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Magma Geopark area covers the five municipalities of Eigersund, Sokndal, Flekkefjord, Lund and Bjerkreim, including the two counties of Rogaland and Vest- Agder, in the South West of Norway. The territory has been designated UNESCO Global Geopark thanks to the international geological importance, and for the work carried on since 2006 in the sustainable development field. At the same time, the Magma UNESCO Global Geopark territory is also appearing to have important relevance from the cultural and historical point of view.
After the Ice Age local inhabitants started to organize the tribes into villages which became more and more complex since the so-called Pre-Viking age. Archaeological remains from the Pre-Viking, Viking and Migration periods have been detected in several Magma Geopark locations. In this part of Norway the synergy between the unique landscape, mostly made of “Anorthosite”, magmatic rocks and the development of the human kind is very evident in the ancient settlements detected. The special chemical composition of the “anorthosite”, poor of minerals, provoke lack of vital resources to the plants which cannot grow on top of it. The area is also characterized by Ice Age geological evidences often combined with erosions from the natural elements. The combination creates rocks having different iconic shapes but also moraines, rock slides, and erratic rocks. In some areas the Anorthosite let the place to the so called “layered intrusion” with layers alternately rich in light and dark minerals, one of which is magnetic (Magnetite). These rocks are easily to be weathered away, but they give rise to fertile soil rich in natural fertilizers, including Phosphorus.
As a result of these factors we can state that Magma Geopark is mostly a quite flat rocky area characterized by both fertile and unfertile land. However, due to the permeability of the anorthosite landscape, rain water manages to filter deep in the ground and re-emerge in the form of approximately 6000 lakes and many rivers which encourage the spreading of human settlements.
Furthermore, the area is extending along the South- West coast of Norway with easy access to the sea thanks to the beachy coastlines which encourage the trades and travels along the history.
The archaeological remains in Magma Geopark
The archaeological features can be divided into three main periods:
– Early Iron Age or Pre-Viking- Iron Age,
– Viking era,
– “Migration period”.
The valorization plan of Magma Geopark included several cultural/ historical locations but only a few dating so back in time:
• The first one is Rossland at Haugen in Sokndal Municipality. The site has been detected as a sacrificial site dating back to the Early Iron Age (500 BC-550 AD). The relicts consist of an altar and one rock portrait together with many other findings registered in the vicinity, like dwellings, burial mounds, rock surfaces with basin like depression and upright stones known as “phallic stone”. The altar is often connected with fertility cult and the sacrifices for Gods related with that practices.
• The second site of archaeological interest is Solbjørgnipa with the remains of farm buildings, burial sites, and animal traps. These remains can be considered one of the most valuable Iron Age remains in Rogaland and are dated to the 200-550 A.D. The findings reveal information concerning the families, and the cultural habits both for life and death. The farm buildings at Bue can be considered to be a typical example of an Iron Age farm, although the size of the site is impressive. In addition to several large round mounds, the rectangular mound represents an unusual burial site. The somewhat disturbed short end of the rectangular mound reveals how it was built using an even row of stones placed on their sides. The long mound is constructed as a ridge extending from the plateau with access from the north, and must have demanded a huge amount of work. The remains of a house are visible as low, disturbed stone embankments just behind the rectangular long mound. The houses were occupied by both people and animals, and the remains of stone walls down across the field indicate that animals were led through the adjacent fields to a grazing area further to the south.
The two traps uphill from Kløgetvedt are ideally placed relative to the terrain. They are located just over the top of a steep-sided saddle at the top of a wide grassy slope. The larger trap is well preserved with stones visible along the edge, whereas the smaller one has collapsed. Archaeological excavations in Setesdal show that five out of six dated animal traps were built in the Iron Age and early Middle Age. Trapped animals are considered to have been a supplementary source of food for the agricultural-based society.
• The third location is Stoplesteinan and St. Olavsvei. Stoplesteinane (the Stople rocks) comprise 16 rocks placed in a circular pattern. The circle has a diameter of 21 meters and constitut rocks measure up to 1,2 meters. The stone circle is located at the top of Skårabrekkå – part of the grounds belonging to the old farm called Årstad. Årstad was the largest, and one of the oldest farms in the district and it is belived that the old Egersund had its origin at the land of the farm. Årstad farm is thought to have existed since the Viking Age. It is unknown why the stone circle was built. According to myths the Stoplesteinane is a thing dating back to the Viking age (800 – 1000 BC). The thing was a governing assembly place at known and visible locations preferably with a hill – much like the location of Stoplesteinane. Things were also often placed in proximity to graveyards.
Similar stone circle exists elsewhere in Norway and North Europe, though they are rare. Some have been excavated and proven to be graves from the end of the Bronze Age (1800 – 500 BC) until the end of the old Iron Age (500 BC – 600 AD). It is still unsure if this is the case at Stoplesteinane bit in 1930, ashes were found in the centre of the ring indicating the latter rather than the place being a thing. Some have also indicated that a burial monument from the older iron age (500 BC – 1000 AD) could have been used as the site for a thing through the Viking Age.