I culled this photo from the Þjóðminjasafn (National Museum of Iceland) web site. It is the oldest photo of Icelandic life in the museum's possession, dating back to 1858.
The structure in the backround is a connected pair of classic turf houses which were usually half-dug into the earth, built up on the sides with round stones and topped with turf-covered timber. These houses were two-storied, and anyone who's read Independent People (Sjálfstætt fólk) by Halldór Laxness with recall that a family's sheep were often housed in the basement in the winter, adding a methane-y warmth to the living quarters above. Smelly but ingenious...
There are quite a few preserved turf house farmsteads open to the public throughout Iceland. One of the best that I've been to is the Skógar Folk Museum near Skógafoss (pictured below) in the beautiful south of Iceland.
Posted by Iceland Eyes on April 12, 2005