KING ØYSTEINS HARBOUR
Agdenes and the harbour in the bay at Agdenes are mentioned several times in Snorre and Håkon Håkonsson's saga. The Magnus's sons saga reports that the harbour at Agdenes was built during the reign of King Øystein (1103-1123). In the comparison of the achievements of King Øystein and his brother, King Sigurd, Øystein claims that he built the harbour whilst his brother was on a journey. This took place in 1108-1111.
As regards the function of the harbour, it was probably built for political and military reasons. The form of the construction required a great deal of manpower and technological know-how. The choice of the location also confirms strategic thinking. Agdenes bay is not a good natural harbour, but its geographical position can scarcely be better if the desire is to establish a control and defence post. Trondheim or Nidaros as it was called then, functioned at this time as both a trading and a political centre in central Norway and the harbour was built during the period when civil wars still occurred and central Norway was still only somewhat loosely attached to the rest of the kingdom. In this context, the construction at Agdenes had, in addition to purely practical purposes, a clear symbolic value signalling royal power.
The investigation of King Øystein's harbour has a history lasting more than 220 years. This was in fact one of the first medieval monuments to be investigated in Norway. As early as 1773, Gerhard Schøning tried to gather information about the harbour when he spent a night at Agdenes.
Remains of the harbour at Agdenes were found 92 years later. In 1865, the chairman of the Trondheim section of the Society for the Preservation of Norwegian Ancient Monuments, O. Krefting, reported that he had observed the remains of harbour constructions and church foundations in a small bay. At the request of the society, the locality was mapped and described in 1869 by an engineer, J. Meyer. His unusually precise drawings, along with his description of the locality, now form a very valuable source of information for archaeologists.
The sea floor was inspected by the Museum of Natural History and Archaeology in Trondheim for the first time in 1991, and the submerged construction was photographed and described. Nearest land in the southwest corner of the area is a pile of medium-sized stones and larger blocks. From this, two distinct, elongate mounds of stones stretch into deeper water.
A crib is situated in the middle of the pile of stones, between these mounds. Investigation of the crib showed that the same technique had probably been used to build this as was used for the cribs on the beach. The crib is located approximately in the middle of the pile of stones which originally filled it. An approximately 5 metres long timber extends from beneath the stones uppermost on the easterly mound of stones. This marks the outer limit of the crib. Perpendicular to this are three additional timbers with diameters of between 27 and 46 cm. Between these are eight smaller logs.
Geological studies was also carried out and data collected to draw up a shoreline displacement curve for this part of central Norway. The Department of Marine Systems Design investigated those parts of the site that were deeper than 30 m with a ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) equipped with a video camera, and observed among other objects a small iron anchor of so-far unknown age at a depth of about 34 metres.
In 1993 a 2x1 metres trench near the crib was excavated. This revealed a thick, compact layer of material originating from human activity, covered by 5 cm of sand. Work continued on land where a detailed survey was made of the eight basal timbers on the beach and of the rampart. The aim here was to clarify the relationship between all the elements recorded so far.
Cultural layer in King Øystein`s harbour excavated in 1993.
In 1994 and 1995 the work was confined to the preliminary phase of a gradiometer investigation carried out on land.
The maritime archaeological investigations carried out at Agdenes have contributed some valuable new data. Nonetheless, studies here are certainly far from complete, and many unsolved problems and questions remain. The investigations both on land and under water will continue.