Category Archives: Old quarries

Historien om et saghus i Gudbrandsdalen: Produksjon av kleberstein som ildfaststein til smelteovner

Bergverkshistorien er full av særegne beretninger. Hva med Einar Sagflaten? Han startet som kleberarbeider som 15-åring og holdt det gående i 43 år i et helt spesielt saghus for stein: Det fortsatt velbevarte saghuset på Sagflaten ved Sel i Gudbrandsdalen. Einar drev på i kulda og kleberføyka til helsa sa stopp og saghuset ble flyttet i 1982. Da hadde han skåret tusenvis av kleberblokker som skulle ut på lange reiser verden over, til Bilbao og Calcutta og Marokko. Der skulle blokkene brukes til å lage smelteovner for celluloseindustrien. Det handler om kleber som ildfaststein. Bli med på en reise gjennom enorme forandringer i steinindustrien – i løpet av bare 40 år. Det blir også en svipptur til kleberindustrien USA og ikke minst til de gamle jernverkenes masovner. For også her trengtes det ildfaststein. Continue reading

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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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Tusen år med brytning av kleberstein tok nettopp slutt. En historie om mekanisering og globalisering. Og om å gjenoppdage gammelt håndverk

Det er ytterst vanskelig å skaffe kleberstein til restaurering av Norges middelalderkirker. Til og med avisene har fått det med seg. Ved Nidarosdomen, Stavanger domkirke og i Bergen klør man seg i hodet: Det finnes ingen kleberbrudd i drift i Norge! De har blitt offer for globalisering. Hva er redningen? Kan man lære av hvordan kleberstein ble tatt ut manuelt i gamle dager? Kan man låne kunnskap fra et tilgrensende fagområde, nemlig bruk av kalkmørtel? De gamle bygningene trenger også sårt til god kalkmørtel! Problemet har vært at kunnskap om gammel kalkproduksjon har lagt nede i mer enn 50 år. Men nå produseres det brent kalk som aldri før i små «middelalderovner». Håndverket har blitt aktivt vekket til live gjennom eksperimentell virksomhet. Støttet av kulturminnevernet. Kan vi også vekke det gamle steinbryterhåndverket til live igjen? Til glede for restaurering? Continue reading

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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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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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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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