Bakestones – Production and Trade in the Middle Ages
Chapter, Peer reviewed
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During the Middle Ages, bakestones, or stone griddles, were an important part of Norwegian households, representing everyday products required for the preparation of food over the hearth. Demand for these Tools formed the basis for large-scale production, which is the subject of this paper. The study is based on analyses of an extended quarry landscape in Ølve and Hatlestrand in the County of Hordaland, representing the largest and most important production centre for bakestones in Norway. The griddles were produced from chlorite-rich talc-amphibole schist, a material able to withstand repeated heating and cooling without an imminent risk of fracturing. The range of products from the quarries also included tiles, building stones, and stone crosses. Small scale archaeological excavations in some of the quarries, and at a workplace where the finishing of bakestones took place, date the production to between the early Middle Ages (c. 11th or early 12th centuries) and the early modern period. The character and scale of production indicate an intense and well-organised activity, a specialisation where the quarries were exploited for profit. Most evidence points to a so-called semi-professional craft where people working and living at the surrounding farms also worked in the quarries. Some of the largest quarry sites may, however, have demanded different organisation and larger workforces. The bakestones were distributed all over Norway from the 1100s and into the early modern period. Outside Norway, they are mainly to be found within the North Atlantic region, whereas in Sweden and Denmark they are only found in small numbers, indicating random export.