History and Language
According to historical tradition and existing written sources, the Norwegian Ingólfur Arnarson and his crew were the first permanent settlers in Iceland. They are said to have built their homestead in Reykjavík around 870 AD. Archaeological finds confirm that the first settlements in the country were around this time, and the oldest remnants are found in Reykjavík city centre as can be seen in the Reykjavík City Museum's Settlement Exhibition on location. As the story goes, Ingólfur settled in the bay after throwing his chieftain's pillars overboard, asking the gods to direct him to good farmland and vowed to raise a farm where the pillars washed ashore.1 These pillars can be seen in the City's coat of arms, and this old legend of the settlement, whether it is fact or fiction, is an inherent part of Reykjavík's image and identity. In all probability the place was chosen for its natural qualities, such as a mild climate, good moorage, geothermal water, abundant fishing grounds, good grazing land, offshore islands that could be cultivated and salmon rivers. These first settlers named the place Reykjavík (literally Smoky Bay) on account of the billowing steam rising from the area's hot springs, and in fact such hot springs provide energy to heat houses and swimming pools in modern day Reykjavík.
Reykjavík City's coat of arms rests on the story of Iceland's first settlers from the Book of Settlements. The blue background represents the ocean, with white waves and the high-seat pillars on top.
UNESCO City of Literature
Published on Jul 23, 2012