retrieved 2020-08-10.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Et liv er forbi: Ólafía Einarsdóttir".{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. ^ a b "Ólafía: Rit FF | Félag fornleifafræðinga". www.felagfornleifafraedinga.is. Retrieved 2020-08-10.
  4. ^ "Studier i kronologisk metode i tidlig islandsk historieskrivning – Nasjonalbiblioteket". www.nb.no. Retrieved 2020-08-10.
  5. ^ Králová, Kristýna. (2020). Fast goes the fleeting time. The miscellaneous concepts of time in different Old Norse genres and their causes. München: Herbert Utz. ISBN 978-3-8316-4826-9. OCLC 1159827294.
  6. ^ Old Norse—Icelandic literature : a critical guide. Clover, Carol J., 1940–, Lindow, John. Toronto: University of Toronto Press in association with the Medieval Academy of America. 2005. p. 199. ISBN 0-8020-3823-9. OCLC 57697158.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  7. ^ Skórzewska, Joanna A. (2011). Constructing a cult : the life and veneration of Guðmundr Arason (1161–1237) in the Icelandic written sources. Leiden: Brill. p. 252. ISBN 978-90-04-19496-0. OCLC 729754188.
  8. ^ Einarsdóttir 1924-, Ólafía (2000). "Absalon and the Norwegian civil war: Christian ideology of war and peace". Archbishop Absalon of Lund and His World: 37.
  9. ^ "Bent Fuglede | lex.dk". Dansk Biografisk Leksikon (in Danish). Retrieved 2020-08-10.

External linksEdit