For the last few weeks I have been on several field trips in Troms, Nordland, and Sør-Trøndelag. These excursions conclude the planned surveys in the Sámi areas of Norway, as I have now visited relevant sites from Hedmark county in the south to Finnmark in the north.
“Relevant sites” also include stone circles and similar features that have not previously been registered as circular offering sites, but which from the descriptions sound like possible equivalents.
One such structure may be found on the island of Tarva in Sør-Trøndelag. It consists of a large overgrown circular stone and turf wall situated close to a collection of small stone cairns and long curved mounds. The site has previously been registered as a burial field, but in a 1950s report it has also been suggested that the remains could stem from coastal Sami activity.
The circular wall is mysterious, it resembles a turf houseground, but it is very large, almost 10 m in diameter. Another suggestion has been that it is a robbed grave cairn, but the wall looks too orderly to be the accidental result of just digging a hole in a cairn. I could not draw any certain conclusions form the visible remains, but await the original report from the museum archive in Trondheim to see why just this site has been thought to be related to the Sami presence on the Trøndelag coast.
Another field trip went to Saltdal, Nordland, where I was pretty sure I would get to see something very relevant and groundbreaking: In 1889, Axel Hagemann describes a circular stone wall on a moraine hill to the south of lake Bjellåvatn (later specified to be Nordre Bjellåvatn). He says that this must surely be an old Sámi offering site, though it was not in use in his time.
Given the scarcity in Nordland of circular offering sites similar to those in Finnmark, I was very interested in seeing this site for myself. The area south of the lake has not been systematically registered by archaeologists, so I did not have an exact position for it, but I figured that a stone circle of the dimensions described by Hagemann, 1 m high and 5 m in diameter, should still be reasonably easy to find in the low vegetation and stony landscape around Bjellåvatn, even if the stone wall could have collapsed and become overgrown after all this time.
After 11 hours of searching through the area I stand corrected – and disappointed. There was no trace of such a structure on the hillsides around Bjellåvatn that I could see. In the evening I spoke to a reindeer herder who said he had never seen anything like what Hagemann described in the area. A local hiker however thought it could be a structure he had seen in a valley further to the southwest, and promised to send me a picture of this. Still, from his description, I suspect this is more likely a so-called Stallo houseground, with a low circular turf wall of about 5 m in diameter around a depression in the ground.
It remains to be seen, but unless the hiker is right, the mystery remains: Where did Hagemann´s monumental stone circle go?