Prehistoric NorwayPosted by Vidar 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:
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):
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).
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