World Heritage RørosResources, Site and SituationReminders from the Time before the Copper Works

Reminders from the Time before the Copper Works

The story of how Røros used its resources after the establishment of the Røros Copper Works in 1644 together with the growth and development of the mining town is well known. But what was there to be found at Røros before the time of the Copper Works.

Karoline Daugstad

Were there people living in the area and was there activity, or was it just mountain slopes and wilderness?

Røros district has rich resources of fresh water fish and game. Hunting and trapping must be considered as the reason for people to settle here. This is how events took place in Røros as in many other parts of the country. The first traces of human settlement in Røros go back to the time of the stoneage. Finds have been the remains of fireplaces and finds of arrowheads used for hunting. Not least are the trapping pits witness to human use of game and animal resources. The trapping pits were deep holes dug down in the terrain, often placed on high slopes or in water channels where hunters knew that the animals frequented such places. In the bottom of the pits there were sharp spikes placed in such a way as to pierce the animals when they fell in. The trapping pits were covered over with branches and twigs so that they could not be so easily discovered. Often trapping pits were dug out in rows, or in a system as it is referred to, and we know of such pits from the later stoneage from places such as: Muggavassdraget and south west of Feragshaaen. The pits were used to trap reindeer and elk. The pits were probably in use for a long time, possibly interrupted by periods when they were not used, but trapping by the use of pits was practised right up to 1847 when it became illegal by law.

Traces of permanent settlements in the Røros area extend back to the ironage. At this time there were two hamlets in the early stages of establishment, one was at the eastern end of Aursdalen, and the other, in the area around today’s mining town. Perhaps there was some type of permanent dwelling even before this, during the stoneage or the bronzeage. In Røros an axe with a hole for the shaft has been found from the later stoneage, which possibly witnesses on the felling of trees to clear land for agriculture. The best traces of agricultural practices however, are from the Viking age around 900 A.D. Diggings tell us of permanent dwellings, and similarly finds of pollen that are trapped a long way below the present day surface a sign that people started to use resources in a different way. Spores of pollen from plants and trees from thousands of years ago can be stored in the ground and their age determined. From tests taken from the bottom of the lake at Doktorkjenna we know that sometime around the year, 900 A.D. there was less pollen from fir trees and more pollen from grass species, a fact, which tells us that the forest was felled for what was a summer farm to produce hay and pasture. What we do not know, is if this summer farm was part of another farm that was some distance away, or is it the traces of the first people to permanently settle in Røros.

The Sami peoples’ use of resources also has a long history in the Røros district.  The trapping pits, which date from the stoneage could have also been used by the Sami people. With many of the historical finds in the outlying areas it is difficult to determine whether they stem from the Sami, or from others.  A place for making fires or a trapping pit does not necessarily tell us whom it belonged to. In Røros the origins of these remains after early resource users has attained a political meaning in the conflict concerning exactly who has the right to use the outlying areas. If, with the help of archaeology it is possible to determine who first settled in the area, then this could be used as an argument of ‘primary claim’ to the area and its resources.

The Sami use of resources took on different forms, for example the Sami people practised what is known as intensive reindeer husbandry where the reindeer were fenced in and milked. The reindeer milk was rich in nutrients and was an important part of the Sami diet. There have been found many examples of combined farming and reindeer husbandry as agricultural practices spread. The farmer owned the reindeer, which were rented out to the Sami. These animals had a special name, sytingsrein (whining reindeer) and they were taken into the Sami’s own herds.

Even after the Røros Copper Works virtually ruled everything after 1644 there were still others who had an interest in the hills and mountain slopes of Røros. For example the farmers of Os had their summer farms, hayfields and pasture at Galaaen from long before the Company arrived. When the Copper Works took possession of all the land and demanded the right to forests and fields the people of Os were driven from the area and they had to establish new summer farms in Vangroftdalen and Kjurrudalan.

Daugstad, K., Binns, K. S., Grytli, E. R., Liavik, K., Prøsch-Danielsen, L. og Vistad, O. I. 1999: Bergverksbyen omland. Om ressursbruk, vern, kultur og natur i Rørosområdet. NIKU Temahefte 29.

Røros was added to UNESCOs of World Heritage Sites in 1980, refer also to Riksantikvaren, ( Norwegian Inspectorate of Ancient Monuments and Historic Buildings).
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