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History of Hadeland


Rock Painting near River Etna in Hadeland's northern neighbor, Land

   During the Stone Age (8000-1500 BCE), it is estimated that 10,000 people lived in Norway. They arrived in the coastal areas and migrated  inland.  Dozens of Stone Age community sites have been discovered around the Randsfjord and over 200 artifacts - including jewelry, tools, and weapons - have been unearthed. In the earliest times they lived by hunting, fishing, and gathering the fruits of the forests. However, by the end of the Stone Age, these ancient ancestors had been tilling the soil of Hadeland for over 1000 years!

   Three Bronze Age (1500-500 BCE) grave mound sites have been identified.  Building the mounds would have required a large and coordinated labor force to gather and haul the rocks from a wide area.  This indicates that the ancient communities of Hadeland were well organized. By the end of the Bronze Age, agriculture had evolved and archeological evidence points to the division of land into family or clan-based farms.

   The modern road between Gran and Lunner known as "King's Highway"  is lined with well-preserved burial mounds, ruins, hollows and rock engravings that testify to its having been a main trade and travel route since the area was first inhabited thousands of years ago. Granavollen has marked a key crossroads since ancient times.  

   Roman references to this area as Hadeland can be found in documents dating from 200-400 AD.  "Hade" means warrior; the literal translation of Hadeland is "Land of the Warrior."  Archeologists have found a wide variety of ancient weapons in burial sites throughout Hadeland. The "Hade" logo (Hade-merket) - the outline of a warrior in his helmet -  used by the Lag and a number of Hadeland organizations in Norway harks back to these times.  The warrior culture - existing at the same time these same warriors were tending the crops and animals on their farms - reached its zenith during the Viking Age (750-1050 AD).

   Legends tell us that early Viking chieftains enjoyed hunting and entertaining their entourages in the forests and on the lakes in the area. King Halvdan the Black, father of the revered King Harald who united Norway, enjoyed his visits to Hadeland.  It is said that in the winter of 860 he and his entourage attended a banquet and were crossing the ice on Randsfjord en route home to Ringerike. The ice gave way and horses, men, and the 40-year-old  King himself were drowned.  The Hadeland Folk Museum is built around a Viking burial site at Granavollen that tradition says contains the torso of Halvdan.   

"People respected him so much that when they heard of his death ... the strongest men came from Romerike, Vestfold and Hedmark and asked if they could bury the corpse in their county, this would give them good harvests.  In the end they agreed to dismember the body ... and each took their part home with them and buried it; all the mounds were called Halvdan's-hauger.  
          from "Heimskringla" by Snorre Sturlason (1179-1241) 

   There are some who believe that all of Halvdan was buried in Ringerike and that the other mounds were simply memorials to this beloved king. That is a debate left to others; what is important to our story is that Hadeland has been appreciated for its beauty and the value of its natural resources since Norway's earliest times. 

   In 1950, when the Granavolden Gjaestgiven (guesthouse/inn) was being restored a slab of sandstone was unearthed. A picture of a forge had been engraved upon the stone in the earliest of Viking Times. The stone is now kept at the University Museum of Antiquities in Oslo. 

   Norway formally adopted Christianity in 1030.  One of Hadeland's real treasures now is kept in the museum at Oslo. The Dynna Stone,  an 8 foot tall memorial to her daughter Astrid was commissioned in 1050 by Gunvar Turiksdatter and is engraved with scenes from the Nativity. Its inscription reads "Gunvor, daughter of Thirik, made a bridge in memory of Aastrid, her daughter. She was the fairest maiden in Hadeland." It is one of the most beautiful monuments in all of Norway.  Its existence provides evidence that local culture and society maintained their vitality and strength even as the Viking Era came to an end. 

   A number of Hadeland churches survive that date to the 12th and 13th centuries.  Notable among them is the Tingelstad church. Built in the 13th century, it is the only church in Norway with an original interior from the Middle Ages. 

  The Black Death arrived in Norway in the mid-1300's. It is estimated that two-thirds of the population of Hadeland was wiped out.  Farms were abandoned for there was no one to work them.  The church at Grinaker was completely forgotten until a shepherd boy came across it decades later.  It is hard to imagine how profoundly families and the entire society were affected by this plague, but much knowledge of history and many valuable skills died with its victims. 

   At the height of the plague, in 1380,  Norway and Denmark were joined by royal intermarriage.  In 1536 Norway ceased to be an independent kingdom and fell under total control of the Danish court.

   It was not until the early 16th century that Norwegian society began to recover from the Black Death's destructive influences. In 1540 the King ordered that anyone interested in taking over the farms abandoned during the plague could do so for taxes.  Population began to increase.

   Over the next two  centuries,  the limited land available led to the development of the cotter (tenant farmer) class.  These families either worked as farm hands or rented land from estate owners. By 1814, when Norway adopted its own Constitution, land ownership was something about which most Hadelendings could only dream.

   Stories of the availability of rich farmland in America beckoned the first Hadelendings to America in 1835.  The number of emigrants steadily increased.  A family might fund the cost of the trip to America for one of their sons.  Once established, he was expected to pay passage for other family members to follow.  In this way whole families and entire communities were transplanted from Norway to America by the first decade of the twentieth century.

   As a percentage of their population, only Ireland provided more immigrants to America than Norway.  It has been suggested that as many as 8 out of 10 families in Hadeland in 1825 had immediate family members or descendants who were eventually swept up in this great wave.  While Norway developed into a thriving, modern nation, much of the "old culture" continued to be celebrated as if suspended in time in the transplanted Norse communities in America. In the late 1960's, Norwegian linguists descended on tiny Lake Park, Minnesota to study a dialect - lost in Norway - still spoken by the old immigrants and children of immigrants there.


Today our friends in Hadeland and Hadelending descendants in America continue to find that they have much to learn from - and much to share with - each other!

The Meaning of Hadeland

For more about Norwegian history, try these links to other websites:

(They will open in separate windows)

Norwegian History - Chronology

Viking Women

Stave Churches

Stone Age rock painting depicting a fishing expedition

The 'Hadie'  logo is drawn from Hadeland's early history as 'the Land of the Warriors'

Weapons from the Viking Era

The Dynna Stone from Gran

Tinglelstad Church was built in 1200's


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Last update: February 08, 2021