Pagan Temple Unearthed In Norway

Archaeologists have discovery something truly amazing in Norway, something to give light to the pre-christian scandinavian religion. It seems it’s the first of its kind to be found in norwegian soil, but it is so unique for a reason – it was deliberately hidden to avoid its destruction by christian hands.

This archaeological finding is located at the site of Ranheim, to the north of Trondheim. It seems the area where the temple was found had been occupied since the 6th-5th centuries BCE until the late 10th century CE (common Era). There are traces of animal sacrifice obviously, which isn’t something that outstanding, for it was a common practice in many cultures of antiquity. This temple was dismantled and covered by peat a 1000 years ago more or less, to protect it from christian invaders as told before. The people of this place fled from the christians but not before safeguarding their place of worship.

The temple may have been built somewhere around the year 400 AD. It was thus used for hundreds of years until the people emigrated to avoid Christianity’s oppressive religion. The temple consisted of a stone-set, commonly known as “sacrificial altar”, and also traces of a “pole building” that probably housed idols in the form of sticks with carved faces of the gods. Deceased relatives of high rank were also portrayed in this way. Not far from there, the archaeologists also uncovered a procession route.

Being covered by layers of peat the temple was very well preserved. Such places covered by stratigraphic layers of turf and a very wet soil, tend to preserve whatever lies beneath. The altar for instance, where one worshiped the gods and offered animal blood, was preserved and we can have an idea how it was. It consisted of a circular stone setting around 15 meters in diameter and nearly a meter high. The pole building a few meters away was rectangular, with a floor plan of 5.3 x 4.5 meters, and raised with 12 poles, each having a solid stone foundation. The building may have been high and it is clear that it wasn’t used as a dwelling. It had no fireplace. Inside the “house” were found traces of four pillars that may be evidence of a high seat where the idols stood between ceremonies. The processional road west of the temple headed straight towards where the pole building was marked with two parallel rows of large stones, the longest sequence at least 25 feet long.

When archaeologists began their excavations two glass beads were found, and also some burned bones and traces of a wooden box that had been filled with red-brown sand/gravel and a cracked boiling stone. Among the bones, it was found a part of a skull and several human teeth.
The latest dating of the temple is between 895 and 990 CE. Precisely during this period Christianity was introduced by heavy-handed methods into Norway. Probably the people who used the temple were among those who chose to emigrate, either to Iceland or other North Atlantic islands. Posts for pole building were in fact pulled up and removed. The whole ‘altar’ was carefully covered with earth and clay, precisely at the transition to Christian times. Therefore, the cult site was completely forgotten. There are indications that the people who deliberately covered up the temple at Ranheim took the posts from the stave house/pole building, in addition to the soil from the altar, to the place wherever they  had settled down and raised a new temple.
The sacrificial altar, a fire pit was found, which lay directly on the prehistoric plow layer. The charcoal from this grave is now dated to 500-400 BC/BCE. Thus, the place could have been regarded as sacred or at least had a special status long before the stone altar was built.

2 responses to “Pagan Temple Unearthed In Norway

    • Hello Marc. For the Christ Era we (historians and archaeologists) often put A.D. (Anno Domini – “in the year of the/our Lord”) when we come up with C.E. and B.C.E. (B standing for “before”) that’s putting aside the Christian interpretation of history due to the fact we that in truth that counting has nothing to do with Christ or christ’s life. An old way to record history and it’s better and more academical to go with “Our Common Era” or “Before the Common Era”.

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