Category Archives: Norway

Was Nidaros Cathedral built from stone extracted in a large underground Medieval quarry?

Ancient underground building stone quarries are rather common. They are known since at least the Old Kingdom in Egypt, some 6 500 years ago, when fine limestone was quarried underground close to Cairo (Tura) in order to provide casing stones to the Giza pyramids. But underground quarries are, interestingly, quite rare in the European Middle Ages. Apparently, there was no need to start difficult, large-scale underground operations to build churches, monasteries and cathedrals until the Late Middle Ages, when, for example, the underground limestone quarries in Paris and Caen in France started to become developed toward the gigantic network of tunnels and galleries we know today. Thus, it is remarkable that a huge underground quarry may have been opened around AD 1200 in Trondheim, Norway, in order to provide soapstone for Nidaros Cathedral, the northernmost of Europe’s great medieval cathedrals. Why? 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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“Nidaros: The Portland Cement Cathedral” (Baker Memorial Lecture)

This week I attended the international conference “Rediscovering Traditional Mortars” in Trondheim. The conference was hosted by the Nidaros Cathedral Workshop and it was part of the annual conferences organised by the British Building Limes Forum and its Nordic counterpart.

I was lucky to be invited to keep two lectures, one on the experimental lime burning in Hyllestad earlier this year, and the Baker Memorial Lecture during the gala dinner. A very great honour to keep this traditional lecture for more than 230 delegates! I concentrated the lecture on the use of Portland Cement during the restoration of Nidaros Cathedral from 1869 on. Read on to get a glimpse of all the problems it has caused! Continue reading

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Forvitring av kleberstein på middelalderkirker – to videoer

Sist vinter holdt jeg to foredrag om forvitring av kleberstein sett i lys av bygnings- og restaureringshistorie. Det dreide seg om portaler fra norsk middelalder og foredragene ble holdt på «Portalseminaret» i regi av «Domkirken 2025»; miljøet som nå restaurerer Stavanger domkirke og som jeg også er en liten del av. Alle foredragene fra seminaret (og mange andre interessante saker om restaureringen) er nå lagt ut på YouTube.

Kanskje kan mine to foredrag være til hjelp for folk som sliter med å forstå hvorfor kleberstein forvitrer. Veldig mye dreier seg om hva bygningene har vært utsatt for av forandringer og restaureringer gjennom tidene. Men noe av forvitringen kan også knyttes til steinkvalitet, tidligere luftforurensning og ikke minst vann! Rett og slett lekkasjer! Innholdet i foredragene er i stor grad basert på min gamle doktoravhandling “The Stones of Nidaros” fra 1997 og mange artikler om forvitringshistorie, bl.a. “Weathering of soapstone in a historical perspective”. Continue reading

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Experimental archaeology: Building a “classic”, intermittent limekiln and burning marble at Millstone Park, Hyllestad, Western Norway

It took us about six months: Building a cylindrical limekiln of the classic Roman/Medieval type with local materials only – stone rubble and clay. In June this year, we built the firing chamber and filled the kiln with 2.5 tons of local marble, covered the kiln with clay on a layer of spruce branches and started burning. Five days and five nights with much of the local community involved! Here’s an extended photo story of the project – the first of its kind in Norway. The quicklime (burnt marble) will be tested at Selja medieval monastery and other restoration projects in Norway. Thanks to all paid and volunteers and support from The ruin restoration programme of the Norwegian Directorate for Cultural Heritage, as well as Hyllestad Municipality! The project was carried out by The Norwegian Millstone Centre/The Museums in Sogn og Fjordane County. 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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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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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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Happy New Year! With a cavalcade of images from 2015

I wish to thank my clients, partners, colleagues and followers of my website for a fine year! The very best to you all for 2016! With a cavalcade of images, I would like to recapitulate a few 2015 events. First of all, I was finally able to finish my book on the history of stone quarries, which was published jointly by The Restoration Workshop of Nidaros Cathedral and the Geological Survey of Norway. But my work took me to many parts of Norway, from a Mesolithic quartz quarry near Arendal, deep down south, to the fascinating rock art at Alta, far in the north. Though I was not able to visit Egypt last year, I’m still publishing papers on the geoarchaeology of desert quarries down there, together with good colleagues. Read on! Continue reading

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Madammen som rodde langs Sørlandskysten og startet et mineraleventyr på 1700-tallet. Var det sånn i steinalderen også?

Sist sommer var jeg invitert av Kulturhistorisk museum (UiO) for å undersøke et lite kvartsbrudd fra steinalderen på Kvastad mellom Arendal og Tvedestrand. Anledningen var de arkeologiske undersøkelsene som foregår i forkant av ny E18-utbygging. Det ble nok brutt litt kvarts til redskaper på Kvastad, men det ble det sikkert også i flere forekomster langs Sørlandskysten – en region svært rik på god kvarts. Hvordan fant steinalderfolket disse forekomstene? Det slo meg at Madam Jørgensen kunne være et godt bilde på tidlig mineralleting: Hun rodde langs kysten på slutten av 1700-tallet – på let etter kvarts og feltspat. Og dermed startet et lite mineraleventyr. Continue reading

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