Jan and I visited the Bergen Maritime Museum on July 12th. I wrote about the medieval and Viking boat section … and just after that I discovered a small display. Vågen: En komplisert kultur skatt (The Harbor: A complex cultural treasure) was a modest exhibit tucked against the windows, and it really grabbed my attention. Once home, my English searches didn’t turn up anything about it, so I asked my husband to help me find more information in Norwegian. He found two sources for me, one on the Norwegian-language section of the museum’s website, and one an extensive document detailing the underwater exploration of the Bergen Harbor.
A little background, paraphrased/translated from the Museum’s “Maritime archeology in the harbor” page (any incorrect information because of lousy translating is all on me!):
A comprehensive project from 2009 – 2010 organized by the Municipality of Bergen, the main goal of exploring was to acquire knowledge about the extent of cultural heritage in the Bergen harbor.
There were five different methods used that illuminated different aspects of the seabed:
– Acoustic surveys (Using soundwaves provided an overview. It didn’t tell what was on the bottom, but what should be investigated.)
– Filming (The camera-equipped ROV — remotely operated vehicle — filmed the seabed. This was an overview, showing areas with concentrations of discovery.)
– Sediment Columns (Drilled samples or sediment columns showed the thickness and layering of the seabed.)
– Diving (Findings on the seabed were described and evaluated by archaeologists.)
– Sample Quilting (Archaeologists dug pits on the seabed and documented what they found. This was the most time consuming and expensive method.)
On that webpage are three images. The top one shows the ROV heading into the harbor for filming of the seabed, with Haakon’s Hall and Rozenkrantz tower glowing and reflecting in a perfect compliment and contrast to the vehicle’s lights. The second image shows the computer monitors of the three cameras located on the ROV, and captures a moment when an old clay pipe is discovered. The third image shows the handles of a pot that was common cookware from the 1400’s.
Also on that webpage is a fifty second video of the remotely operated vehicle’s journey through the Harbor. The video shows the seabed, old shards of pottery, a modern beer can, and — at the very end — the top part of a grindstone. The video can’t be embedded in a separate website, but you can see it here.
If you’re interested in more, this is a 226 page document that takes a while to open but is full of fascinating info. It is of course written in Norwegian, but just scanning through the interesting photos, images, and maps tells a complete story of painstaking preliminary research and detailed analysis before any of the artifacts were disturbed.
And this brings me to the exhibit! A few images:
The shopping cart was interesting to see how its time underwater affected it … but it’s modern. I stood looking at the small wooden, bone, and metal artifacts (and the pottery that I didn’t take photos of) and thought about their history. Many have been dated to more than a thousand years ago.
I wonder: How did they end up in the harbor? Were they from the local environment, or did they get washed down from the mountains that surround Bergen — or from further north, making their way through the fjords and ocean currents?
(And, wouldn’t this make a great setting for a James Michener-like novel?)