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What was your original face?

The standing stone at Hasle

Prehistoric Norway Posted on Mon, March 10, 2008 20:00:54

Tjølling in Larvik has several prehistoric sites. On road 303 between Larvik and Sandefjord, about 500 meters after the takeoff to Ula, on the north side of the road some 50-100 meters out in an open field stands Hasle-steinen. About 4,8 meter above ground it is one of the larger standing stones in Norway.
Blog ImageÅnund (11 years and about 135cm) and the stone, november 4th 2007.

Placed at the highest point in a terrain that slopes towards Indre Viksfjord in the southwest and towards Hemskilen and the Istre-Syrist river in the north-east. The placement a few meters north of the absolute top can be explained by the fact that when the sealevel was higher (about 5 meters 500CE), the wind and waves on the the Viksfjord-side saved a bigger accumulation of matter to the south of the stone.

If the stone was raised as early as 200-400 BCE, there was a narrow isthmus, from the stone it was 50 meters to the beach of Hemskilen and about 150 meters to the sea at Viksfjord. It has been suggested that the stone was raised as a sign that boats could be dragged over land there.

Blog ImageChristian Olavius Zeuthen (1812-1890) drawing from 1845 (p. 191 Viking vol LXVIII, 2005).

A local tradition links the stone to the first Vestfold king, Halfdan Kvitbein (or Hvitbein, i.e. Halvdan Whitebone), that may have lived up to the mid-700. According to Snorre Sturlasson he was buried (“hauglagt“) in Skiringssal at Skjæreid. That the eid (i.e. isthmus) in Skjæreid is the the istmus were the stone stands is unlikely.

have been several burialsites close by, even another standing stone (that was moved and parts of it used as a bridge over a brook on the farm). 10 to 15
meters from the stone, N. Nicolaysen found in the 1860-ies, a large
flat stone that the local farmer called the giants grave. This may be
one of the two flat stones that a later farmer, Hans A. Hasle found
when digging in may 1913, close to the standing stone. These flat stones was placed upon smaller stones, and there was a circle of smaller stones around (diameter 3 meter).

Blog ImagePhoto of professor Gabriel Gustavson (Vestfold oldtidsminner p. 517).

Doctor Arent Augestad, wrote down a story in 1903 that he had heard
from an 80 year old woman of Hasle farm. She had heard it in her youth
from an old woman (probably Sibille Eriksdatter, that died in 1847).
Sibille once came from town with her child and heard noices in the
wood, she thought it was her husband trying to scare her. They were
both young and she was not scared. Then a large darkclad man runs
towards the stone. Around the stone were many people, and the man flew
into the crowd and caused great alarm, and then everything was gone.
Sibilly still wasn’t scared, but when she came home it took a long time
before the could tell anyone what she had seen – wrote doctor Augestad.
(Source: Tjølling bygdebok, 1974, vol. 1 p. 131)

Blog ImageFrom Professor Gabriel Gustavsons Norges oldtid p.144 fig. 596 (Oslo 1906).

Stonecircles at Hunn 1

Prehistoric Norway Posted on Tue, July 24, 2007 19:42:58

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We came from the north (afternoon 20th july 2007), and may have chosen a more than necessary complicated approach to the site(s) at Hunn. Anyway, drive over Glomma at Sarpsborg, take road no 111 towards Fredrikstad, after a few hundred meters take the road (to the left) to Borge church, this road meets road no 110 (Oldtidsveien) after a few kilometers (at Borge school), take to the left again and you’ll soon be there. There are two parking lots, the rings are closest to the second.

There are 3 areas of interest at Hunn. The stonerings are the easternmost of them. I’ll cite the english text from the information-board:

On the slope in front of you, you see one of the biggest and most magnificient clusters of stone rings in Norway. There are in all nine big rings of upright stones. Moreover, there are a number of burial cairns and circular cromlechs. Each ring consists of 12, 13 or 15 stones. In earlier times it was assumed that trials had been held in such sites, the defendant standing in the middle, and the judges seated around, one on each stone. Archeological research, however, has proved the ring sites to be burialgrounds, probably from the Pre-Roman Iron Age (500 BC – AD). Apart from some charcoal and burned bones, nothing has been found in the rings, which clearly identifies them as fire graves, where the deceased had got elaborately shaped monuments – instead of equipment and gifts in their graves…

The norwegian text elaborates a bit. Some of the rings and cairns were excavated in 1950-53, and several fallen stones were raised. The stones in the rings were connected with packed stones. In the centre of some the rings were found a large flat stone or a “package” of stones. (C-14-datings of charcoal from a similar stonering in the middle site at Hunn dates it prior to, or between 520-280 BC.) The cairns seems to be younger, six stone-pearls and two bronze-buckles dated viking-age (800-1050) were found in two of them. In the 1970-ies a few rockcarvings were found in the wood to the east close to this site.

This is from the information-board (its a bit dirty and the afternoon sunlight wasn’t exactly making it any easier) and shows a photo and drawing from the excavations:
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All the stonecircles seen from the bottom of the slope:

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Several more pictures in this Picasa-album.

Archeology at Hunn (in norwegian).

Aerial view (click the Kart-button to view map).

Egge, Steinkjer

Prehistoric Norway Posted on Mon, May 28, 2007 13:56:42

From the south, drive through the center of Steinkjer (E6) and the sign to Egge will soon show up.

Egge is an area with several burial remains (33 in all) spread along the ridge (Eggevammen). Mainly mounds, but also 6 wide (diameter 18-29 m.) and lowlying stone-circles.
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In the cemetry stands this 2+ meter high stone:

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Helge burial site, Steinkjer

Prehistoric Norway Posted on Mon, May 28, 2007 13:29:36

Take road 762 towards Ogndal from the center of Steinkjer, after about 2,5 km follow the sign to Gravfelt 1,5 km. The site is located in a residental area, but has enough space. There are 2 large standing stones, each about 5 meters tall. One stonecircle with a center stone. Also large burial mounds.
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Behind the standing stone are the stone-circle.

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The public library in Steinkjer has an aerial photo of the area taken in 1960.

When you’re first out driving a visit to Bølareinen is higly recommended. Drive back to road 762 and continue north some hundred meters, ’till you reach road 763, follow this about 25 kilometers.

Stone circle in Steinkjer

Prehistoric Norway Posted on Thu, May 24, 2007 21:12:37

Placed in the garden of the Tingvoll Park Hotell in Steinkjer the remains of this stone circle consists of 38 stones (of originally probably 45).
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It’s 9 meters at the widest, and must originally have been about 40 meters long.

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The area once sported other stone circles, 3 standing stones and several burialmounds according to a map drawn in 1816 by L.D. Klüwer (published in Klüwers Norsk mindesmerker 1823, and in the 2 works mentioned under).
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The stones painted by Jac. Pedersen in 1821:

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Fornminner og oldsaker i Steinkjer kommune
/ Gunnar Groven
Steinkjer : Steinkjer kommune, 1992. – 36 s.

Det var en gang : funn og fornminner i Egge

Steinkjer : Egge historielag, 1992. – 83 s.

Vestfold prehistory

Prehistoric Norway Posted on Sun, January 07, 2007 17:15:35

The last few weeks I´ve been reading about archeology in Vestfold-county, starting with a classic title from 1943, Vestfolds oldtidsminner (i.e. Prehistoric relics in Vestfold). Over 752 pages this book lists locatations and finds. Started to read with an intention of making a list of stone-circles and single stones. And that I did, but what made the strongest impression was the richness of burial-mounds that once existed in Vestfold. The editor, Sigurd Grieg, sums it up at about 3300 mounds! (Vestfold is ca two thousand square-kilometers in size (a bit larger in 1943).)

Today, very much has been removed to make room for farming, the sand and stone in the mounds have been used for other purposes, such as fencing, building houses etc. An example is not far away. This photo is from one of the two bronze-age mounds a few hundred meters from our house:

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It´s a bit dark (taken on the afternoon of 1. january 2007). I turned around south and took this photo of our house (the white one in the middle of the picture):

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Christer Tonnings thesis “Gravfelt og landskap i Hedrum : en studie av jernalderplassene i Hedrum, Vestfold”, cites a calculation that of the 900 mounds in Hedrum municipality (now part of Larvik) there were 280 left (estimate made in 1991, cited on page 11). There were 28 large and small burial-sites, today there are 7 left.

The character that make the strongest impact in both these titles is Nicolay Nicolaysen (1817-1911), the first (employed) antiquarian in Norway, a post he held from 1860 till 1899. He has an impressive record in excavating, estimated to 2000 mounds (Tonning p. 20). The most famous being the Gokstad-mound in Sandefjord.

One of Tonnings goals in his thesis is using Nicolaysens excavation-rapports to locate mounds on 3 sites, now with only remains left, in Hedrum.

This gives him opportunity to reflect on how Nicolaysen excavated, with at speed that seems reckless by todays standard, but if he hadn´t digged we probably would have lost much (as the figure for remaining mounds shows).

Of things lost is also the main impression in my mind after reading through Vestfolds oldtidsminner. We must be grateful for what is still here though. And most excitingly that there still appears sites that no-one knew about. Often in connection with roadbuilding: E-18 prosjektet (Vestfold), E-6 prosjektet (Østfold ) and Svinesund (Østfold).

Labyrinths in Norway

Prehistoric Norway Posted on Mon, December 04, 2006 19:25:03

I got some questions (off-page) about the labyrinth in Fröjel. There are a few more on Gotland, among them one in Bunge that we visited in 2004. But instead of writing more on Swedish labyrinths, I decided to find out more on the Norwegian ones. I already knew of one on the small island of Tisler in the Hvaler archipelago, but more on that further down.

The Norsk arkeologisk leksikon, 2006 (title translates as Norwegian Arceological Handbook) says that labyrinths as a symbol is known from petroglyphs (norwegian helleristninger), in churches from the Middle Ages and as stonesettings.

In Norway they are most common in Finnmark, as part of a larger cultural area including Kola and the White Sea in Russia. They are usually situated close to graves and it is assumed that they were used in passage rites.

In southern Norway, several petroglyphs with a labyrinth-motive is found. Labyrinth-stonesettings are found in Sunnmøre, along the Oslofiord and southwards along the Swedish Bohuslän-coast. Labyrinths are sometimes called Trojaborg or truberborg.(All the above is taken from Norsk arkeologisk leksikon page 233.)

On Sunnmøre there’s one stone-labyrinth known as den Julianske borg (the Julian castle) on Vartdalsfjellet (Grøthornet) in Ørsta.

In my local area I only know of one stone-labyrinth. It’s on the (very) small island Tisler, on the east side of the Oslo-fiord. Only parts of it is still there (there’s traces of another close by). It may be as old as 3000 years, but that is guesswork. Tisler is not easily accessible, it is only possible by boat in (preferably) good weather. The labyrinth lies on the north-east part of the island on a small hill called Slottsfjellet (eng. Castle Hill). I have never been to Tisler, even though I have spent many summers on an island not very far away. Morten Kiellands report on the proposed national park in Hvaler and Fredrikstad has a picture of the trojaborg:

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Of the several located in Finnmark (the northernmost county in Norway), I have only been able to find information on four, one on each of the islands Holmengrå and Kjeøya. According to Samitour there are labyrinths at the mouth of the Tana River and one in Magerøysundet as well.

The name truberborg seems to be taken from a (now lost?) labyrinth on Østerøya in Sandefjord. The place is called Truberodden (Truber Head or Point). I had not heard about Truberodden before starting looking into labyrinths, as it is not far from where I live I definitely will take a look soon.

According to the Bergkonst-site Norsk arkeologisk leksikon is wrong when it says that there are petroglyph-labyrints. A petroglyph from Tanum, Sweden (from the link above) has labyrinth-looking motives:

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19 locations for norwegian labyrinths

28 locations on the swedish west coast

Rock carvings in the borderland