Landowners Keep Cultural Treasures Hidden

Archaeological Discoveries in NorwayIn recent years, there have been many exciting archaeological discoveries in Norway.

Over the years, many Norwegian farmers and landowners have kept hidden ancient artifacts from the Stone Age to the present day – prehistoric secrets that never will be made known to the public.

Deep inside a valley in Sogn, Western Norway, a farmer is looking out over a field and knows something others do not. Ever since the first Norwegians there have been living people in this area, and the soil hides a treasure: Some several thousand year old petroglyphs. For generations this has been a well-kept family secret.

– When I was a kid I removed some moss. Under the moss I saw many petroglyphs. I got a clear message from my father: Cover it up, and never tell anyone about it, the farmer tells

Passed On To the Next Generation

He wants to remain anonymous. If archaeologists finds out about this they will impose restrictions and dig up the fields. The secret must remain in the family, the farmer who is in his 40s says. Not only petroglyphs are kept hidden on the farm, but also arrowheads and old tools.

This Western Norwegian farmer is not the only one hiding objects from the Stone Age through the Iron Age, Bronze Age, Viking Age and Middle Ages. 

Many Norwegian farmers tell of archaeological finds. Findings that have been done long back in time, and more recent findings.

– As part of a development project we found a large stone that appeared to have been carved out as a sacrificial altar. We crushed the stone into small pieces. If the authorities had been informed about the altar, we would have had enormous additional costs, another Sogn farmer says.

Landowner and Developer Must Pay

If someone discovers a prehistoric site on his or her property, it is the landowner and developer who must pay the costs. In many cases we are talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars.

– What should we do? one of the landowners NRK spoke with asks. Fears are high that the findings will lead to huge costs and long delays in income generating projects.

In rural towns like Førde in Sunnfjord, small and large cultural treasures have been discovered during construction of new residential areas. One example is when the residential area of Tefre was developed in the 90s, and sediments were used on construction work on a yacht marina.

15 years later, it emerged that a man had found a 1,500 year old spear in one of the loads. Many archeological discoveries are not registered due to fear of regulations and delays.

Must Be Reported To the Police

Since the 50s, the Cultural Heritage Act requires that all discoveries of ancient artifacts must be reported to the police, and are owned by the Norwegian State.  The Act states that the following findings should be reported:

“Objects from Antiquity and Middle Ages (until the year 1537 AD) as weapons, tools, cult objects, stones, pieces of wood and articles of other materials with inscriptions or images, architectural fragments not associated with structures or remnants of structures, furniture, church furniture, jewelry, archive material, skeletons etc. “

Fearing the Archaeologists

A number of farmers tell stories about discoveries.

– What should I do if archaeologists show up to dig up my land, a farmer asks.

It is the Norwegian National Authority for Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime (ØKOKRIM) which is responsible for investigation and possible prosecution in cases linked to violation of the Cultural Heritage Act. In recent years, not many cases have been investigated, Police Superintendent Kenneth Didriksen at ØKOKRIM informs.


Text modified by: Thor Lanesskog, ThorNews


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Categories: Culture, History

3 replies

  1. Something has to change!

  2. That’s ridiculous that the landowners are on the hook for the costs of archeaological work. Nobody’s going to report it if it’s going to bankrupt them.

  3. England (and maybe the entire UK) has a far better system for archaeological finds. The landowner and the finder – if it isn’t the landowner – split the market value of the items discovered. This encourages all kinds of historic finds on a regular basis which is why the UK has such a wealth of visible history. It would be a very smart move for the Norwegian government to stop inhibiting the finding and reporting of their own history, especially if this punitive law is leading to the destruction of artifacts. To think an ancient sacrificial altar was destroyed because of the law & bureaucratic crap that would follow if reported…?! Sometimes the laws governments impose are more criminal in nature than the acts they’re meant to control. I am surprised…I attribute a more forward-thinking attitude to the Norwegian government.

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