Klosterøy, a picturesque island in southwest Norway, boasts a treasure trove of cultural history. Among its notable landmarks is Norway’s best-preserved medieval monastery, drawing visitors to explore its ancient allure. In September 2023, archaeologists embarked on groundbreaking ground-penetrating radar surveys, unveiling promising results that fueled excitement among researchers.

Their discoveries hinted at a potentially significant find: remnants of what appeared to be ancient homes and dock foundations, suggesting the existence of a bustling marketplace.

Further evidence surfaced from metal detector sweeps, yielding artifacts like coins and weights commonly associated with trade. If confirmed, this revelation would mark a unique archaeological breakthrough for the region.

One fascinating feature unearthed was the presence of pit houses. These dwellings, with floors excavated below ground level, were prevalent across Europe, particularly in Scandinavia and Iceland. Experts speculate these structures, equipped with chimney vents, served as artisanal workshops, offering respite from summer heat and winter cold.

The radar surveys, conducted as part of the “Power’s Harbor” research project, were spearheaded by Professor Håkon Reiersen and his team from the Museum of Archaeology. Their focus on the vicinity surrounding Utstein Monastery hinted at the area’s historical significance, prompting meticulous investigation.

Among the intriguing finds were large trench-like structures reminiscent of Viking-era homes found elsewhere in Norway. Although less visually striking than the famed Viking ship burials, these discoveries held equal scholarly intrigue.

The presence of dock foundations and kitchen pits further bolstered the hypothesis of a marketplace. When combined with evidence from metal detectors and other cultural sites, the case for a longstanding marketplace at Utstein grew stronger.

These findings, analyzed by archaeologists in collaboration with experts from the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research, underscored the need for further exploration. While initial indicators pointed towards a marketplace, conclusive evidence awaited additional research, contingent upon funding and landowner cooperation.

Utstein Gard’s landowners, stewards of the historic farm since 2012, eagerly supported archaeological endeavors on their property. Their commitment to sustainable agriculture and cultural preservation aligned seamlessly with the excavation efforts, underscoring their deep respect for the region’s rich history.


University of Stavanger

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