Most stave churches in Norway date back to the Middle Ages. To protect the ones that are still standing, the Directorate for Cultural Heritage starts a preservation programme in 2001 that will last until 2015.1 A new publication from NTNU researchers in 2019 shares the first results of innovative dating methods.

Stave Churches

A stave church is a medieval wooden building with a distinctive architecture. Their build follows the so-called post and lintel construction whereby two vertical elements uphold a horizontal element. Most churches are in northern Europe, during the medieval heyday perhaps as many as 800 to 1,200. The majority are in Norway and 28 thereof are still standing today. There is one more in Sweden (1500s), a Norwegian one that moved to Poland.2 There is also a church in England of which the inner structure resembles the stave church, but that is as far as the similarities seem to go.3

Dating Methods

So far, researchers rely on dendrochronology and radiocarbon methods to date wooden buildings. But new dating technologies have emerged. One such method is photodendrometry. Researchers take photos instead of sampling pieces of wood. They can take photos from angles that reveal parts of the construction where they could not have taken samples. Next, they study the photos and make precise calculations to date the building.4

The Results of Photodendrometry

Photodendrometry helps to date the stave churches, and I quote:

“Hopperstad Stave Church in Sogn og Fjordane county is dendro-dated to 1131–1132. Previous estimate 1125–1250.

Kaupanger Stave Church until 1137–1138, somewhat older than expected. Previous estimate 1170–1200.

Gol Stave Church 1204–1205. Previous estimate 1170–1309.

Borgund Stave Church 1180–1181. Previous estimate 1150–1250.”5 

Other researchers also hope to learn more about the buildings. Not just about their construction and maintenance, but based on the wood – which forests existed at that time, and what the tree rings may reveal about climate.

References


  1. Directorate for Cultural Heritage, ‘The Stave Church Preservation Programme.’ Riksantikvaren. Published 10 January 2016. Last Updated 16 March 2016. Last Accessed 08 November 2019.  ↩
  2. The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, ‘Stave Church.’ Encylopaedia Britannica. Published 28 March 2014. Last Accessed 08 November 2019.’
    Headlines & Grapevines: Jan–Mar 2019,’ The Viking Archive. Published 14 March 2019. Last Accessed 08 November 2019.  ↩
  3. Leif Anker, ‘What is a Stave Church?’ In: Preserving the Stave Churches, edited by Kristin Bakken. (Oslo: Pax Vorlag, 2016), pp. 17.  ↩
  4. Nina Tveter and Kjersti Lunden Nilsen, ‘Stave Churches in Norway older than previously believed.’ Phys.org Published 06 November 2019. Last Accessed 08 November 2019.  ↩
  5. Nina Tveter and Kjersti Lunden Nilsen, ‘Stave Churches in Norway older than previously believed.’ Phys.org Published 06 November 2019. Last Accessed 08 November 2019.  ↩

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