For the last 10 months or so I have been contemplating some new theories about the initial meaning and function of the stone structures I study. Considering new hypotheses usually means paying attention to slightly different aspects of, and features in, the material you work with, so even if I have seen about 80-90 sites so far, I am now on a new tour in Troms and Finnmark to see additional sites, as well as some familiar sites, with new eyes.
Among the localities I visited this week, was a stone structure suggested to be an offering site by Migan on Reinøya, an island north of Tromsø. The site had not been mapped before and I was uncertain where to find it, so I contacted historian Håvard Dahl Bratrein. He told me that he and an archaeologist from Tromsø Museum had first discovered the site from their car down on the road by the sea in the 1970s – back then this was an open landscape. Now, however, the island is less inhabited and few farms are left. The terrain is no longer used for grazing and it has become completely overgrown. Cultural remains are certainly not visible from a distance, or even close up, so it was very helpful that Håvard joined me for a day´s fieldwork. Apart from sharing some of his detailed knowledge about the history and archaeology of the area, he actually managed to find the structure again, despite the dense shrubbery that has grown up during the last 35 years or so.
Having seen the site, I do not think it has the same characteristics as the “typical” circular offering sites in Finnmark, which for instance have quite pronounced stone walls, but it was definitely an intriguing place, featuring a split boulder and a cleared area between this and two cairns, all placed on a distinct elevation in the terrain. Being so overgrown, it would take deturfing of the whole area to get a clear idea of the shape and purpose of the site. This is not within my time frame, economic frame or current permissions, but maybe it could be a project for the future?
After visiting a few more sites in Troms, I am now heading for the stone structures in Varanger – more reports to follow!