What if the KRS is a pre-Columbian artefact?

Collage design: Tom Thowsen. Photo: Gioele Fazzeri (Pixabay)

Imagine you were on a mission, deep into a foreign land, where you have realized that you would not survive. Then you probably leave a message behind. But if you had foreseen that people would call your message a hoax … based on your grammatical errors … you likely got horrified …

Here is a take on the Kensington Runestone, the biggest historical mystery in North America.

Let us go back to 1905

Norwegian soldiers on border guard at the national border with Sweden 1905.
Photo: Narve Skarpmoen. File source: wikimedia.

In 1905 Norway and Sweden stood on the brinks of war. If it breaks out, it will be the third war since the beginning of the 1800s. The first 1808-1809 ended in a stalemate. Norway lost the second. But this time, the Norwegians are much more prepared. Stronger fortresses, better weapons, and very motivated soldiers. This will not be like the short and humiliating war of 1814, called Kattekrigen (Cat war), because the Swedes were hunting the Norwegians like they were mice. Now the Norwegians will break free from a union with roots back in medieval times. This longing for freedom had gradually grown in force and intensity on every level. Not only for the military that had been strengthened a lot — especially since the late 1880s — but also for the elite of Norwegian art, culture, and history.

The big boost

Photo: Cultural History Museum in Oslo

To find a Viking ship is something remarkable. Not an everyday occurrence, to put it mildly. So, when they found a longship in the “Gokstadhaugen” burial mound in 1879, it boosted Norwegian pride. Norwegians had long been the little brother among the Scandinavian siblings, with hundreds of years without their own Norwegian king. Hence this Viking ship was a reminder of the good old days when Norway was a strong country. With war heroes and discoverers.

Leif Eiriksson discovers America, painting by Christian Krohg, 1893.
Editor of the Norwegian trade and shipping magazine, later director of shipping Magnus Andersen, sailed his reconstruction of Gokstad ship called «Viking» to Chicago in 1893. «Viking» is currently located in Geneva, Illinois, at Good Templar Park.

Note the flag in the stern. During the 1870s, the union became increasingly unpopular in Norway. Consequently, the union mark was seen as a sign not of equality, but a union forced upon the country against its will. Radicals made it their political goal to reintroduce the «pure» Norwegian flag as the first step toward the union’s dissolution. The parliamentary majority voted for removing the mark three times but was defeated by royal veto twice.

Finally, in 1898 (note this date), the third royal veto was overruled, and the union mark was removed from the national (merchant) and the state flag. It remained in the war flag (naval ensign), as this was under the king’s jurisdiction. However, parliament introduced a new state flag for government buildings, like the war flag, but without the union mark. The «pure» Norwegian flag was hoisted again in 1899.

So, when a Swedish immigrant unearthed a stone with runic letters in Minnesota in 1898, it did not get the same attention as the Gokstad Viking ship. Especially in Norway, since it talked about Swedes and Norwegians on an expedition in America in 1362 — 130 years before Columbus. The experts at the University of Oslo perceived the language form as “impossible, a very clumsy attempt at to construct an old language form without possessing the required knowledge. For runological, linguistic and historical reasons, the inscription cannot be genuine”.

Hm, of historical reasons too?

Intentionally or not, what if they were wrong? In the 14th century, there were no grammatical rules for the Scandinavian languages, which were also constantly changing. And most of the surviving documents were written in a solemn and formal language as well.

Quite frankly, I can imagine linguists 600 years into the future study written sources from the 21st century, what a nightmare that will be. Today we have two different languages: Bokmål and Nynorsk. Bokmål, literally «book tongue,» is an official written standard for the Norwegian language, alongside Nynorsk. Bokmål is the preferred written standard of Norwegian for 85% to 90% of the population in Norway. Unlike, for instance, the Italian language, there is no nationwide standard or agreement on the pronunciation of Bokmål. Plus, some even choose to write in their own dialect, which could be difficult to understand for those who do not speak this dialect—no wonder why many Norwegians struggle to write Norwegian perfectly.

Quotes from Professor Eyvind Fjeld Halvorsen: 
“The peculiarities of the language situation in Norway are the product of Norwegian and Nordic history. The languages of the three main Nordic countries, Denmark, Norway and Sweden, are so similar that the inhabitants basically understand each other and can use their own language when talking to people from the other countries. This is because the language evolved from a common Nordic tongue and that development has mainly followed the same course throughout central Scandinavia. One thousand years ago, when Nordic pioneers settled in Russia and Western Europe, and on the islands in the Atlantic Ocean from the Orkneys and Shetland islands to Greenland, the same common Nordic language was spoken throughout the entire region. The differences in dialects that existed then were insignificant, and were far smaller than the dialectical variations found today in each of the Nordic countries.

The languages underwent great change in the late Middle Ages. Most of the changes began in the country located the farthest south, Denmark, and spread north, like ocean waves. Norway lay farthest from Denmark, and Norwegian therefore retained the characteristics of the common Nordic language the longest.
The Christianization of the Nordic countries in 900-1100 brought with it written language. In Norway the national language was adopted as a written language before 1100, perhaps patterning itself after England in this respect, while Denmark and Sweden used Latin in public discourse in the first years following the coming of Christianity. Danish and Swedish were not brought into use as written languages until the 12- and 1300s, at a time when Denmark in particular had become removed from the common Nordic foundation”. 

Göter: The sentence of the text says, “8 Göter and 22 Norwegians”. This is an important detail because it reveals a significant detail. Unlike Norway, which had been more or less a united kingdom since the Viking age, Sweden was more divided. The distinction between Swedes (Svear) and Geats (Göter) lasted during the Middle Ages.

Numbers: as they appear on the Kensington runestone, the so-called pentadic numbers and their usage in the 1362 date are highly debated. It is a matter of an unknown development.  (The same goes for the specific runic alphabet.) Still, it makes sense.

The numbers below are from a calendar book dated 1399

Rise: means “journey”, and this word occurs twice on the Kensington runestone. Therefore, it must have been intentionally. Except for these examples, this scarce word has only been found in a few documents from the 1300s, found in, guess where — Götaland. Isn’t that awesome?

Ö: is a puzzling runic letter, not because of the two dots, but because it consists of two runes: the Ö and a tiny N-rune in the middle.

This is very tiny, considered that most of the runes are just one inch high, which gives small margins to make the N-rune. Neither does the N-rune make sense regarding the sound. So, there must be an explanation. Maybe a prayer or some secret message, a hint.

Since runic writings gradually went out of use in the 13th and 1400s, it might explain why someone developed this exceedingly rare runic alphabet. Maybe it has been used in a guild or something, a closed society. However, most runologist believe it originates from the Swedish Dalecarlian runes from the 1500s. When that said, it could perfectly well have been used in 1362. It is a matter of belief.

AVM: The abbreviation for Ave Maria consists of the Latin letters AVM, which fit very well with the 14th century because back then, most Scandinavians were Catholics.

Let us go further back

Summer in the Greenland coast circa the year 1000 by Carl Rasmussen (1874).

Greenland was colonized from Iceland and Norway in the Viking Age and the Middle Ages. The saga literature tells that Erik Thorvaldsson, also known as Erik the Red, came to Greenland in 982. The name is an early example of misleading marketing; it is an ice-covered island, so Erik called it Greenland to lure people to move over there. Admittedly, the climate must have been more favourable in his time, with better conditions for agriculture. When the Norse population established themselves, they found no indigenous people. It is believed that the Inuit’s lived north of the island and only later came south and met the settlers.

In the Middle Ages, there was extensive trade with Greenland, primarily over to the Norwegian town Bergen. From Greenland, hides, skins, furs, walrus stalks and wadding were brought in, and iron, grain and wood were sent out from Norway. The emigration from Norway to Greenland continued through the 11th and 12th centuries. The population may have reached around 4,000 people in the High Middle Ages, and sites from more than 290 farms have been found. The Norse population was divided into two main areas, Western Settlement, and Eastern Settlement. The latter was the largest settlement.

At the beginning of the 11th century, Christianity was introduced. In 1124 a separate diocese was established for Greenland, and in 1153 this was placed under the archdiocese of Nidaros. In 1216, under king Haakon IV Haakonsson, Greenland was formally linked to the Norwegian Empire. A royal estate was established in Eastern Settlement. In the 14th century, the Greenland trade was limited to one ship, “Grønlandsknarren”.

After the Black Death, the annual trade trip to Greenland ceased. The last Norse bishop died in 1378, and the Western Settlement seems to have been deserted from the middle of the 14th century. Eastern Settlement lasted until around the year 1500. A ship that docked in 1540 to seek refuge did not find any living inhabitants but a body that had not been buried. Why this society died out is unclear. The suggestions that often occur are a combination of several factors: the lack of imports of vital supplies after the Black Death and struggles with the Inuit’s, famine, and disease. The climate got colder.

Hvalsey Church. Wikipedia

But there is another explanation that is barely mentioned, even though it has a written source.

In 1630, after a whole archive was lost in a fire in Iceland, bishop Gisle Oddson immediately started to make a synopsis of the most important documents. Old reports, which he writes in Latin. One of these is dated to 1342, and there he gives us a fair enough answer: The population of Greenland left their Christian belief willingly and turned to the American people.

Did these people choose to immigrate to America, or Vinland as they called it back in those days? It is could be the most obvious explanation. They have known this rich and fertile land since Leif Erikson discovered it some 300 years earlier, around 1000 AD.

Such an event would, of course, not pass by without a reaction from the king and church.

November 3, 1354, the king of Norway, Sweden and Scania, Magnus Eriksson, ordered an expedition to Greenland. Paul Knutsson is the captain of the king’s ship. He can freely choose his crew, whether they are the king’s own men or others, then the king asks them to show goodwill for the matter in question:  «for our souls and our parent’s sake » do not let Christianity lapse in Greenland.
(A copy of this letter is stored at the Royal Library in Copenhagen).

Print screen from ESOP Volume 27 * 2009, translation by Williams and Nielsen

With its 1362 date, it fits well into the drama around the lost Greenlanders. The Kensington runestone is now at the Runestone Museum in Alexandria, Minnesota.

The experts at the University of Oslo perceived the language form as “impossible, a very clumsy attempt at to construct an old language form without possessing the required knowledge. For runological, linguistic and historical reasons, the inscription cannot be genuine”.

My name is Tom Thowsen, and I`m just an ordinary bloke from Norway interested in history. I also happen to be an artist who likes to create things in all kinds of material, from clay, stone, paper, digital, canvas, to write novels and articles.

Tom Thowsen (selfie) 2021

Ever since the Kensington runestone caught me in 2007, I have spent some hours of research during the years. I have had correspondence with most of the recent researchers connected to this stone. I even sat on the board of directors for the American Association for Runic Studies for a short period. In 2010 I established the Facebook group: The Kensington Rune Stone International Supporters Club, consisting of 1338 members worldwide. In 2017 I released my novel Kayaweta, an archaeological thriller about the Kensington runestone.

But this very blog article is only a shallow dive into this huge matter.

However, my goal is to make people aware of this and get science back on the right track lost in our Norwegian fight for independence.

Thank you so much for your attention.

Gaustatoppen — an ocean of stone

Those who have climbed this rocky mountain may have noticed the wavy stone surfaces and wondered why. Why do they look like this?

Well, this is a beach walk 1,200 million years too late. Now the beach is 1,883 m (6,178 ft) above the ocean. Needless to say. It is cold, and bathing is not an option — you could only dive into the snow.

But on the other hand, there is a stunning view from here. You can see an area of about 60,000 km², one-sixth of Norway’s mainland. Bigger than the flat pancake Denmark, for instance.

As an author of novels and articles, I am always aware of my surroundings. Where to go and what to see. Tries to use my imagination. To see the history behind what we see.

I also try to bring it all alive with my artistic skills, like the illustration above.

An ocean of stone …


A huge flood wave, it seems—a fossilised shattered beach.

Photo: Tom Thowsen 2020

Today, it is not an easy beach walk. That’s for sure. Climbing downhill is absolutely the worst, especially for my back. It cost me some pain for a couple of days, to put it mildly. Still, I am spellbound by this scenery.  Such environmental changes there have been. And climate changes, for that sake. This beach has suffered earthquakes, and several glaciation periods. When seeing this, one can wonder how much there will be left of our civilization after the next Ice age to come.

It makes me feel small.

Photo: Tom Thowsen 2020

The trails are well marked with red T`s.

The Norwegian Trekking Association (Norwegian: Den norske turistforening, DNT) is a Norwegian association which maintains mountain trails and cabins in Norway. The association was founded on 21 January 1868 with the scope «to help and develop tourism in this country». Today the goal is to work for simple, secure and environmentally friendly outdoor activities.

A secret tunnel to the top is also available.

Photo: Wikipedia

Gaustabanen is a mountain railway that runs from Longefonn 1150 masl. to near the top of Gaustatoppen 1800 masl. The course is open all year round and runs continuously during opening hours. From the start to the top, it takes 15 minutes. The track consists of 2 stretches and 3 stations. From the lower station, an electric tram takes 850 meters into the mountains to Brekket. There you go over to the cable car that takes you up to the upper station and the exit at the top.

The course was originally built as part of a secret NATO facility in 1959. After NATO left the facility and a great effort from enthusiasts, the course opened to the public in 2010. Today, the Gaustabanen is open all year and is very popular and provides easy access to the top one of Norway’s most beautiful mountains.

This mountain, which once was a beach, has both a curious inside and a widely known outside, and it is situated just three hours’ drive from the capital, Oslo.

Photo: Tom Thowsen 2020

As a curiosity, at my cabin, 200 kilometres southeast of Gaustatoppen, I found the stone in the photo below. (Sorry for the paint stains, my fault.) This possibly shows how far stones can drift away with the movements of glaciers. Or some of the previous cabin owners brought it there, maybe as a souvenir from Gaustatoppen. It does not belong to my district southeast in Norway.

Photo: Tom Thowsen 2021
Gaustatoppen Photo: Wikipedia

Priceless Stone Rings, with a touch of magic

They have been a part of the landscape for thousands of years and will perhaps last many years to come. Depending on if we know how to value them.

I shot the picture above when my son and I visited the Hunn fields here in Fredrikstad — located in the southeastern part of Norway. It was April. Spring. Wakening of life, and there was we wandering between light and shadows. Listening to bird twitter. Looking at these ancient monuments. Reading the signs and learning more about our ancestors …

Okay, I must confess. In case my wife should see this. The young beauty with the harp was long gone. She was a Seeress (Volve), and she could predict the future. Normally they were far older, by the way. But they were highly respected wanderers. Well paid too.

Yes, they needed her services. These stone circles are barriers between life and death — a graveyard used from 1000 BC to 900 AD.

For example, a healthy child was born at Hunn settlement, but the mother did not survive the birth. Joy and sorrow are mixed. They had a lot of preparations to do before life could get back to normal.

Cremation was the norm in the Pre-Roman Iron Age. Tradition governed what clothes the deceased wore, how the pyre was constructed, and who ignited it. After cremation, they placed the bones and charcoal in a hole in the burial ground. The grave might be marked with a stone slab, small stones in a pattern, or as here with circles of standing stones.

Hunn fields. Photo: Tom Thowsen 2021

All these stone circles remain of an uneven number of stones. Odd numbers are considered magical.

Hunn fields. Photo: Tom Thowsen 2021

As an avid history lover, who like to create art in all kinds of forms, spanning from sculptures to articles and novels, I am truly fortunate. Here in the lower Glomma delta, where people have flourished since the Stone age, there is such an inspirational treasure trove.

To mention a few: Borg Viking town, Tune Runestone, three Viking ships — Tune ship, Rostad ship and Valle ship. Several hillforts and stone circles, and much more.

View over Fredrikstad and Sarpsborg. Google Earth

Some days later, I received some good news. A few kilometres from where I live, at a small village in the sloop of Ringstadåsen, the archaeologists found new stone circles. Hurrah, hurrah! This was amazing. Ringstadåsen means Ring place hill.

My son and I went over to look at them but only found a construction site for private homes with a stunning view over the river valley.

Not low prices, of course.

Ringstadåsen. Photo: Tom Thowsen 2021

The next day we came back, equipped with a map showing the exact location, but was struck with surprise. They were gone!

Well, not completely. They have pulled them aside.

Originally three stone circles with diameters around seven meters.

What a disgrace, I said to myself. Now they have erased their own history. There is a school located a few hundred meters away. These children have lost something special.  

I posted this case on an archaeological forum where I said that I am concerned about the situation in Norway, where agricultural soil and historical places get destroyed at an alarming tempo every year. In fact, only three % of our landmass is suitable for growing grain, and we depend on the import of food. Otherwise, there probably will be famine.

However, in this case one of the archaeologists who had conducted an excavation of the site, confirmed that they had demolished the stone circles. But the landowner had thought about a possible reconstruction, he said.

In the meanwhile, I better talk with the beautiful Seeress with the harp …

Thank you, and please subscribe if you like to read more articles.


Tom Thowsen

Det gjengrodde minnet

Han ser litt betenkt ut der han sitter i blomsterbedet og vokter innkjørselen. Ja, det gamle stenansiktet begynner å dra på årene, han også. I år er det 39 år siden vi møttes første gang …

Foto: Tom Thowsen 2020

Å gå tur er en fin form for trim, synes jeg. I passe tempo, ikke for fort. Gjerne i kupert terreng for å få i gang blodpumpen og styrke musklene. Kjenne at man har brukt kroppen.

Men det er også viktig å ha et tema for turen. I dag var det sten.

Og hvor finner man sten i hopetall?

Fredriksten, selvfølgelig.

Flotte murer å se på.   

Peder Colbjørnsens gate i Halden. Foto: Tom Thowsen 2021

For å få maks utbytte av trimmen, startet vi oppstigningen helt nede fra byen. Opp den bratte veien gjennom Borgerskansen. Sten så langt øyet kan se. Sten praktisk talt under våre føtter. Overalt.

Det var midt på dagen. Himmelen var knallblå. Vårsolen varmet, men det var kjølig i skyggen.

Den første porten gikk vi fort forbi.

Feil sten.

Nedre tenaljeport.Tenalje (fr. tenaille (knipetang)) Betegner opprinnelig en innspringende vinkel i et forsvarsverk, en «knipetang». Foto: Tom Thowsen 2021

Da det verste bratthenget var beseiret, sto vidunderet og gapte mot oss. Port nummer to fra byen. Nedre tenaljeport. Stappfull av riktig sten: Klebersten.

Nedre tenaljeport. Foto: Tom Thowsen 2021

Å huff og huff, her oppdaget vi noen stygge merker, gett. Kleberstenen er myk, og kan derfor skjæres i med kniv. Selv en fingernegl setter spor i overflaten. Den er en metamorf bergart, hvilket betyr at den er dannet under trykk og høy temperatur. Består hovedsakelig av mineralet talk og en varierende mengde kloritt og amfibol.

Klebersten er ildfast og lett å forme til det meste. Ovner, kokekar, gryter, mortere, fiskesøkker, spinnehjul og vevlodd med mer. Nidarosdomen er også et lysende eksempel på hva man kan lage av denne fantastiske stenen. Den har vært brukt av folk i uminnelige tider. Rundt om i det ganske land finnes det kleberstensbrudd fra bronsealderen, vikingtiden og middelalderen. Men Skakkestadberget i Halden skiller seg ut på ett punkt: den sentrumsnære beliggenheten …

Nedre tenaljeport fra motsatt side. Foto: Tom Thowsen 2021

Da vi hadde kommet oss inn gjennom porten og så ut mot byen, oppdaget jeg at noen av stenene var grønnere enn de andre.

Hm … hvorfor det?

I forsvarsbygg sin verneplan hentet jeg følgende opplysninger:

Arbeidet med Nedre tenalje ble påbegynt 1756. Murmesteren, Joh. Gotfr. Peltz, fikk oppdraget med å lage porten gjennom tenaljen. Han begynte samme år å ta ut sten til porten i Skakkestadberget. Den ble bragt til Halden for der å bli tilhugget.

Hele sommeren 1757 ble det minert ut sten til porten i Skakkestadberget.

Peltz begynte på fundamentmuren for porten i 1758. Samme år ble det kjørt frem 70 lass sten fra Skakkestadberget og 16 lass hjørnesten, som var brutt på Idd. Tre mann av garnisonen var kommandert til stenhuggerarbeide hos murmesteren.

Året derpå, i 1759, ble fundamentmuren for porten ferdig. Men en brann i byen ødela 2/3 av de tilhugde portstenene. Utvalget måtte derfor suppleres med tilsvarende sten. (Widerberg 1963: 160)

Aha, der har vi nok forklaringen. To av tre stener kom ikke fra Skakkestadberget, der hvor jeg hentet min sten. Kanskje de grønneste kommer derfra, fordi den omtales som fast og grønnlig.

De neste eksemplarene var kun et stenkast fra tenaljeporten.  Om Vestre kurtine står det at

sten til innramming av dører og vinduer ble hentet fra Skakkestadberget. (Widerberg 1963: 138f)

Et vindu i Dronningens bastion. Foto: Tom Thowsen 2021
Vinduer i Vestre kurtine. Foto: Tom Thowsen 2021

På veien videre, gjennom resten av portene frem til Place d’Armes, så jeg lignende klebersten flere steder. Men det var ikke lett å skille den ene fra den andre. Deretter gikk vi til Fredriksten Kro og tok Slyngveien ned til Grønland. Derfra strenet vi langs Tista og kom oss bort til Norske Skog Saugbrugs. Til selveste Skakkestadberget.

Skakkestadberget. Tom Thowsen 2021

Jeg hadde ikke vært der siden 1982, og mye har blitt forandret siden da. Likevel fant jeg det til slutt. Men nå føltes det som en forbrytelse å bevege seg så nær alle industribygningene. Det var nok mer tilgjengelig da, eller så tenkte jeg ikke på det. Jeg tenkte heller ikke på at dette var et vernet kulturminne. Derfor må bekjenne at jeg begikk en forbrytelse da jeg plukket med meg stenen derfra. Men det skal sies til mitt forsvar at stenansiktet ble hugget av meg som 18 år gammel designstudent. Stenen lå på bakken. Ubearbeidet. Ikke et kar eller noe slikt. Bare så det er sagt.

Ja, ja. Man skal ikke kaste sten når man sitter i glasshus, heter det. Så det er best å være ydmyk. Noen år senere fikk Norske Skog Saugbrugs på pukkelen av Universitetets oldsaksamling.

Her er et sammendrag av rapporten:

Bakgrunn for undersøkelsen

Området for det fredete klebersteinsbruddet i Skakkestadberget er avmerket på reguleringskartet for Saugbrugs industriområder av 10. juni 1989, regulert som spesialområde med formål bevaring.

Til tross for dette utførte Saugbrugs etter kort tid bakkeplanering og masseforflytninger innen det   vernede området, i sammenheng med anlegg av parkeringsplass bak den nybygde pakkeavdelingen (konf. brev av 05. juli 1990 fra Halden historiske Samlinger til Fylkeskultursjefen i Østfold, brev av 13. juli 1990 fra Norske Skog til Fylkeskonservatoren i Østfold og brev av 13. juli 1990 fra Fylkeskonservatoren i Østfold til Universitetets Oldsaksamling).

Saugbrugsforeningen/Norske Skog beklaget det inntrufne og påtok seg å dekke kostnadene med en arkeologisk undersøkelse i kleberbruddet (brev av 20. mars 1992 til Universitetets Oldsaksamling). Noe tidligere var det foretatt prøvesprengninger i området med klare forhistoriske huggespor (brev av 16. november 1988 fra Halden historiske Samlinger til Universitetets Oldsaksamling).

Formål med undersøkelsen

Hensikten med undersøkelsen var å fastslå hvilke skader som er påført kulturminnene og undersøke hvilket potensiale de gjenværende rester kan ha for kulturhistorisk forskning og formidling.

Arbeidets gang

Norske Skog hadde sørget for at det meste av flaten mellom kleberbruddet og parkeringsplassen ved pakkeavdelingen var blitt ryddet for buskvekster. En arbeidsbrakke ble stilt til vår disposisjon i feltarbeidsperioden. Selv startet vi arbeidet med å rydde avfallshaugen og skråningen med forhistoriske bruddspor for vegetasjon. Deretter ble det konstruert en sklie av bølgeblikk og lekter til transport av utgravd masse ned den bratte skråningen og over vollen til et egnet område for deponering av slik masse SV for vollen.   

Området ved vollen og de umiddelbart synlige gamle bruddspor i kleberberget, som var blitt skadet ved bakkeplanering og sprengning, ble dokumentert ved foto og tegning før videre undersøkelser. Deretter gjennomførte vi en lagvis fremgravning av det forhistoriske produksjonsområdet nær prøvesprengningene fra 1988, og grov en 9 meter lang og ca. 1 meter bred sjakt i NNØ-SSV retning gjennom vollen nedenfor kleberbruddet.

Iakttagelser og slutninger

Vi la først og fremst vekt på å studere områder med huggespor etter uttak av klebersteinsgryter. Innen undersøkelsesområdet forekommer slike særlig hyppig på en bergnabb lengst i N. Den SØ-ligste del av dette gamle bruddstedet er skadet ved prøvesprengning i 1988. Deler av sannsynlige utsprengte partier herfra med gamle huggespor er gjenfunnet ved N-kanten av vollen nedenfor bruddet. To av disse blokkene ble tatt inn til oppbevaring ved Halden kulturhistoriske Samlinger i forbindelse med vår undersøkelse (museumsnummer 1992/13).

De gjenværende gamle bruddspor viser følgende karakteristika:

Et øverste sjikt lengst i NV med fem nesten ferdige emner til kar er hogget frem direkte under kleberbergets originale overflate. Emnenes diameter varierer fra 20 til 36 cm., emnehøyde er gjennomgående omkring 10 cm. Det kan ikke avgjøres med sikkerhet om karenes munning er tenkt utarbeidet nedenfra eller ovenfra. Sannsynligvis rager karenes rundete bunn opp. I neste arbeidsgang skulle det meisles noe nede langsmed og innunder karemnet og en kunne så forsøke å slå det løs fra berget. Spor etter en slik nesten flat kartomt etter et emne som er fjernet fra berget sees i området omkring.

En uttaksteknikk bygget på mer nitid utmeisling av karene finnes også belagt i Skakkestadberget. På tegning 2 dokumenteres i SØ rester etter et lavere liggende lag med tydelige, stedvis konkavt utmeislede tomter etter minst 3 karemner og rester av avslåtte karemner som muligens kunne danne grunnlag for nye kar. Sett fra siden mot NV oppviser kanten av den over 2 meter høye bergnabben et sammensatt mønster av meisel og hoggespor som vitne om systematisk uttak av kleberkaremner i minst 5 sjikt.

Ettersom bergnabben avgrenses av sannsynlige bruddflater etter sprengning mot S (spor etter sprengning av kleberblokker til Fredriksten festning i 1600-årene?), er det sannsynlig at det gamle bruddområdet opprinnelig har strukket seg lenger mot S.

Tilsvarende observasjoner kan en gjøre ut fra sporene etter karuttak i et mindre område lenger SV. Et horisontalt sjikt med kartomter med konkav eller tilnærmet rett utarbeidet bunn støter i Ø mot et vertikalt anlagt sjikt med 3 karemnerester eller påbegynte karemner. Også her er området med gamle bruddspor kuttet av nyere sprengningsflater langs SV-kanten, og det gamle bruddområdet er antakelig desimert. Spor av grytedrift fantes også på en løsrevet kleberblokk lenger SØ i skråningen.

I tillegg er det registrert tilsvarende spor på ytterligere to lokaliteter Ø og NØ for undersøkelsesområdet.

Flere momenter taler for en tolkning av grytebruddet i Skakkestadberget som uttrykk for høyt spesialisert og systematisk bergverksdrift. Det finnes spor etter metodisk testing av kleberens kvalitet i ulike deler av bruddet. Partier med velegnet kleber ble utnyttet planmessig så langt som overhodet mulig. Naturlige sprekker i fjellet synes å være tatt i bruk i den hensikt å lette arbeidet med å få løs karemnene. Gryteuttak ble gjennomført for flere parallelle emner, systematisk, sjikt etter sjikt. Utnyttelsesgraden synes høy.

Utfra kjennskap til avfallshauger i andre kleberbrudd med karproduksjon, stilte vi forventninger til en undersøkelse av vollen nedenfor bruddet. Det ble gravd en sjakt på tvers av vollen. Vollen inneholdt en stor del blokker som åpenbart var sprengt ut fra fjellet ovenfor. I vollens jordblandete fyllmasse fantes bare noen få kleberstykker med sannsynlige forhistoriske arbeidsspor. Ett eksempel lokalisert i området omkring oppviste også spor av seinere borrehull for sprengning. Et par prøver av kleberbiter fra vollen ble tatt inn til Oldsaksamlingen ( 94/259).

Til vår overraskelse ble ingen sikre rester av skadete karemner eller avfall fra karproduksjon funnet i sjakten. Dette kan selvsagt være en tilfeldighet. Det kan stadig finnes uavdekkede områder med regulært avfall fra den eldste kleberdriften i vollen eller i de utplanerte masser nedenfor denne.

Flere observasjoner tyder likevel på at store deler av vollen er av nyere dato. Det er påvist et bruddområde for pegmatitt (kvartsfeltspat egnet som råstoff til porselensindustri) omkring. På vollen umiddelbart S for dette bruddet ligger avfall etter uttak av pegmatitt. I nordkanten av vollen mellom pegmatittbruddet og vår utgravningssjakt finnes også flere granittblokker som må være tilført annet steds fra.

Utfra kjennskap til andre forhistoriske kleberbrudd, der kleberkar etter avfallsmassene å dømme normalt må være hugget ferdige i bruddområdet, er mangelen på gamle avfallsrester i Skakkestadberget uventet. Ettersom området ved den nåværende parkeringsplassen nedenfor bruddet i vikingtid har ligget omtrent på havoverflatenivå, i området der elven og avbukten møttes, er det mulig at de uferdige karemner fra bruddet relativt lett har kunnet transporteres med båt til et mer egnet sted for videre bearbeidelse.

Datering av de eldste bruddspor

Under vår kortvarige arkeologiske undersøkelse ble det ikke funnet arkeologisk daterbart materiale eller egnet prøvemateriale til radiologisk datering av bruddet. I henhold til Bjørg E. Alfsen og Olav H.J. Christies undersøkelse av prøver fra Skakkestadbruddet og fra vikingtids klebermateriale fra Hedeby i Schleswig-Holstein (1979, Neumünster), er det rimelig å feste tiltro til at bruddet har vært benyttet i vikingtid. Karemnene i bruddet med rundt tverrsnitt og tilsynelatende rund bunn og emnenes dimensjoner tyder i samme retning.

Kleberbruddets potensiale for kulturhistorisk forskning og formidling

Vår begrensete undersøkelse av bare noen få av de registrerte gamle bruddområder på lokalitetenga grunnlag for en rekke dokumenterte slutninger om forhistorisk kleberdrift i Skakkestadberget.

Vi la vekt på de forhistoriske spor. I tillegg finnes det på samme lokalitet interessante spor etter senere drift (uttak av bygningsstein og pegmatittbrudd til bruk i porselensindustrien). Disse spor burde dokumenteres nærmere.

Resultatene av vår beskjedne undersøkelse er i seg selv tilstrekkelige og brukbare som objekt for formidling. Meget få brudd er så tilgjengelige og ligger så nær et moderne tettsted. Ved slik formidling må en selvsagt legge stor vekt på det fredete kulturminnets sårbarhet.

Kleberbruddet er gjengrodd. Tom Thowsen 2021

I dag er kleberbruddet som sagt forholdsvis utilgjengelig der det ligger gjengrodd og inneklemt bak pakkeavdelingen til Norske Skog Saugbrugs. Det er jo beklagelig, synes jeg. Men hvem vet, kanskje kleberbruddet i Skakkestadberget kan komme til heder og verdighet en gang i fremtiden.

PS. Denne gangen tok jeg ingenting. Ingen vits å legge enda en sten til byrden …

Stenansiktet beholder jeg inntil videre.

Takk for følget.

Turen fra Torget over Fredriksten til Skakkestadberget

An enigmatic stone from a bygone era

It constantly arouses wonder as it sits walled in the southwest corner of the church. Maybe first and foremost because it’s upside down. But also because of the runic script.

Photo: Tom Thowsen 2021

For motorists who drive county road 118 from Sarpsborg towards Halden and Svinesund, Skjeberg church looks like a completely ordinary Norwegian church. A white building on a hill surrounded by cultivated land in the relatively flat Østfold in Viken County.

But the church from the 12th century has an interesting history to offer, which is not found in many other places in the country. Traces from the master stonemason himself.

Skjeberg church seen from the southeast. The Sacristy were red. Note the colour beneath the white. Beginning in the Middle Ages, the Pope and Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church wore red to symbolize the blood of Christ and the Christian martyrs. Photo: Tom Thowsen 2021

The riddle

In the 14th century, when the church had stood for approx. 200 years, it was rebuilt and extended, adorned with small portraits and runic writings carved in stone. Both rune stones sit on the south wall, where the red arrows in the picture point.

«This house is dedicated to our Lord and His mother Mary and the apostle Peter,» it is written on the lower stone.

On the top, it is written: «This stone is made by Botolv the master stonemason». This writing is upside down, and the man’s head at the end of the stone shows that it should be so.

But why?

A hint: Check the apostle’s name.

Does it ring a bell?

Not that, no.

A new hint: His cross is upside down, no matter what the death metal band Deicide think about it.

It is said that Peter was crucified with his head down out of respect for his master Jesus.

By placing the text upside down, Botolv did the same.

Christ is the cornerstone of the church, according to the Bible. The foundation itself.

In Acts 4:11, the apostle Peter said: “This Jesus is the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.”

The stone face has its gaze facing east, towards the rising sun.

This symbolizes Jesus’ resurrection, according to ecclesiastical imagery.

Photo: Tom Thowsen 2021
The picture shows a stonemason from the Middle Ages. Notice the one-legged chair, a so-called Swiss milking stool. Photo: Wikipedia LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01

A practical man

We know almost nothing about Botolv. Except for what we see here. Botolv was at least a common name in Norway in the Middle Ages, where Botolvsmesse was celebrated on June 17 in memory of the English Saint Botwulf of Thorney. The name itself originates from the Old English and Old Germanic Botulf. Presumably formed by Old English bōt, which could mean improvement, help, repentance. With wolf at the ending.

But he was probably a highly regarded craftsman with broad experience because it was a large and extensive project. Strong stone walls were torn down, moved, and extended.

As for the runes, there were probably several reasons why Botolv chose to use them. First, the runic characters are easier to carve than Latin letters. Fewer curves, more simple lines. Secondly, the text could be read by many because it was common to use runes in everyday life to mark goods and send short messages.

Photo: Tom Thowsen 2021

A frugal soul

The choir’s south portal also tells a little about Botolv and his choice. It consists of hewn stone, mostly soapstone. A soft rock that is easy to process, and consequently, each boulder can be finely adjusted to each other without difficulty. But here, the joints in the arch split. It can be interpreted as meaning that the stones originally sat in a larger arch. That these are recycled parts from an arch that has been torn down. Maybe from the original choir. Thus, Botolv saved both time and money. At the same time, it should be said that the nearest quarry was only 15 kilometres away, in a straight line. But money saved is money earned. And reuse is not to be despised in our days, as well.

A stone head from my garden. Photo: Tom Thowsen 2020

So, a little curiosity at the very end

I made this stone head when I was 18 years old. Originally an unprocessed stone from Skakkestadberget in Halden. Soapstone has been mined there from the Viking Age to the 19th century. As I said, it is not far from Skjeberg church, and the quality is good.

O, by the way. While speaking of soapstone, there is a magnificent building in Norway called Nidaros Cathedral