Even before leaving Finnmark in August, I was considering another trip in order to see a few more of the sites I had to pass this summer because of the tight time schedule. On my wish list were both recently registered possible circular offering sites, and sites that were visited 30-50 years ago and described briefly in publications, but never registered in any official databases.
I finally decided to take advantage of what was probably the last days of the field season in Finnmark last week, and go see some more sites before the days become too short and the sites become covered in snow.
It proved a very rewarding trip! In amazing autumn weather I got to see a range of more or less dubious structures, and I think a pattern is starting to show, where I can divide the structures registered as circular offering sites into various types.
The question is if they are all expressions of the same cultural phenomenon. So far it seems that both cache structures and shooting blinds tend to get confused with the kind of circular drywalls that were originally described as offering sites, and I suspect that there are even more categories of cultural remains hiding behind the circular offering site label.
After four days of driving and hiking, the last day in Karasjok also held a pleasant surprise: A very long hike lead me to a circular stone wall with some fallen down rocks inside – and remains of woodwork stuck between some of them!
Remains of wooden structures have previously been mentioned in a couple of descriptions of circular offering sites, whereof one account from the 19th century and one from the early 1980s. The first mentioned structure has no visible remains today, and the second is very hard to get to, so I have yet to visit it.
The one I visited this week has not been officially registered before, so the wooden remains were a complete surprise. It suggests that the circular wall may have been part of a more complex construction. This is very exciting because it could give new insight into the specific use of the structure. In addition, finds of wood is important because small samples of organic material may be used for C14-dating. A dating would relate the phenomenon to a specific historical situation, which is of course crucial for the interpretation.
I hope to get the opportunity to investigate this structure closer next summer, in order to establish what the wooden remains are exactly, and what an original structure may have looked like. In the meantime, I will return to the office and start sorting the range of registered structures more systematically, relating them to other archaeological, historical and geographical information to see what patterns show up. Let the fun begin…!