ARCHAEOLOGICAL EXCAVATIONS OF THE MEDIEVAL ROYAL MANOR
During the period 6 June – 13 October, the Avaldsnes Royal Manor project conducts excavations of the medieval royal manor at Avaldsnes.
THE AVALDSNES ROYAL MANOR PROJECT
The Royal Manor project is an archaeological research project that is based on the old royal residence Avaldsnes by the strait Karmsundet. The project is led by prof. Dagfinn Skre, Museum of Cultural History in Oslo.
The Royal Manor project should initially investigate the story of the royal seat Avaldsnes and the rise of the Norwegian kingdom from approx. 200 to 1100 AD. During the excavations in 2012, the archaeologists made the unexpected discovery of a medieval royal manor built in stone. The Royal Manor project therefore expanded its thematic and chronological framework to include the institutionalized kingdom of the High Middle Ages.
The ruins were found two weeks before the Royal Manor project was to finish its investigations. For reasons of safety, the ruins were covered over again until a proper scientific survey could be conducted.
In December 2016, the Norwegian government granted NOK 5.4 million for investigations of the medieval ruins. Thus, the project was fully funded and the excavations of the royal estate could start on 6 June 2017.
2017. WHAT THE EXCAVATIONS REVEALED
The ruins are situate on the plateau just south of St Olaf’s Church, and the excavations show that it is the main building of the medieval royal manor complex that has been found.
The building had three floors built in stone, included the basement. The basement was used as warehouse, probably to store goods received from both taxation and trade.
On the second floor, there were kitchens, workshops and working rooms. On the third floor was the representative hall and other rooms used by the king when he was at Avaldsnes.
The building ends in a high gate tower. This was the main entrance to the royal manor. From the tower a covered passageway, perhaps in two floors, leads up to the chancel. The façade from the south to the church is 70 m. The main building, including the tower, is about 51 meters.
WHO BUILT THE MEDIEVAL ROYAL MANOR?
The building was constructed sometime between 1240-1319, probably either by Håkon Håkonsson, who built the Church of St Olaf, or by Håkon V Magnusson, who appointed St Olaf’s church as a collegiate church. So far, it seems that the gate tower was built by Håkon Håkonsson at the same time as the church, and that Håkon V Magnusson continued with the main building which was completed sometime around 1300.
This is the fourth royal manor built in stone that is found in Norway. The others are situated in Bergen, Oslo and Tønsberg.
RESTORATION OF THE RUINS
Once the ruin has been excavated, it must be secured before the restoration work can start in 2018. This will be done in close cooperation with NIKU. (The Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research) and it will take several years before it is finished. The restoration will enable the ruin to withstand wind and wear and tear.
The ruins, together with St Olaf’s Church, will be the significant elements in a medieval park that we plan to develop in the central church area.
The landscape around the ruin must be arranged so that the audience can walk around it. We will also provide information on how the royal estate may have looked and how the buildings were used.
THE AVALDSNES ROYAL MANOR PROJECT HAS THREE PHASES
• Preparatory project: Completed 2007-2009.
• Excavation phase: Excavations conducted summer seasons of 2011, 2012 and 2017.
• Analysis and publication phase: 2013 – 2019: During this phase, a team of prominent researchers are working on writing Avaldsnes’ history from the birth of Christ to the High Middle Ages. The research team will also place Avaldsnes in a context that makes the site’s more than a thousand year long history as a royal residence understandable and meaningful; locally, nationally and internationally.
2017. THE NATIONAL GOVERNMENT GRANTS NOK 10 MILL TO THE AVALDSNES ROYAL MANOR PROJECT
In May 2017, the National Government granted NOK 10 million for the analysis and publication phase of the Avaldsnes Royal Manor project. This makes it possible to write Avaldsnes’s history into a broader European context. Ie a story about how the Germanic tribes of northern Europe were transformed into kingdoms and eventually states.