Category Archives: Archaeology

The world’s northernmost medieval marble church

The small, Romanesque Gildeskål church is one of the most complete marble churches in Norway. It resides at the magnificent coast along the Atlantic Ocean far up north, in Nordland county. And it is, presumably, the northernmost marble building in the world. Together with Giske church further south, it is part of outstanding, but little known, medieval marble architecture in Norway, of which Nidaros Cathedral, with thousands of marble columns, is the most spectacular example. Continue reading

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Burning the beaches. Happy New Year from the Faroe Islands!

The Faroe Islands, in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean. Basalt and other volcanic stone everywhere! Yet, many buildings on the islands were erected by the use of lime mortar, from the Middle Ages on. There is absolutely no limestone on the Faroes. Thus, lime mortar had to be produced by “burning the beaches” – collecting shells from beach deposits, stacking the shells above a fire in a field kiln – and let it happen: Hold the temperature at some 900 degrees centigrade for a couple of days, and out comes quicklime to be mixed with water and beach sand for the mortar. Continue reading

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Værnes: Norges mest komplette sandsteinskirke fra middelalderen

Den er dekorert med elementer av kleberstein og klorittskifer, men ellers er det sandstein så langt øyet kan se: Værnes er Norges mest komplette sandsteinskirke fra middelalderen! Den rager i størrelse og volum av brukt sandstein langt over middelalderbyggverk i tilsvarende stein i andre deler av landet! Her er et sammendrag av min artikkel til boken «Værnes kirke – en kulturskatt i stein og tre» som ble utgitt for et par uker siden (november 2016). Det er Grubleseminaret som står bak, med Morten Stige og Kjell Erik Pettersson som fantastiske redaktører av boken! Continue reading

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New open-access book: Soapstone in the North. Quarries, Products and People. 7000 BC – AD 1700

NEW BOOK: Hansen, G. & Storemyr, P. (eds.) 2017. Soapstone in the North: Quarries, Products and People. 7000 BC – AD 1700. UBAS University of Bergen Archaeological Series, 9, 408 p. Abstract: “Soapstone is a remarkable rock. While it is soft and very workable, it is also durable and heat-resistant, and with a high heat-storage capacity. These properties have been recognised and valued around the world since prehistoric times, and soapstone has been used for a multitude of purposes, ranging from everyday household utensils to prestigious monuments and buildings. This book addresses soapstone use in Norway and the North Atlantic region, including Greenland. Although the majority of the papers deal with the Iron Age and Middle Ages, the book spans the Mesolithic to the early modern era. It deals with themes related to quarries, products and associated people and institutions in a broad context. Recent years have seen a revival of basic archaeological and geological research into the procurement and use of stone resources. With its authors drawn from the fields of archaeology, geosciences and traditional crafts, the anthology reflects cross-disciplinary work born of this revival.” Continue reading

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Happy New Year from the most beautiful old quarry in Western Norway!

With a picture – taken today – of a most beautiful little, old quarry in Western Norway, I wish all my clients, partners, colleagues and followers of my website a Happy New Year!

I’ve been up and down Norway many times in 2016: Special thanks to my clients! Those who have actually made the world go round for my company and my family: first of all Archaeological Museum at the University of Stavanger, but also Tromsø University Museum, the Norwegian Directorate for Cultural Heritage and Selje Municipality, Norwegian Institute of Cultural Heritage Research, the Restoration Workshop of Nidaros Cathedral and Akasia Bergen, as well as Statsbygg and Forsvarsbygg.

Also thanks to institutions that I have cooperated much with in 2016, in particular Bergen University Museum, Geological Survey of Norway and The Wadi el-Hudi Expedition (Egypt/US).

The photo above was taken in the afternoon today, on New Year’s Eve. It shows a tiny part of the grand Viking Age and Medieval millstone quarry landscape in Hyllestad. In my world it is the most beautiful quarry in Western Norway, a quarry taken over by a creek in the rainy midwinter season. But no wonder why I think it is a beauty: it is located in my backyard.

Thus, also thanks for 2016 to Norwegian Millstone Centre/The Museums in Sogn og Fjordane County, that are responsible for this largest Viking Age and Medieval quarry landscape in Northern Europe. This is where I work part-time and the reason why my family and I settled at the Atlantic coast a couple of years ago.

All the best for 2017! Continue reading

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Geoarchaeology of the famous ancient amethyst mines in Wadi el-Hudi, Egypt: Desert heritage at risk

This fall I joined the Wadi el-Hudi expedition to the famous Middle Kingdom amethyst gemstone mines in the Eastern Desert south-east of Aswan. The expedition is led by Dr. Kate Liszka of California State University San Bernardino (US), and over the last few seasons it has excavated and documented the ancient mining settlements in very high detail. My task was to take a closer look at the geoarchaeology – to try and understand relationships between geology and mining. It is hugely important to document what is left, for the ancient mining area is now at high risk from looting, modern gold mining and stone quarrying. Continue reading

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Fra Aswan til Hyllestad. Hva er et steinbruddlandskap?

Menneskene har brutt stein til alle mulige formål siden tidenes morgen. Men hva er et steinbruddlandskap? Hva kan vi si om alle de millioner av steder der folk har tatt ut stein? Fra den tidligste steinalder til i dag? Det var temaet jeg fikk til et foredrag på det 14. Hyllestadseminaret i slutten av april 2016, i regi av Norsk Kvernsteinsenter. Dessuten skulle jeg snakke om hvordan steinbruddlandskap kan formidles. Jeg innså raskt at oppgaven var helt umulig. Continue reading

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Gneiss for the Pharaoh: Geology of the Third Millennium BCE Chephren’s Quarries in Southern Egypt

Chephren’s Quarry. A name imbued with splendour. It was not the first quarry from which stone vessels and sculpture were provided in Ancient Egypt, but it was definitely the most spectaular one. Work started here, far south in the Western Desert of Egypt, already by the Predynastic period or earlier. By the Old Kingdom, 4500 years ago, it was a huge work site, comprising 700 quarry pits in the flat desert, covering an area of some 50 square kilometres. With Tom Heldal as the lead author, Ian Shaw, Elizabeth Bloxam and I have now written an account of how geology shaped Chephren’s Quarry. It is a story spanning millions of years, explaining the beauty of this hard, bluish stone – and how it could be exploited. Continue reading

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Gamle steinbrudd som UNESCO-verdensarv? En analyse

Det er nesten ingen gamle steinbrudd på UNESCOs verdensarvliste. Det er ikke bra, for steinbruddene var helt sentrale produksjonssteder for verktøy, husgeråd, våpen, boliger, kunst, monumenter – arkitektur – kort sagt en vesentlig del av hva som var viktig i gamle samfunn – og i dag: Store deler av verdens kulturarv er jo basert på brytning av stein. Spørsmålet er: Hvor går veien videre for gamle steinbrudd som verdensarvsteder? Kanskje Norge burde fremme en egen steinbruddsnominasjon? Eller kanskje dette rike landet burde hjelpe mindre bemidlede nasjoner med å få eldgamle steinbrudd inn på verdensarvlisten? Man kunne jo starte i Egypt, landet med den største konsentrasjonen av gamle steinbrudd i verden. Continue reading

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Også et stykke verneverdig Norge: De 60 steinbruddene ved middelalderens klosterruiner på Selja, Hovedøya og Rein

Riksantikvarens bevaringsprogram for middelalderruiner dreier seg ikke bare om istandsettelse av ruinene. Det dreier seg også om forskning for å forstå hvordan bygging av klostre, kirker og borger foregikk. Geologi og steinbrudd er en naturlig del av dette temaet. Nå foreligger det en omfattende rapport om steinbrudd ved tre av Norges mest kjente middelalderklostre: Selja i Sogn og Fjordane, Rein i Sør-Trøndelag og Hovedøya ved Oslo. Det er funnet ikke mindre enn 60 steinbrudd. Men langt fra alle ble brukt til klosterbyggingen. For landskapene var lokale ressurssentra for stein nesten opp til våre dager. Hvordan registrerer og bevarer vi slike steinbruddslandskap? Det er også et av temaene i rapporten. Den er utarbeidet av Per Storemyr i samarbeid med Riksantikvaren og de respektive fylkeskommuner og er tilgjengelig i Riksantikvarens Vitenarkiv. Continue reading

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