Posted by: Marte Spangen | August 30, 2012

Last week in Troms

It has been five hectic weeks of fieldwork, but last week in Troms was mostly a treat, hiking in various areas in great autumn weather, meeting great people, and getting an overview of the areas and all the various structures registered as circular offering sites.

What strikes me is the lack of circular offering sites that resembles the ones I have seen in Finnmark. I have seen mysterious cairns, semi-circular stone setting and dubious house grounds, but so far only one structure I have visited in Troms resembles the circular offering sites further north: The one by the lake Gálggujávri in Storfjord municipality.

The stone circle is hidden between the hills in an odd terrain with crisscrossing moraines. The stone wall is built with accuracy, with larger stones on the inside and covered with smaller stones on the outside. The circular offering sites often have a mound or cairn in the middle, which has been thought to have functioned as a fundament for a sieidi, i.e. a sacred stone or wooden figure, or possibly as an alter for the offering matter.

In this case the mound is unusually large and fills out most of the interior of the circle. Unfortunately someone has dug a large hole in the middle of it. This is prohibited according to Norwegian law: All Sámi cultural heritage older than 100 years is automatically protected by law, while non-Sámi heritage is protected if older than the reformation of 1537.

The hole may be older than the current law, but it is still a pity that the structure has been disturbed. The few circular offering sites that have been excavated by professionals haven´t produced many finds, which makes it all the harder to define their use. Hence, it would be very unfortunate if any finds in this ring were never to be known by researchers or the public. In addition, such a disturbance makes it more difficult to decide the original construction of the circle and mound.

While seeing many structures this week that are probably not circular offering sites, it has been a valuable experience to travel the county and see what has been thought to be such sites. When returning to Tromsø on Friday, I had another valuable input waiting for me: Thanks to curator Dikka Storm at Tromsø Museum I have obtained a transcript of the first source that mentions the stone circles as offering sites; an 1850s note by zoologist, archaeologist and tradesman A. G. Nordvi. This is the origin of the present interpretation of the stone circles, and I was keen to know where Nordvi got his information. Unfortunately his words about the circles being offering sites are not very clear to this point, and could suggest both that this is his assumption, and that he has had such information from somewhere else. Hence, the structures and their history remains a mystery for now.

The stone circle by Gálggujávri is quite hidden

A better view of the circle

The hole someone has dug in the mound in the middle of the Gálggujávri stone circle

The Båhl family lives by Gálggujávri and uses the area for reindeer herding. Mari takes me across to the other side of the sea





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