Now one of them, in their time deliberately and carefully hidden, rediscovered - the first of its kind in Norway.
The hov which last year was identified as a near-complete plant Ranheim in South Trøndelag, approx. 10 km north of Trondheim, was discovered by chance in connection with plans for construction of housing.
The pagan sanctuary survived because the last people who used it for over 1000 years ago, did their utmost to hide the entire system with an unusually thick layers of soil. So thick that the plow side never reached deep enough that it could destroy. Indeed, some have drainage ditches in their time digging through the area, but without that rough, did what lay to the right and left of the trench.
- The discovery is unique in a Norwegian context, the first ever made in our latitudes, says Preben Rønne at Science Museum / University of Trondheim, who led the excavations.
Sacrificed animal blood
The hov may have been built sometime around or after the year 400 AD and thus been in use for hundreds of years until the people emigrated to avoid Christianity straitjacket. It consisted of a stone set "sacrificial altar", also traces of a pole building that probably has housed idols in the form of sticks with carved faces of Thor, Odin, Frey and Freya. Also deceased relatives of high rank were portrayed in this way and cultivated. Right by the archaeologists uncovered a procession route.
Thanks to the soil was god temple very well preserved. The "altar" where we worshiped the gods and such sacrificed animal blood, consisted of a circular stone setting around 15 meters in diameter and three feet high. Spell building a few meters away was rectangular, 5.3 x 4.5 meters in the ground floor and built with 12 pillars, each of which had a heavy stone foundation. It may have been high and was quite clear from the findings are not used as a dwelling. Among other it had no fireplace. Inside the house, found traces of the four pillars that may be traces of a high seat where the idols stood between ceremonies. The procession road west of the temple and headed straight towards the pole building was marked with two parallel rows of large stones, the longest sequence at least 25 feet long.
When archaeologists began their excavation work last year was thought at first it was about a flat burial mound with a master's grave and one or more secondary graves.
- But as we dug appeared to heap more and more strange, says Ronne.
- Around the middle of the excavation, we had to admit that it was not a burial mound, but a sacrificial altar, in the Norse sources called a Horgen. It was composed of both round dome rocks and stones. During the works, we found two glass beads, also some burned bones and traces of a wooden box that had been filled with red-brown sand / gravel and broken stone boiling. Among the bones we found part of a skull and several human teeth. However, we found no "gold old men", small human figures of thin gold, which were often used in connection with sacrifices.
The most recent dating of the pantheon temple are from between AD 895 and 990 AD. Precisely in this period Christianity was introduced by heavy-handed methods in Norway. This meant that many left the country to retain its original gudetro.
- Probably the people who used the temple among those who chose to emigrate, either to the Island or other North Atlantic islands, said Ronne. - Posts for pole building was in fact drawn up and removed. The whole "altar" was carefully covered with earth and clay, exactly at the transition to Christian times. Therefore, cool place completely forgotten.
Unique in Norway
Large pre-Christian cult facilities in Scandinavia, often large settlements with a large central hall, often with a smaller attached building, is not found in Norway, however, in the Central and Southern Sweden (Skåne), also in eastern Denmark.
- During the sacrifice altar, we found a fire pit that actually lay directly on the prehistoric plow layer. The charcoal from this tomb is now dated to 500-400 BC. Thus, instead have been regarded as sacred or at least had a special status long before the stone altar was built. In the prehistoric plow layer under fire pit, we could clearly see the traces of ard plowing, plow precursor, said Ronne.
According Ronne was found also easy to interpret as a gudehov from Norse sources. So it was also from just from the Trøndelag region the largest exodus of people who wanted to retain their freedom and not being Christian, took place. A large part of them went between AD 870 and 930 to Iceland, ie, under Harald Fairhair time. In all, 40 people from Trøndelag are specifically mentioned in the Norse sources. In Iceland, wrote their descendants later a large part of these sources.
- Evidence suggests that people who deliberately covered idol temple at Ranheim, took the posts from the staff house, as well as soil from the altar to the place they settled down and got his new gudehov. Because our findings and the Norse sources fit together so well, the sources may be more reliable than many scientists believed, said Ronne.
Now Ranheim unique sanctuary removed forever to make way for housing. It is not all agree in.
- The facility will be a great tourist attraction if it is simultaneously being informed about what has happened on site. It is unique in Norway, says civil engineer Arvid Ystad as the private initiative has approached both the Cultural Heritage and the Ancient Monuments Society for plant conservation.
- The location of the dwellings could easily be adapted to this unique cultural heritage, all without losing one's housing stock. It could have been an attraction for new residents and tell them much about the history of the place for over 1000 years ago. Unfortunately housing construction is now underway, says Ronne.