Text Marit Synnøve Vea

The roundhouse is a reconstruction of finds made during archaeological excavations at Skeie on Hundvåg, Stavanger. Here four holes from poles that had held up a roof were found, and around these holes the archaeologists discovered tofts marking a wall. The round-house was built in the autumn of 2001.

Shed for cooking. (Photo Kåre Tangen)

We do not know for sure what the functions of the Viking Age round-houses were. (Photo Kåre Tangen)

For a long time it was believed that such round houses did not form part of the Scandinavian building tradition, but during recent archaeological excavations, round tofts have been uncovered that cannot be anything but buildings.

As the load-bearing system is square, the challenge was to find out how the round walls could be joined to the roof, that is “how to square the circle”. One clue was found in the construction of stave churches.

The roundhouse is made of pine and oak with standing wall boards set on a stringer. A hearth is placed in the middle, and the roof has an opening with a hatch to let out the smoke. The roof is made of underlying and overlying vertical pine boards.

We do not know what the functions of the Viking Age roundhouses were. Some have speculated that they may have been used as places of worship, thus forming a missing link between “hov” (temples) and stave churches.