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Rolfsen, Perry 2008: Postholes and houses in abundance. 2008,, Stavanger, Norway.

In Norway the first mechanical topsoil stripping occurred near Oddernes Church, Kristiansand municipality, Southern Norway, in 1971. It brought to light a large number of subsoil structures; postholes, ditches and pits from house-sites, pit houses, graves and different kinds of pits dating to the Roman and Migration Periods in the Iron Age. Since then, many sites have been uncovered across the country with the help of this method. From 2000 onwards, an unexpected amount of sites have been found in the eastern and southern parts of Norway.

At present the usual practice of topsoil stripping is the mechanical removal of soil without sifting. In the habituation areas of settlements a large number of structures, in particular postholes are discovered on a regular basis during archaeological excavations. It is also well reported that many house-sites partly overlap, thus creating difficulties during fieldwork, as the archaeologists are faced with many challenges with regard to classification of contexts, activity areas and dating.

Most of the excavated occupation sites in the farmland have been cultivated for several thousand years. Over the course of time, many sheaf poles, hay drying racks and fences have been erected in these areas. The hay drying racks excluded however, the dimensions of poles and posts vary only a little in diameter, between 8-12cm for the sheaf poles and 12-15cm for the fence posts. The evidences indicate these to have been dug as far as 40-50cm deep, but consequently also a little down in the subsoil. On central farms ten thousands of poles and posts have been distributed in the same fields over a period of hundred to two hundred years. An important question is therefore the development of methods in order to distinguish between poles of earlier and later occupations phases on the settlement sites.

In addition, a number of ongoing processes in the soil caused by humans, animals, plants, micro-organisms and frosts have lead to the displacement of finds and to a constant formation of new structures in the subsoil.

In order to reach a complete picture as possible of farm structure and settlement the features, and in particular postholes, have to be examined by using a strategic, professional approach. The author claims the machine sifting of the soil to be executed in the same manner as this was carried out with excellent results during his excavations of a Roman Period village at Augland, Kristiansand municipality, in 1974-75.

The knowledge about artefacts is well documented as the result of the excavation of occupation sites, and a wealth of ideas has been created in the past years. However, the author questions the knowledge, competence and experience of the younger generations of archaeologists with regard to mastering tasks required by the excavation of house-sites. Do the diggers ask relevant questions; do they dare to discuss problems and apply new approaches; do they build only on recent information and publications; and - are the elder generations of archaeologists sufficiently broad-minded with regard to the views of the younger generations? According to the author, in order to achieve new goals in this field these questions have to be extended to include also ways of thinking innovatively about the excavation of structures from occupation sites.

Perry Rolfsen, Kulturhistorisk museum, P. O. Box 6762 St. Olavs plass, NO-0130 Oslo, Norway. Telephone (+47) 22859559, mobile (+47) 911 98 316, e-mail

Key words: Stone Age - Modern Times, mechanical topsoil stripping, documentation techniques, house-sites, pits, postholes, cultural landscape, agriculture, poles, posts.
Emneord: Steinalder - moderne tid, flateavdekking, dokumentasjonsteknikker, hustufter, groper, stolpehull, kulturlandskap, jordbruk, staur, stolper.


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