2 The Egge/Hegge case, and beyond: Sites and monuments vs. archives

As part of the Museum Project's work related to the EU funded ARENA project, we have worked on the interconnection of material such as archive documents, collection object records and images concerning archaeological sites on the farms called Egge and Hegge in the central part of Norway. This has resulted in an integrated web system including a map based interface, as reported on at the CAA in Prato last April (Eide forthcoming). In the map interface the user can navigate to various monuments in the area where information from the various sources can be found.

In order to build this system, an archaeologist at the museum with responsibility for the area, The Museum of Natural History and Archaeology at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, with thorough knowledge of the sources, had to make the connections between the locations on the map and the various sources. While this may look easy at first glance, there were numerous problems in the process of the work making it quite a time-consuming project.

A general problem with respect to the sites is the lack of a tradition for mapping the sites. It has been considered sufficient to know which particular farm the sites were located on, but when 40 or 50 sites, features or monuments have been found at the same farm, things become complex. To make it even more difficult, the description of a monument could be "150 yards from the north corner of the pigsty". Today the pigsty no longer exists, a fact that makes the identification difficult because the history of the farm has to be tracked down in order to find out where the pigsty was at the time of the find.

The lack of a tradition for the mapping of sites may be related to the fact that Norway is a large country where travel is difficult in many areas, and consequently the mapping of the country has been a longwinded process. Many areas were not officially mapped when the earlier finds were made; in fact many desolated areas are not even mapped in detail today.

Compared to other sites, the farm Egge is well supplied with sketched maps. The problem is that the sketches are not linked to a defined geography and none of the older sketchers tried to compare their mapping with those of their predecessors. A systematic comparison was only initiated in 1971 by Anne Stalsberg and concluded in the early 1990s by Ingrid Smedstad. They both transferred features from the old sketched maps to modern maps, but this was only done for the farm Egge, whose fields are protected today.

For the farm Hegge we only have the old sketched maps and the descriptions made by Schøning (1770s) and Klüwer (1810s). In the fields of the farm there were more than 30 monuments, but the development of the nearby town of Steinkjer has been fast and severe. This shows how important it is to document before it is too late. Today, there are only a few monuments left, and we have no chance of identifying monuments that existed only 100 years ago.

A more technical archive problem has been to connect the right archive documents to the correct locations. In the document database as it is today there are no links between documents concerning the same monument at different times. The links are at the farm level or sometimes at the case level. If each find had a map reference number, it would have been quite easy to link the relevant documents to the individual find.

It is very tempting to add a cheap point: The official SMR identification numbers have been changed twice during the last ten years. While this is no major obstacle, as tables connecting the systems do exist, it certainly does not make our work any easier.

Figure 1
Figure 1 Hierarchy of records from Municipality to Monument. (Click on thumbnail to view).

So, in most cases, we know the location of an area containing archaeological sites, but it is much more difficult to know which of the several sites are referred to in documents. As illustrated in figure 1, smaller geographical areas are more difficult to link.


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