19 juli 2007

Enigmatic stones

In the hills and mountains of Southern Norway one sometimes stumble upon peculiar stone-settings, like the pictured one (top) at Trekongane (i.e. ’the tree kings’, named after three colossal fir trees) in Tveit, Kristiansand, close to where I live. The structure at Trekongane is rectangular, c. 1x2 m. It consists of one layer of head-sized stones placed directly om the naked, mountain surface. Similar stone structures are pretty common in hills and mountain areas. They are often referred to as ’likkviler’, meaning literally ’resting places for corpses’. The idea is that coffins were placed in the ’likkviler’ when people who were carrying dead bodies to the churchyard from far-away farms needed to rest.

Some of the ”likkviler” are U-shaped. According to oral tradition, the ’opening’ was always facing in the direction of the churchyard, and not of the home farm. This was to make sure that the restless dead were not able to ’go home’.

Often the ’likkviler’ are found near old trails and roads. However, the one at Trekongane isn’t, and I know of several others which seem to have no relation whatsoever to systems of communication. I literally stumbled upon it a couple of years ago, while searching for the famous ’tree kings’.

These monuments are indeed enigmatic. We don’t know how old they are, nor why they were built. And of course they are notoriously hard to date, since there is no cultural layer between the stones and the underground.This they have in common with an impressing group of monuments that seems to be limited to mountain areas in Telemark, Agder and Rogaland. Consisting of often long rows of erected stones (bottom picture, courtesy of my co-worker Torfinn Hageland), the so-called ’brudler’ are as engimatic as the ’likkviler’. The word itself is a dialectic term meaning ’wedding procession’. Supposedly, when people in olden days got a bride from beyond the mountains, they put up a ’brudle’. Often the ’brudle’ has a couple of bigger stones, allegedly symbolising the bride and groom, while the lesser stones are thought to symbolise the number of people (alternatively: horses) in the procession.

There are a whole number of cases where several ’brudler’ and ’likkviler’ are clustered together. Often singular erected stones, called pikksteiner (literally: ’prick stones’) are found, too.

In one case, at Prestvorrheia in Åseral, Vest-Agder, a number of cup marks are located near a ’brudle’. Usually dating to the Bronze or Early Iron Age in Scandinavia, the cup marks at Prestvorrheia suggest that at least some of the engimatic stone structures could be prehistoric.

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