School of History, Welsh History and Archaeology

Staff Profile of Dr Kristján Ahronson

Dr Kristján Ahronson
Dr Kristján Ahronson
Lecturer in Archaeology
+44 (0)1248 383251
Room T13, Main Arts

Biography and research areas

Dr Ahronson is a specialist in the later prehistoric and early historic archaeology of Europe and North America, with fundamental interests in Celtic and medieval studies, human-environmental interactions, histories of archaeological thought and inter-disciplinary theory. In Autumn 2010, he held the Visiting Professorship in Celtic Archaeology at the University of Toronto. Working with colleagues in the College of Natural Sciences and Natural Resources Wales as well as with the Vice-Chancellor’s Office, Dr Ahronson has created and organises Bangor’s Inter-Discipline Forum.

Inter-Discipline Forum

DR MEAVE LEAKEY ‘Understanding our ancestors: The multidisciplinary way’ (Gwener 2 Mai / Friday 2 May 6:15PM) : FFORWM RHWNG DISGYBLAETHAU / INTER-DISCIPLINE FORUM



Location: Lecture Room 4, Main Arts building, Prifysgol Bangor University

Date: 2 Mai / 2 May

‘Understanding our ancestors: The multidisciplinary way’

Dr Meave Leakey (Sefydliad Turkana Basin, Cenia / Turkana Basin Institute, Kenya)

CROESO / WELCOME: Yr Athro / Prof John Hughes (Is-Ganghellor / Vice-Chancellor)

TRAFODWYR / DISCUSSANTS: Yr Athro / Prof David Shepherd (Dirprwy i’r Is-Ganghellor / Deputy Vice-Chancellor) & Dr Jim Latham (Cyfoeth Naturiol Cymru / Natural Resources Wales)

Click here for more information.

Areas of teaching and supervision

Dr Ahronson teaches and supervises topics in the general areas of archaeology and Celtic studies. More specifically, his undergraduate and postgraduate teaching explores archaeological theory and method, Atlantic archaeology, palaeoecology, the history of archaeology (especially in the nineteenth century), and Celtic studies. Dr Ahronson’s approach is primarily thematic, and his modules include, for instance, …


The role of people in bringing about or contributing to environmental change – and how human societies adapt to that change – is a high profile topic, highlighted by recent inter-governmental meetings in Copenhagen and Cancun. Read course abstract.

Dr Ahronson teaches on single honours and joint honours archaeology courses as well as on courses with an element of archaeology, such as the ‘with archaeology’ course. Individual modules include the first-year introductory module Archaeology – Principles and Techniques as well as higher year modules in Atlantic Archaeology, New World Archaeology, Archaeology and Environmental Change, and Archaeology and the World.

Dr Ahronson teaches on the MA in Celtic Archaeology course and the MA in Medieval Studies course as well as acting as Supervisor for Master’s and Doctoral courses. He is one of the conveners for the Taught MA module in Theory and Interpretation in Celtic Archaeology.

Phd Supervision
Dr Ahronson supervises topics in the general areas of archaeology and Celtic studies, with specialist focus upon later prehistoric and early historic northwest Europe and North America (including the Viking-Age north Atlantic). More specifically, he is particularly interested in proposals that explore questions of how people relate to their environments, and that take account of the origins of our ideas (i.e. the history of archaeological thought). Palaeoecological topics could include, for instance, questions surrounding the application of tephrochronology in Iceland and the role that early medieval societies played in the dramatic loss of the island’s forests, or consideration of the relationship between wild rice and human occupation of lake margins in eastern Canada. More reflective anthropological approaches are also invited, and could include consideration of artefact biography and the continuing significance of certain archaeological objects for European and New World peoples today. Dr Ahronson advocates the importance of inter-disciplinary research, and warmly welcomes proposals that bump against or cross disciplinary boundaries, be they, for example, studies of Scandinavian place-names in the British and Irish islands, investigations of early medieval sculpture using complex network methodologies, consideration of the role of environmental drivers for the adoption of agriculture on a world-wide scale, or projects at the interface of archaeology and literature.

Current research

Human-environmental interactions; archaeology and Celtic studies; Viking-Age Iceland and Britain and Ireland; later prehistoric and early historic NW Europe and NE North America; tephrochronology; nineteenth-century scholarship; archaeological and ethnological collections; systems theory and archaeology.

Active Field Interests:

  • Seljaland site, Vestur-Eyjafjallasveit, southern Iceland [early medieval; human-environmental interactions]
  • Meath sites, Ottawa Valley, eastern Ontario, Canada [multi-period]



In Press. Into the Ocean: Vikings, Irish and Environmental Change in Iceland and the North. University of Toronto Press: Toronto.

2007. Viking-Age Communities: Pap-names and Papar in the Hebridean Islands. Oxford.

Articles and Book Chapters

In Press. Seljaland: Archaeology, palaeoecology and tephrochronology. In G Larsen & J Eiríksson (eds) Holocene Tephrochronology Applications in South Iceland: QRA Field Meeting 2012

2013. (with L A H Ahronson) Archaeoleg a llenyddiaeth tiroed dirgel y gorllewin / Archaeology and literature of mysterious western lands. Y Traethodydd 168: 705 (April 2013), 97–119

2011. Old World Prehistory and early Canadian archaeology. Canadian Journal of Archaeology 35, 1–17

2010. (with T M Charles-Edwards) Prehistoric Annals and early medieval monasticism: Daniel Wilson, James Young Simpson and their cave sites. Antiquaries Journal 90, 455–66. (Free downloadable PDF of article. (Copyright © The Society of Antiquaries of London 2010))

2006. (with W Gillies and F Hunter) Early Christian activity at Scottish cave sites. Church Archaeology 7/8/9, 123–5

2004. The crosses of Columban Iceland: A survey of preliminary research. In S Lewis-Simpson (ed) Vínland Revisited: The Norse World at the Turn of the First Millennium. Selected Papers from the Viking Millennium International Symposium, 15–24 September 2000, Newfoundland and Labrador, St John’s, Newfoundland, 75–82

2003. (collected and edited) Atlantic Peoples between Fire, Ice, River and Sea. Past Environments in Southern Iceland. Published as a collection of articles in Northern Studies 37, 49–111

–. One North Atlantic cave settlement: Preliminary archaeological and environmental investigations at Seljaland, southern Iceland. In Atlantic Peoples, 53–70

–. (with K T Smith) Dating the cave? The preliminary tephra stratigraphy at Kverkin, Seljaland. In Atlantic Peoples, 71–80

2002. Testing the evidence for northernmost North Atlantic papar: A cave site in southern Iceland. In B Crawford (ed), The Papar in the North Atlantic: Environment and History. Proceedings of the St Andrews Dark Age Conference, St Andrews, 107–120

–. Review of O Owen and M Dalland, Scar. A Viking Boat Burial on Sanday, Orkney. Scottish Historical Review 81, 258

2001. ‘Hamarinn’ frá Fossi: Kristinn norrænn kross með keltneskum svip / The Foss ‘hammer’: A Celtic-influenced Norse cross from Viking-Age southern Iceland. Árbók Hins Íslenzka Fornleifafélags 1999, 185–9

2000. Further evidence for a Columban Iceland: Preliminary results of recent work. Norwegian Archaeological Review 33:2, 117–24


Recent Media Coverage

Bangor archaeology research on early Iceland attracts international attention
Publication Date: 21/01/2011

Archaeological and palaeoecological discoveries demonstrate that Iceland was inhabited around AD800 – that’s 70 years before the traditional dating of its Viking settlement. These earliest people in Iceland appear related to medieval Irish monastic communities in Atlantic Scotland. Dr Kristjan Ahronson of Prifysgol Bangor University’s School of History, Welsh History and Archaeology made the discoveries, which were covered by Canadian Radio’s flagship evening current-affairs programme “As It Happens”. This interview was broadcast across Canada on CBC Radio and in the United States on its National Public Radio service. Ahronson’s team used tephrochronology, which is a technique based on airfall deposits from volcanic eruptions (or, tephra), to date the site and to explore records of human-environmental interactions and climate change in early Iceland.

Listen to the interview online at Go to the episode for Tuesday January 11th, 2011 and click on the link to Part 3. Dr Ahronson’s interview starts at 18:54.



Research Seminar

Inter-Discipline Forum

Grasping the fruits of inter-disciplinary dialogue, the Inter-Discipline Forum challenges us to reflect upon and integrate the work of archaeologists, environmental and physical scientists, literature and language scholars, psychologists, anthropologists, historians, philosophers, creative artists and others. The Forum sets individual studies in the human and natural sciences alongside each other, and thus seeks to foster fresh perspectives, methodological innovation and new ideas surrounding study of our physical environments, the past and what it is to be human. Each 30-minute presentation shall be both accessible and specialist, and all are warmly welcome from within and beyond the University.

15 March 2013

Prof Henry Lamb
(Geography and Earth Sciences, Aberystwyth)
‘Environmental drivers of human evolution: What can we learn from long continental core records?’

Dr Paul Butler
(Ocean Sciences)
‘Oceans, volcanoes and climate – an Atlantic mollusc helps us answer the big questions’

DISCUSSANT: Prof Jerry Hunter (Welsh)

Tea & Coffee from 3:00PM

ROOM G1 (Ground Floor),Main Arts Building
Prifysgol Bangor University

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