Olympos of Nordal

Olympos of Nordal

In classical myth they tell that there is only one Olympos. It is good for the Greek trade perhaps. In the Edda Midgaard is where you live and Outgaard is outside that. In my county the old Olympos is only two miles away and not too high for an old man.

The big mound, two doom-rings, altar-stone, three stony ships, two stony mounds, birke, landowners code

Part 1 Intro - stony circle | Part 2 grooves - stony ship | Part 3 doomring - the Vi | home

The gods' places were on the mountains and hills

On the plain of Dal there are no high hills and our nearest high ridge is about 150 metres above sea level. That is about the same as The Heavens Mountain in Denmark. This Hill is 15 metres above Lake Vaenern and five metres above the field.

I think we can find many places like this. On the hill there are only ritual structures. Near the river there is a place with ca 30 small mounds of the Iron Age type. East Dal consists of a plain that is the third in size of the agriculture plains in Sweden. It seems to have been divided in two parts with a centre in south near the river mouth Dalbergsaa and the Kaarehaug. May be it has been a place for handicraft and trade since to place names are "Tinbarn and Copperby" and there is a big Viking Age find of silver too.

Opposite to the hill is the manor of Berg. The noble Stake family owned it for 300 years and then it was office for the bailiff. Originally a branch of the royal family owned Berg in 13th century.

Note the blue signpost. Once the texts were showing the way to the ritual places. One goes to the hills and the other to the Iron Age graveyard.

Near the manor they once excavated 110 x 50 metres and found 38 holes, 19 fireplaces and 11 holes for poles. Then it is the biggest excavated place in the province. The finds are most axes with a hole and the oldest find is a double axe telling about more than 5000 years of culture at the place.

But let us go for the Olympos

Opposite to the Olympos of Nordal is the small town of Mellerud with the big mound also about 15 meters above sea level

This is the other end of the plain and with these places as old centres of culture. Among the earliest ritual loose finds do boat axes follow the double axes. We have not much of excavating and probably this was mostly the cattler's land in ancient times. So it was until the middle of the 19th century. The province was isolated from possibilities to trade and lived on their cattle. They paid their taxes in butter and grow corn just for domestic use.

The big mound

It is difficult to get a good picture of this low and mighty stone mound

The mound on the top of the biggest hill is 25 metres in diameter and it is build of small stones. In the middle there is a sunken part that as in all cases can be a coffin. Mounds of this size we have only a few and they are all in connection with big grave places except the Kaare Haug and its mate. Since the others are single they must have been special at the time and of the kind "Bury Time" or some special person.

Two doom rings

One of two doom-rings on each side of the big mound

In this doom-ring there is a stone in the centre. The stones are of a normal size. Near the house in the background there has been a chapel for a little parish that was discontinued in 16th century. The family at Berg bought the church farm and all property belonging to Wadstena monastery on Dal. The family owned in their heydays 60 % of the parish and 6 out of 9 manors on Dal. They owned more on Kinnekulle on the other side of Lake Vaenern and in many other places. The heart of their property became later a school foundation

Sometimes we can draw the pattern a bit backward in history. In this case presume that the place Berg was early a place for the nobility on northern Dal. To that come that we know that the early royal family owned it. Even the royal family managed their generation shift after the same principles as the peasants and nobility. They also owned farms as ordinary peasants as their private property. Then we can extrapolate backward and even find family relations. Private property for the nobility may have been the custom since Bronze Age, while the peasant did not inherit their land. They lived simply in the villages from generation to generation. Private property became topical when taxation began in tenth century.

We do not know what kind of owning they practised in ancient times. Probably the tribe owned collectively their land. Then they do not inherit land. Besides that traders and nobility founded bigger farms with handicraft and trade besides. It seems that they called it birke. That was the same legal concept for the earliest town-like places with their own law-room. These were simply small "islands" in the peasant land until the kings claimed for all the land outside the peasant claimed farmland.

For ordinary people we see from some place names that they lived in the name of some deity or with something as totem. We find suffixes both singular and plural dative and maybe even a dual dative meaning that they were working and living for the nominative name.

The other doom-ring has no stone in centre

It is a good guess that the Scandinavians really learnt above private property when the nobility sent their young men to Rome as legionnaires and there they got "Herulian lots". They surely also learnt about taxation. It would also be natural that taxation and owning began when we see the first signs of this. Some runic stones from 8th century AD may be interpreted as claim for land and some other count backward in generations to that time. Understood that when you can count generations there must have been a system of owning.

In Vaestergautland the organised taxation maybe began with Olof Skautkonung around 1000 AD. His name could be interpreted as the legal ritual in which the new owner got a full hand of soil in his lap ... or maybe her lap since the Lady of House maybe got the soil and house.

The landowner code was here on Dal the owner took a hand full of soil and put it in his shoe and said, "Now I stand on my own land". Maybe that is the oldest custom. In Karelia the owner married the Mother Earth by cutting up a string of turf and crawl under it as ritual act. The same act they used to sanctify other agreements.

The altarstone

Maybe this is an altar-stone on the edge of the stony hill.

In front of the stone is an open space in level and it would have been very suitable for feast and dance.

"The Oath should be sworn at grounded stone" is a saying from the Edda. On some picture stone at Gotland from 700 AD we can see that they knocked the soul into stone ... nowadays the stone master make the texts for us and make the texts look golden. Some runic texts tell about raising stone and fences after the death. Again the rituals in spring and at funerals were much the same They surely wished for resurrection but not for the soul to be a ghost coming again like a spirit.

These are the ritual arrangement upon the biggest hill. Let us step down a bit.

Three stony ships

The stony formation has the shape of a ship

Maybe I was the first to discover this monument since it is not marked on the maps. The height is only 30 - 40 centimetres, with at most 3 metres and length 25 metres.

The proof is the stern and stem

Unfortunately none did care for this and the other two ships in the beginning of this century. The farmer downhill found that the sand between the two hills is good and he used it for repairing his duty bit of the main road.

The holes after taking the sand

Maybe they have used the stones and sand also for the farmhouses. But still we can find some fractions of two more ships. In the background is the lower hill

Two stony mounds

Two stony mounds on the lower hill

Together on the two hills there are configurations with one, two or three mounds. These and the doom-rings and the possible altar are the only constructions. They have the appearance of ritual purpose and that is why I call it Olympos of Nordal. It is a place for the local gods and a place for feast and ritual.

In the river creek below the hill is a graveyard with ca 30 Iron Age mounds. On a neighbouring hill and along the ridge some kilometres to Lake Vaenern there are small stony mounds. On some of them we can see that there have been a fire. They are in places where there would have been a good draw for a fast fire.

This is more like a ritual place than the big mound in the town. The historian A. Lignell counted 68 constructions of different kind such as rectangle shaped stone mounds, ship-shaped and square mound and of course round mounds. They have made some Bronze Age finds too. It was surely a good place for the house builders below the mound. The railroad found that it was a good place for the water-tank so the graveyard was gone.

This is end of story. I hope this little review give a picture of the Scandinavian stony monuments. I use much from my own backyard since I know it best. The survey is of course not complete but is shows that we in sparsely populated inland can show continuos rural culture around 6000 years backwards ... and maybe to when the ice left Dal less than 10000 years ago. In the neighbouring parish there are rock-carvings that a picture looking like a big bear or arctic bear. The big animal pictures seem to be the oldest tradition in Scandinavia