Below a south facing, steep rock at Årsand, there is one of the strangest ancient relics in the whole of Hordaland. The jutting rock wall forms a shallow flagstone – Geithilderen. Parts of the rock wall are covered by a light lime crust and on the crust figures have been painted in golden and rusty red colours.
Everyone knows the famous painting by Tidemand & Gude “Brudeferden i Hardanger” (The Wedding Party in Hardanger) one of the great icons in the National Gallery. Some have, in a humorous lack of respect for this masterpiece linked the concept of “bride’s passage” to another pictorial presentation in Hardanger. This is found on the farm Bakko in Herand, carved in the rock by an unknown artist around 3,000 years ago.
Even though we know of several hundred burial places from the Stone Age in Hordaland, we do not often hit on the Stone Age Man himself. But there are a few.
At Halnefjorden, a few hundred metres east of Halne mountain lodge, lie the remains of two stone sheds – Halnelægeret. Some generations ago the cattle drovers stopped here in the summer; they were the cowboys of their time. But Halnelægeret already had a long history before the cattle drovers came.
The farmhouses at holding No. 15 at Hopland are built together to form a long, continuous building, with dwelling house, hayshed and cowshed built in one row. There have been many such joined structures in the coastal communities, but today there are few remaining. If we travel to the other side of the North Sea, to the Faeroes, Shetland and the Orkney Islands, we find corresponding features in the older building traditions. We find ourselves in a large North Atlantic cultural area.
At the southern end of the bridge between Radøy and Fosnøy archaeologists found an unusual Stone Age settlement. There was a thick “cultural layer” here with the remains of the waste dumps of a hunting people. The place was called Kotedalen. Here they came, one group after the other, and settled for some weeks, some months, or maybe years before they went on, leaving the settlement deserted. Time after time it happened. At least 16 settlement phases have been identified, stretching over 5,500 years.
The first church at Grindheim was a stave church with a free-standing steeple. The church was first mentioned in 1326, but was probably built long before this time.
Helgaberget – the holy hill – is a little rocky crag which thrusts itself a few metres above the terraced surface of Støle. The surface of the rock is strewn with figures inscribed in the rock and it was, as far as one can judge, a cult centre in the Bronze Ages. The name could indicate that the tradition of holiness can have lasted for almost 3,000 years.