Steigen - A Cultivated Landscape With Old Traditions

The Mesolithic Age

About 10.000 years ago most of the country was covered by glaciers. Only along the coast there was a narrow strip of uncovered land.

At Ersvika, on the fram called Lund today, the only settlement site in Steigen from this period (9~8000 BC) has been discovered. Most of the tools found here are made of flint.

 

The Neolithic Age

The biggest area of habitation from the Neolithic Age on the island of Engeløya is found at the Bøsan­den beach. The finds consist of axes, arrow- and spearheads, knives, fishing sinkers and crush stones.

 

The Bronze Age

There are very few finds from this period in Northern Norway. But nevertheless there seems to have been some contact with the Southern Scandinavian Bronze Age society.

 

The Iron Age

During the centuries before and after the birth of Christ the new iron technology was gradually adopted, making new fishing/hunting and agricultural techniques possible.

From this age we find a lot of burial places, house and boathouse sites, and accumulated layers in the earth from the settlement of many different generations at the same place.

This booklet will guide you through the Iron Age landscape of Engeløya. - The most striking difference between our age and this period of settlement is that they buried their dead on the farms where they had lived all their lives, whereas we bury our dead in the cemetery near the church. Their dead were still a part of the life on the farm - marking a sort of continuity which seems to have been of great importance to the Iron Age people.

 

The Rock Covered with Cup Marks at Sandvågmoen

At Sandvåggmoen, in the middle of some pasture land near the hillside, there is a big rock covered with a lot of smooth and regular potholes looking like bowls. These potholes are no doubt manmade, and are probably connected with other rock car­vings from the Neolithic and the Bronze Age. They have possibly been filled with blood and used for ritualistic purposes, and have thus played an important part in the religious life of that time.

 

The Burial Mounds at Gjerdet

Right in the middle of the meadow at Ojerdet there are four round mounds and one oblong mound - the shape of a ship. No archaeological excavations of these mounds have been made, but a lot of finds in the area tell us that they were made during the Iron Age. They are probably part of a larger field of burial mounds.

 

The Tall Stone Monument Called ”Lang steinen”

Another field of graves from the Iron Age is found on the isthmus between Laskestad and Steigen. The mounds are not so large as those at Gjerdet. But a remarkable monument - the roughly carved ”Lang­steinen"”, about 20 feet from top to bottom, the tallest stone of this kind in Northern Norway - gives extra importance to the area.

 

The Old Church at Steigen

The oldest part of the church, the stone walls of what is the choir of today's church, was built some­time between 1200 and 1300 AD. Archaeological excavations under the old church have uncovered a Christian cemetery dating back to about 1000 AD, probably the oldest of its kind in Northern Norway.

 

The Farm Mound of the Steigen Settle­ment and the Sigar Mound

Different layers of accumulated remains from generations of habitation throughout the centuries are piled on top of each other on the site of the Steigen settlement. According to tradition the Old Court of Appeals was situated here.

The Sigar Mound has not been excavated. Perhaps the old Thing was held at this place. The name of the mound connects it with the old story or ballad about Hagbard and Signe.

 

The Burial Mound at Hagbardholmen

According to the above mentioned story Hagbard was hanged at Hagbardholmen, a small island not far away from the church. Several of the graves here have been excavated, and many rich finds have been made. The burial mounds are from the period 1500-1000AD.

 

The Camps/Settlements at Bø and Vollmoen

To build up a smaller kingdom led by a king or a chieftain takes time. It must be built on generations of stable settlement and access to important resour­ces within a certain area, and it also needs well established contacts with the outside world.

These presuppositions were present at Engeløya, and here we find two separate settlements of a type usually connected with local kingdoms, one at Bø and one at Vollmoen.

 

Vollmoen

This settlement consists of two rows of site around an oval yard or ”tun” (cf. the English word town) -there must have been 16 houses altogether. The finds (knives, awls, nails - made of iron) are dated to 500-600 and 900 AD.

 

The main road around Engeløya today goes straight through this settlement. The settlement corresponds in shape to the one at Vollmoen, but there must have been fewer buildings, and of a lesser size. The dating is around 4-500 AD.

Whether these settlements were small villages or military camps has been discussed among leading archaeologists, but no definite conclusion has yet been reached.

 

The Boathouse Site Below Steigberget

Below Steigberget between the two settlements you find the site of two old boathouses.