Stave churches older than thought

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New research suggests Norway needs to rewrite some of its history. Several of the country’s disinctive wooden stave churches have been found to date back to around 100 years earlier than currently registered.

Historians also have records of earlier churches at the site of the Urnes Stave Church, which sits on a hillside above the Sognefjord. PHOTO: Wikipedia Commons

The small Urnes Stave Church, which is on the UNESCO World Heritage list, is believed to be one of the oldest and still is. New testing of its building material, however, shows that it was built with timber cut in 1069 and 1070.

“Now we have precise ages for some of the stave churches,” Terje Thun, an assistant professor at the NTNU Vitenskapsmuseet, told state broadcaster NRK. The museum of science tied to the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim is using new methods that show the church is around 60 years older than earlier believed. Instead of measuring the rings of the timber, a so-called fotodendro method photographs the wood for further analysis.

The researchers have also studied the Kaupanger, Hopperstad, Gol and Borgund stave churches. Hopperstad was found to be nearly as old as Urnes and Kaupanger is only a few years younger than both. The same builders can be behind all three.

newsinenglish.no staff