Borgund Kaupang
The Borgund Kaupang Project


The project's broad research team will undertake a number of various-size studies.

Main content

Iron Processing and Consumption in Borgund


A large share of the artefact finds from the excavations in the Borgund kaupang are slag, metal working tools and objects of iron. The PhD-project is going to focus on the processing and consumption of iron in Borgund: which processes took place and how were products of iron important for the economy of Borgund? The aim is to enhance our understanding of Borgund’s economic basis, and to produce a case study for a wider understanding of socio-economic dynamics of the refinement of Norwegian resources for domestic and international trade.

Brita Hope


Main advisor:

Gitte Hansen, Archaeology, Professor Dr., University Museum of Bergen, Dep. of Cultural History, University of Bergen, Norway


Bernt Rundberget, Archaeology, Ph.D., Head of Department of Archaeology and Cultural History, NTNU University Museum, Norway

Social Approaches to the Consumption of Household Wares of Soapstone and Pottery in the Borgund Kaupang in a Long Term Perspective


According to conventional wisdom Norway did not have an indigenous production of pottery during the Middle Ages. Sherds of domestic soapstone vessels and imported pottery make up a large share of the finds from Borgund. Research trends towards social approaches to material culture are at the core of this research project. Soapstone and pottery will be explored as a reflection of lifestyle, social identities and ethnic affiliations, cultural and economic networks on a local, national and international level etc. The aim is to enhance our understanding of Borgund’s participation — and position — in local, regional and international social, cultural and economic networks. 

Mathias Blobel


Main advisor:

Gitte Hansen, Archaeology, Professor Dr., University Museum of Bergen, Dep. of Cultural History, University of Bergen, Norway


Natascha Mehler, Archaeology, Prof. Dr., Universität Tübingen, Abteilung für Archäologie des Mittelalters, Germany

Ramona Harrison, Zooarchaeology, Associate Professor, Dep. of Archaeology, History, Culture studies and Religion (AHKR), University of Bergen, Norway

The Consumption and Procurement of Timber and Stone for Buildings and Constructions in Borgund

Large scale production and consumption of marble-stone for churches and timber for houses and infrastructure is witnessed in Borgund. Where did Borgund procure these raw materials? Sourcing the raw materials and studying land ownership to the raw-materials gives new insights into Borgund’s contacts in local networks and helps characterise the place in terms of influential actors. This study implements building archaeological studies, studies of ownership to land through documentary evidence, dendro-provenance on wooden structures and geological identification of relevant local marble sources for the 12th c. stone churches.

Alf Tore Hommedal and Per Storemyr and Tom Heldal

Churches in the Landscape. A Study of the Religious Environment of the Borgund Kaupang

The focus will be the religious topography of the ‘failed’ urban settlement of the Borgund Kaupang seen in relation to the larger religious topography both local and within the diocese of Bergen. The religious environment will be studied through material, pictorial and written sources.

Henning Laugerud

Destruction as Creation

Borgund seems to have gone through several re-developments, where great land in-fillings form the basis for new arrangements. This study explores destruction as a means to renegotiate and re-define places with Borgund as a case.

Gitte Hansen

Owners of Property at Borgund and Its Regional Surroundings

In this study literary sources: sagas, taxation documents etc. will be addressed to uncover categories of land owners, and potential influencing families in the district of Borgund. This will serve as contextual information when characterizing the small town.

Geir Atle Ersland

Making Sense of Decline: Narratives About the End of Cities and Places of Trade

The medieval frames of understanding and narrating the end of communities and cities, such as the Borgund kaupang, as they are represented and disseminated in medieval texts. This will put the archaeological findings from Borgund into context and perspective.

Jens Eike Schnall

Small Scale Producers of Affordable Crafts

Production waste and tools from working antler, leather and nonferrous metals will be studied and Borgund’s crafts production and consumption of personal accessories involving both domestic and imported raw materials is seen in a North European context.

Gitte Hansen

Townspeople and Visitors

Tools of trade: tally sticks, weights, balances etc. and div. personal accessories: shoes with silk embroideries, combs, keys, walrus ivory gaming pieces and other one-of-a-kind objects will be studied and the methodological challenges of distinguishing between visitors and townspeople as consumers of material culture will be explored.

Gitte Hansen

The Demographic Composition of Townspeople at Borgund

The consumption of gender specific objects (including shoes, i.e. shoe sizes) will be studied to uncover the demographical composition of the population.

Gitte Hansen and Sigrid S. Mygland

Fragments of Lifestories - Burials and Human Remains from Borgund

The project addresses human osteological remains and burial customs documented at two Christian burial grounds in Borgund. An important task in the project is the identification of all human bones, individuals and graves, and to determine the demographic composition of the assemblage and the presence of skeletal health indicators, pathological lesions and trauma. The study combines bioarcheological data and archaeological contextual information. Key questions are: Who were the townspeople of Borgund, where did they come from, what life circumstances did they endure and how were they treated after death?

Katharina Lorvik 

Borgund’s Role in North Atlantic Networks, and the Borgund Townspeople’s Social Standing

A select number of the c 130 textiles from the site will be classified and assessed in relation to both local textile traditions and North Atlantic ones. Documentary sources hint at a significant amount of medieval Icelandic and North Atlantic cloth making its way to Norway in the form of either taxes or trade goods. Textile analyses and strontium isotope studies will help track the likely sources of wool, a to address roles of international trade connections vis-a-vis local production in clothing Borgund's townspeople or in trading wool or textiles out to other Norwegian towns (e.g. Bergen) or beyond. Dating of textiles will be used to identify trends through time in trade and production patterns

Michèle Hayeur Smith

Borgund’s Role in National Distribution Networks for the Trade in, and Consumption of Norwegian Hones

Was Borgund a hub in a trade network for Norwegian hones? And what were the hones used for at Borgund? In the Viking Age and Middle Ages, two major types of schist were sought after as raw-material for hones, schist from Eidsborg in south-eastern Norway and schist of a Caledonian type — also this most likely from Norway. The products are well known in northern Europe (Haithabu, Ribe etc.), but how was the distribution and use of these products within Norway? c. 400 hones from Borgund will be classified and the stone identified using archaeological classification methods, ocular geological methods as well as ICP-MS analyses (geochemistry) on targeted specimens.

Irene Baug and Øystein J. Jansen

Archaeological Bird Remains From Norway as a Means to Identify Long-term Patterns in a Northern European Avifauna

Samuel J. Walker analyses faunal materials (bones of domesticated and wild birds) from Borgund.

Weaving the Vikings’ Life Insurance

In this study Varafell textiles from Borgund are reconstructed through experimental weaving by trained craftspeople. Varafell-textiles, used as a cloak by seafarers as protection from rain and the cold, are a known export article from Iceland. Norway’s first known examples are identified in the Borgund Kaupang collections. The technological systems and influences behind the Varafell textiles from Borgund will be seen in a North Atlantic context, to uncover economic and cultural networks of the townspeople.

Monika Ravnanger and Marta Kløve Juul

Species Identification of Leather Used in Viking Age Shoes at the Borgund Kaupang

Using microscopy-based methods on hair morphology, animal species are identified in leather used for shoes. Practical properties as well as symbolic connotations of the identified leather types are discussed.

Heidi A. Haugene

The Beacon of Knowledge. The Coastal Defence Organization of Fire Warning Beacons Around the City of Borgund in the Middle Ages

Through written sources from the old sagas and laws we know that some form of signalling with the use of fire warning beacons was organized as early as the Viking period. Along with the Levy this organisation was developed to be an important system for in the medival military coastal defence. These systems was particularly important around towns and in relation to the leidang. Around Borgund there is a network of place names that can resemble this function, and together with the relation to the boathouses at Borgund and the written sources the aim of the study is to better understand the organization of an early coastal defence system.  

Arve Eiken Nytun

Community and Social Networks in Viking Age and Medieval Møre

Borgund was a central place for the ‘Mœrir’ community, which inhabited the coastal lands which now lie in Møre og Romsdal. This is one of the most frequently mentioned regional communities in Old Norse literature from the tenth century to the thirteenth. This study analyses these appearances along with the distribution of local central places in order to explore the strategic role of the community in political developments of the Viking Age and medieval period, considering its position with coastal and interior communication networks. It also considers the role played by members of the community within the social networks described by the Kings’ sagas.

Benjamin Allport

Playing in Time, Playing With Time. Board Games, Exchange, Identity and Temporalities: Entangled Material Cultures in Medieval Borgund

This element of the Project will seek to explore the evidence of board game practices in Borgund, situating them in a wider European context and assessing their cultural, metaphorical and play significances.

Mark A. Hall

An Investigation into Possible Local Production of Ceramics at Borgund Kaupang

This sub-study aims to examine the long-held notion that there was no pottery production in Norway in the Middle Ages. Selected sherds of roughly-made cooking and/or storage vessels from Borgund will be subjected to XRF-analysis in order to obtain a “fingerprint” of trace elements. The results can then be compared to the fingerprints of samples obtained from local clay sources to determine degree of correspondence

Rory Dunlop

Religion in the every-day life. A Study of the Religious Environment of the Borgund Kaupang

The focus of this study will be on the material aspects of the religious life of the people in Borgund. That means a “mapping” and a contextual study of the physical remnants of the devotional culture(s) that might be found in Borgund. In addition to the ecclesiastical “landscape” of churches and churchyards, the main focus will be on objects found in graves, and or near the churches and churchyards, like pearls, coins and other possible objects (like the porphyry-stones found during the excavations) and traces of the religion in the every-day life of the people of Borgund. 

Henning Laugerud

Spinning whorls of low fired pottery in the Borgund Kaupang

50 spindle whorls made from low fired pottery have been found in Borgund and there are indications that they had been produced there as well. It is an accepted truism that Norway had no production of pottery during the Middle Ages. The main aim of the thesis is to address whether these whorls were made in Borgund and to discuss who may have made and used them.

Kristin Ersdal Edland


Borgund, old bones—new methods—extended histories

PhD project

The fish bones from Borgund form the basis for this analysis, and the Borgund material is analysed as part of my PhD project at NTNU Vitenskapsmuseet, including comparisons with Trondheim and Bergen. For Borgund, the initial analysis focuses on fish available for the inhabitants, and possible changes as indicated in the assemblage through time. The bones will be further analysed looking for patterns corresponding to dried fish (stockfish) production. Lastly, stable isotope analysis will be conducted facilitating the opportunity to put Borgund into a national and possibly international context by using fish as a proxy for trade.

Monica Nordanger Enehaug


Main advisors:

Bernt Rundberget, Archaeology, Ph.D., Head of Department of Archaeology and Cultural History, NTNU University Museum, Norway

James H. Barrett, Archaeology, Professor II Dr., Department of Archaeology and Cultural History, NTNU University Museum, Norway/ Reader in Medieval Archaeology, Deputy Director, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Dept. of Archaeology, University of Cambridge.


Gitte Hansen, Archaeology, Professor Dr., University Museum of Bergen, Dep. of Cultural History, University of Bergen, Norway


The Wells of the Borgund Kaupang

MA project

According to the available archaeological documentation, 27 wells were found in the Borgund settlement.

In my project, I plan to classify the wells and analyse their function in the town. In order to establish how they were used in Borgund, I am looking at their position in the terrain. The project will also investigate the wells’ period of usage and construction, by analysing secondary use patterns. By analysing objects from the well fillings, the study will establish whether the wells were used as latrines after their period of use.


Jens Øvrestrand Rysjedal


The Bakestones from Borgund

MA project

This sub-study centres on Borgunds' position in the commerce network of bakestones. Where were the bakestones quarried? Was Borgund solely a consumer site, or did it function as a transit port for further distribution of bakestones to nearby areas? The aim is to find whether the trade was directed south towards Bergen or north towards Trondheim and if there are any temporal changes. Additionally, the study investigates the grooves on the bakestones to discern if they can be used to differentiate workshops at the quarries. 

Martine Engvik


The Keys to the Town

Keys and locks are a category of finds which were found in sizable amounts in Borgund. These objects are strong symbols of power and control over resources, but they have also been interpreted as symbols of the role of the lady of the house and of Christianity.

The goal of this study is to investigate what kinds of keys and locks were in use in Borgund, and to find out what they can tell us about the settlement's function, and about the people who lived there. Part of the project will comprise a comparison between the material from Borgund and from medieval Bergen.

Ambjørg Reinsnos