Valseidet: The Landscape of the Dead

In the Early Iron Age, long before Christianity was introduced in our country, graves were dwellings for the dead. The house and the farm belonged to the living, while the mounds and cairns belonged to deceased ancestors. Ancestry was important for religion and rituals. The burial site was a sacred and significant place in the religious landscape of the Iron Age. The ancestors who resided in the mounds gave title to the land and showed continuity and contact between generations through the centuries. Those who once settled and cultivated the land were still present and watched over it. The landscape belonged to the living and the dead, woven together in time and space.

The burial mounds at Valseidet are large and monumental, towering and highly visible; impressive monuments erected in commemoration of loved ones in times long gone. The burial site is not alone. The landscape surrounding Koet is dominated by large and small cairns. They tower atop every headland and knoll, and have been placed on every suitable islet and skerry in the fjord. The cairns face the water, so the many surrounding Koet are especially visible when travelling by boat.

Perhaps the positioning of the mounds and cairns around Koet had a purpose other than making them visible from the sea? Maybe this was a landscape reserved for the dead? Maybe cairns weren’t meant to guide sailors, but acted as a warning that here, in these waters, one should not travel? The positioning allowed the dead to gaze at the sea from their dwellings. To gaze at Koet. Maybe Koet was the central element in this landscape? The area surrounding Koet was perhaps perceived by the living as a landscape belonging to the dead? A sacred fjord surrounded by the dwellings of the dead, a sacred place in the ancient religious landscape.

The burial ground at Valseidet, with its monumental mounds, may be the gateway to Koet and the landscape of the dead. A burial ground of impressive mounds belonging to the dead and their descendants, and which forms the gateway to a sacred fjord with religious and ritualistic significance, connotations and meanings which for us remain hidden and forgotten in the mist of history.