One is often given the impression that the Sosteli farm is located in a very marginal, mountaineous area. In fact, Sosteli lays in the outskirts of the central farming area in Kyrkjebygd. In earlier times, an important road leading to Kyrkjebygd from areas further W passed right through the Sosteli area. Sosteli was not an isolated spot. There were a number of other deserted farms on the same plain as Sosteli; most of them, however, unknown to Hagen in the 1940s, and many of them located further away from the central farming area than Sosteli. Furthermore, the mouments (houses, mounds etc.) in Sosteli were not discovered in the 1940s. They became known to archaeologists then, but were in fact known by and commented upon in local folklore long before this (6, 7). In fact, a trial in 1694, regarding the whereabouts of the boundary between the farms Åsland and Forgard, refers to “the deserted farm called Sostelien” (7). The source from 1694 is the only indicator for “Sosteli” being the old name of the deserted farm. In the early 20th century, however, “Sosteli” denoted not the abandoned farm, but the sloping area slightly to the W of and above the farm.
In his pioneering campaign 1947-1949, Hagen excavated 3 house foundations, 7 burial mounds, a number of clairance cairns and a structure later interpreted by Hagen as a “horg” (stone altar or sanctuary) (1, 5).
The third house structure excavated by
While a pioneer study in its time,
As for House II,
More recently, a number of surveys have been carried out in the Sosteli area. Several new monuments have come to light, while some of the old ones have been reinterpreted. This work is helped by the huge comparative material that is now available, thanks to the number of excavations of complete settlement sites that have been conducted in
Not least important is the discovery of two more house foundations in Sosteli. Although none of these are as yet excavated, one seems to be a longhouse of Iron Age type. This structure, called House IV, is located more or less parallell with House II, and to the S of the latter. It seems likely that these two houses are contemporary, thus putting the farm in Sosteli more in line with the other, excavated Migration period farms in SW Norway, with Forsand as the prime example, i.e. farms consisting of two parallel buildings; one big, up to 50 m long and 7 m wide, and one considerably smaller, up to 20 m long and 5 m wide (9).
The other newly discovered house foundations, House V, seems to be the remains of a small, almost square building with a centrally placed fire place. It is most likely that this represent a corner-timbered building of Medieval or Post-Medieval date (Norw. “stove”). Thus, one can no longer regard Sosteli as a single-phase settlement, a fact corraborated by the reference in 1694 to Sosteli as a “ødegaard”, i.e. abandoned farm, and the then conflict between the farmers on Åsland and Forgard respectively over property rights here – a clear indicator for the existence of a deserted Medieval farm in this very area (10). Already in 1948, J. Troels-Smith’s paleo-botanical survey had indicated farming activities close to Sosteli already in the Middle Neolithic, and two Middle Neolithic stone axes were found during the excavations. So, there is every reason to regard the different monuments in Sosteli as stemming from different phases of settlement and use. Incidentally, this might be the case with Hagen’s House III, located in the stone enclosure to the W of House II. The stone enclosure itself probably represents the remains of the dyke (“utgard”) that once separated the cultivated area of the farm from the outlands. There is not much left of this dyke. Especially in the area S of the central area of the farm one would expect a dyke. However, the two parallel dykes running in a SW direction from the SW corner of House II seems to be a cattle-lane leading from the byre to the outlands. This cattle-lane is blocked by a stone wall, a phenomenon known from several multi-phased farms on Jæren (10).
It might seem like a paradox, but it is in no way a unique phenomenon that extensive areas apparently lying outside the dyke has been cultivated at one point or another, as indicated by a number of clairance cairns and a couple of substantial lynchets to the S of the farm buildings. The cultivating of this area is probably not contemporary with the remaining house foundations, but is probably older or younger. Extensive cairn fields like this are known from many areas in
The only partially excavated “horg” is a stone-setting, 30 m long and 10 m wide, and covered with a turf layer. It is located in the slope to the NW of House II, and on the inside of the dyke.
Where does this leave House I, the temporary living quarters (
The context Sosteli was put in in the 1940s and 1950s is in many respect outdated. The Kyrkjebygd and Sosteli area were exploited by farming groups long before the Migration period. The settlement in Sosteli itself might be much older than
(1) A. Hagen, Studier i jernalderens gårdssamfunn, Universitetets Oldsaksamlings Skrifter 4,