Rolvsøy is a parish in Fredrikstad municipality, close to the estuary of the river
It has been pointed out that Østfold, and in particular the area around the estuary of the river
From an extensive burial field centering on the farms Hauge and Rå, stems a cut glass from Rådalen (Lund-Hansen no 198, type Eggers 228), the only one of its kind known from E Norway (14, 15, 16). The big
Grave finds from the Late Iron Age are comparatively few in Østfold (17, 18). However, a number of princely graves from Rolvsøy stand out. A ship burial was found at the farm Rostad as early as 1751, in a huge mound (2, 19). All the finds are long lost, and information about the vessel and its equipment is sparse. However, a contemporary description clearly implies a burial similar to the ship burials from Tune, Gokstad, and Oseberg (2).
In 1867, the ship denoted the ’Tune ship’ (at the time, Rolvsøy was part of Tune municipality) was excavated on the neighbouring farm of Haugen by O. Rygh (2, 19). The mound, called ’Båthaugen’, was most likely the second biggest grave mound known from Norway, some 80 m across, i. e. almost twice as wide as the Oseberg mound and at least one and a half times as wide as the Gokstad mound (20). At least two other huge mounds are known to have existed on the Haugen farm in earlier times; both of them, however, were destroyed without any information about their contents being available (20).
The c. 20 m long and 4,35 m wide oak ship was found in a natural layer of clay in the ground. It had been placed parallel to the river, and with the forestem pointing in a SE direction. Most of the vessel’s hull was encapsulated in the clay. The inside of the hull had been lined with moss and juniper before being covered with clay. In the rear of the ship a timbered chamber had been erected; a four-walled structure built of standing oak planks, with corner posts rammed into the clay outside the vessel on both sides (stave construction). The chamber’s roof was flat, unlike the chambers from Oseberg and Gokstad (2).
The Tune ship has been dendro dated to c. AD 900 (1). Although much of the grave-goods are lost, the information we do have indicate that a male person was put to rest in the ship, as a sword, a spear, a possible armour and a shield-boss was found inside. Bones said to belong to at least two horses were also found, as well as two glass beads, textiles, carved wooden figures, a piece of a wooden ski, a wooden shuffle, an oak bucket, and, perhaps, an iron anchor (2, 19).
The third of the ship graves from Rolvsøy was discovered at the Valle farm in 1894. But in this case the term ’ship’ is perhaps an overstatement. The burial was found by incidence during digging-works for a new house. According to the finder, the vessel was at least 9, 10 m long, and 3 m wide (2). The find-spot was close to the river
The preserved artefacts consist of a bronze scales with geometrical ornaments, a sword handle with Anglo-Saxon inlaid silver ornaments, an iron axe-head, a schist hone and a horse’s frostnail (2).
The timbered chamber grave from Haugen was discovered in 1864, close to the site where the ship burial was excavated three years later, but closer to the river, and in a huge mound. The chamber was dug into the clay underground. It was built of horizontal logs, four of them in each wall. The chamber was square, with each side wall measuring c. 3,75 m. It was c. 50 cm high, with a flat roof made of logs. The chamber floor was covered with juniper (2). The chamber grave from Haugen is rare, but not unique in the Norwegian Viking Age material, but the majority of Viking Age chamber graves are known from Denmark and Sweden, not least from Haithabu and Birka, where this grave type is rather common (21, 22).
The discovery of the grave regrettably was not duly noted by archaeologists until 1867, when O. Rygh was shown the site where the chamber had been found three years earlier. Most of the finds were gone by then, but Rygh was able to collect some items, as well as gathering information about the finds. Any reconstruction of the grave must necessarily be based on his report (2).
The chamber contained a bronze scales together with some weights of bronze and iron, several textiles including a silk ribbon and a woven ribbon, whose motif is probably that of a ship burial (20), the remains of down quilts and pillows, harness fittings, an iron horse-bit, a strap end that perhaps belong to the harness, a bronze ring-pin, two drinking horns, a bronze cauldron, two soap stone vessels, two or three oak buckets, and bones belonging to at least two hounds. A. W. Brøgger dates the grave to c. AD 900 (2).
Brøgger argued that the princely graves from Rolvsøy belonged to outside invaders, mainly because he did not know of any older, comparable finds from the area (2). E. Johansen has, however, pointed out that there are several extensive burial fields not yet excavated in the area, and that settlement in Rolvsøy was probably much denser than Brøgger thought (20).
The part of
A distance of only 5 km separates Haugen from the Tune farm. It seems reasonable to view the Viking Age burials from Rolvsøy as expressing one aspect of the central place complex Tune. While Brøgger may have been right to point out that there is no real structural continuity between the princely graves from c. AD 900 and older finds from Rolvsøy, there are several indicators for such a continuity if we look at other sites within short distance from Rolvsøy. Apart from several richly furnished graves from Tune-Grålum itself and the Tune runic stone (9, 10, 26), one might think of two old finds of gold bracteates from Fredrikstad from the Migration Period, a Merovingian Period stamp for a ‘guldgubbe’ from Borge church, a Viking Age treasure find from c. AD 1050 from Sarpsborg, as well as the medieval stone church at Tune, known from written sources as one of two minster churches on the E side of the Oslofjord.
(1) N. Bonde, A. E. Christensen, Dendrochronological dating of the Viking Age ship burials at Oseberg, Gokstad and Tune, Norway, Antiquity 67, 1993, 575-583. (2) A. W. Brøgger, Rolvsøyætten. Et arkeologisk bidrag til vikingetidens historie, Bergens Museums Aarbok 1920-21. Hist.-antikv. Række nr. 1, 1922, 1-42. (3) B. Hougen, Trekk av østnorsk romertid, Universitetets Oldsaksamlings skrifter, II, 1929,