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“Must see” at our museum

Below is a selection of objects that you will only find in our collection, or are so significant and unique that they are worth seeing during a visit to our museum.

Picture of a face bead from the 4–5th century AD in millefiori (thousand flowers) technique. Face bead from the 4–5th century AD in millefiori (thousand flowers) technique. Photo: Terje Tveit, Arkeologisk museum, Universitetet i Stavanger

Rogaland is an area of Norway where you can find a large number of runic inscriptions. Runes are a written language that was only in use in Scandinavia, for 1,300 years, starting around 300 AD. The Latin alphabet has been used in Norway for 1,000 years.

You can find the rune stone from Sokndal, from the end of the Viking Age, in the “Brytning” (“Upheaval”) exhibition. You can listen to the text read in Norse, the Vikings’ own language! The inscription tells us about rune carver’s strong faith and his acts to help his mother’s soul through purgatory.

Lead cross with runes. Of all the lead crosses found in Norway, over half of them are from Rogaland. The text on this cross is taken from the Bible, but it is written with runes in the language of the Vikings, and starts: “Flee the hostile powers ...” The cross was laid in a Viking Age burial mound, probably to dispel the powers attached to the old Norse religion and ancestral cult. With its proximity to Europe, Christianity came early to Rogaland, and we can see the change of religion early in the archaeological material.

In the “Utferd” ("Viking Voyagers") exhibition

Viking ship prow – part of a real Viking ship! The prow was probably designed to be used during the construction of a new ship at a shipyard near the discovery site. Recent research has shown that the Oseberg ship was built somewhere here in the Southwest Norway.
The Vikings’ unique abilities as shipbuilders brought them across the Atlantic to the west, and along trade routes to the East. Viking ship graves show that the ships could also carry the Vikings on the final journey, to the realm of the dead.

Bokn buckle – found by a little boy in a duck pond in 1923. It is approximately 1,000 years old. The front is made of gold, with four face motifs of masks and birds. The back is cut from an Irish hanging-bowl. Looting or a sacred act?

Coin treasure. Part of a silver treasure found on Foldøy Island, outside of Stavanger. The treasure includes a coin minted with the likeness of Sigtrygg Silkskjegg, a Dublin king of Norwegian descent and coins with Æthelred 11 of England, as well as Kufian dirhams. The coins demonstrate contact with peoples far beyond Norway’s borders.

In the Gold Display Case

Neck or armring of 590 grams of pure gold. Found in the Flag Mound at Avaldsnes, the grave of a rich prince from the first half of the 200s. The ring was found together with a golden finger ring, a drinking horn, game pieces and several bronze bowls. The ring was stolen sometime around 1910 but was rescued from smelting at the last second and returned to the museum. Such large gold rings are associated with the highest ranking military officers of the time.

Gold bracteates and relief buckles. Gold bracteates are unique to the Nordic region. Bracteates are based on Roman medallions and are a type of pendant with animal ornamentation. They were common from 400–600 AD, at the same time as gold-plated clothing buckles, also with animal ornamentation in relief. The gold indicates an elite member of society.

In the “Møt Menneske” (“Meet the Human”) exhibition

The skeleton from Viste is of a person who lived in the Stone Age around 8,200 years ago. The skeleton is one of the best preserved skeletons from the Stone Age in Norway. Researchers are now using new methods that can give us answers about the person’s origin, diet, illnesses, eye colour and gender.

Amber bead found in a woman’s grave from 800 AD. The bead is shaped like a small embryo and is quite worn. It was believed that amber had magical properties and that it could protect the bearer against evil spirits and bring happiness. Can the bead have had special significance for the woman? A desire to bear a healthy child with the amber pearl as a life-giving talisman?

A Viking Age skeleton found beneath the Stavanger Cathedral with “Viking Disease”. Dupuytren’s contracture is a disease affecting the connective tissue of the palm and can cause the fingers to curl into a fixed position, resulting in highly reduced finger mobility.

The disease is especially common among Scandinavians, which is why it is often called Viking Disease. Do you have the disease with viking genes?

“De utvalgte” (“The Chosen Ones”)

1,600-year-old butter of the highest quality, found in a bog. Peat moss and formic acid produced excellent conditions for preserving this wooden bucket containing butter. The butter was likely placed in the bog as a sacrifice. Or it maybe it was an ancient way of storing food?

Animal snare, 2,000 years old. The snare is designed so that it locks firmly around the animal’s foot when it steps on the trap, making it easy prey. The snare was probably set by a hunter in the early Iron Age, hoping to catch a deer.

Face bead from the 4–5th century AD in millefiori (thousand flowers) technique. This is one of three such beads found in Norway. One theory is that the face is the image of Emperor Constantine the Great. The beads may have been given as gifts to Germans who served as officers in the Roman army.

“Vestlandskjele” (“Western Norway Pot”). This is the second largest bronze pot of its kind ever found in Norway. It was found in a bog. Such pots were manufactured along the northern border of the Roman Empire. Most such pots found in Norway have been found in Western Norway (“Vestlandet”), hence the name.

“Kor kjem me ifrå? ” (“Where do we come from?”)

Norway’s best preserved bronze lurs. One of the two pairs found in Norway. The lurs were found in a bog and were probably placed there as a sacrifice. Listen to the original sound of these lurs – recorded 3,000 years after they were made!

In our café area:
Polar bear from Finnøy. See the world’s oldest and best-preserved skeleton of a polar bear, which lived 10,600 years ago, coinciding with the first human settlements here. The skeleton was found during construction work underneath a house. This polar bear would have weighed around 600 kg and lived to be 28 years old.