Norwegian seafaring and way of life have been shaped by the country’s rugged and dynamic landscape. Tall mountain ranges that plunge into interior lakes and rivers, a complex coastline riddled by fjords and small islands, and harsh winters have created a culture that has overcome these boundaries to overland transportation through a strong maritime heritage and identity, which ProMare has been dedicated to studying since 2004.
Norway’s dramatic topography, particularly in the mountains of the interior of the country, have made the formation of townships particularly difficult in the past. All but one medieval town (Hamar) was located on the coast. Because of the difficulty of travelling by land, being linked by the waterways was vital to commerce with the interior, which was rich with natural resources.
This is particularly true for Telemark, a county in south-western Norway where we have conducted several seasons of survey and research. The Telemark waterway, initially composed of lakes and rivers joined by portages and eventually connected via canals, allowed for the transport of trade goods from the interior of Norway with the rest of the country and Europe. The whetstones that were one of the region’s most profitable trade items during the Viking Age and middle ages were quarried at Eidsborg (now Dalen) and Lardal. Stone quarried in Eidsborg and Lardal, along with other trade goods such a hide, horn, and timber from the surrounding forests, was loaded onto boats to travel down Lake Bandak and Kviteseid toward the rest of the waterway and the coast. While many of these boats safely passed through this journey, others did not.
Going farther afield, ProMare headed north in 2004 to search for WWI aircraft in the Trondheim Harbor. More information about this, and our other projects, can be found in the links to the right. Despite our discoveries and those of our colleagues at other institutions, there are many aspects of Norway’s rich maritime history that have yet to be discovered. Other interesting avenues for continued study abound, such as the development of vessel-types distinctive of Norway. Because of this, ProMare has been collaborating with Norwegian museums, universities and archaeologists since 2004 to develop a consistent program of research to explore past Norwegian maritime activities and study the archaeological remains of historical and pre-historical vessels in Norwegian waters.