December 17th – Soapstone

Soapstone is a very interesting material. It is a stone, but it is so soft, you could make a mark in the stone with your finger nail and therefore easy to process. The soapstone is also refractory and has had significant use as a building block, for fireplaces and household utensils. Many old church buildings and other monumental buildings are built of soapstone. The most famous and most known building made of soapstone in Norway, is Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim.

There are many archaeological finds of soapstone objects, such as for example pots and other utensils. Also, numerous soapstone quarries from the late Bronze Age, Viking Age and the Middle Ages are known throughout Norway. Today, soapstone is primarily used for restoration work.

The Norwegian word for soapstone, is ‘kleberstein’. Kleber is derived from the Old Norse word kljár, which means vevstein or vevlodd (loom weight). Loom weights were usually made of soapstone. Other old Norwegian names for soapstone are fettstein (fat stone) probably because it absorbs fat very easily, grytestein (pot stone), grøtstein (porridge stone), grjot eller blautegrjot. Grjot is also an old Norse word in which other more modern words like gryte (pot), graut or later grøt (porridge) and grut (grounds?) originate from. Soapstone was used in ancient times as a material for pots – pots in which they would make porridge and such.

We have many finds made of soapstone from Trøndelag. For the most part there are loom weights, cookware, bowls, baking plates, drinking vessels, lamps, sinkers and casting molds. I now want to show you some of the soapstone objects we have from Trøndelag.

First out is the loom-weights.

Picture 1: T2767 – Loom-weight possibly from the Neolithic, Stjørdal
Picture 2: T2343 – Loom-weight from the Late Roman period/ Migration period, Indre Fosen
Picture 3: T7557 – Loom-weight from Iron age/Medieval period, Inderøy
Picture 4: T1171 – Loom-weight from Late Iron age, Trondheim
Picture 5: T7925 – Loom-weight from the early Medieval period, Stjørdal
Picture 6: T2693 – Loom-weights from the Medieval period, Melhus

Pictures above: Ole Bjørn Pedersen, NTNU Vitenskapsmuseet, CC BY-SA 4.0


Here are some pieces that has been categorized as cookware.

Photo 1: T5328 – Cauldron from Trondheim, modern
Photo 2: T11685 – Pan from Melhus, modern
Photo 3: T15135 – Bowl from Trondheim, the Medieval period
Photo 4: T12669 – Cauldron from Steinkjer, Late Iron age
Photo 5: T21077 – Baking plates from Leka, the Medieval period
Photo 6: N3286 – Baking plates from Trondheim, the Medieval period
Photo 7: T3767 – Cauldron from Hitra, pre-Roman Iron age

Photos 1-4: Ole Bjørn Pedersen, NTNU Vitenskapsmuseet, CC BY-SA 4.0
Photo 5: Åge Hojem, NTNU Vitenskapsmuseet, CC BY-SA 4.0
Photo 6: Ole-Aleksander Ulvik, NTNU Vitenskapsmuseet, CC BY-SA 4.0
Photo 7: Per E.Fredriksen, NTNU Vitenskapsmuseet, CC BY-SA 4.0


Here are a few different things with handles. The first one is categorized as a ladle, the second one a lamp, the third a vessel and the ones in the fourth picture are categorized as crucibles.

Photo 1: T17859 – Ladle from Hitra, the Medieval period
Photo 2: T16826 – Lamp from Trondheim, undetermined
Photo 3: T11528 – Vessel from Trøndelag, the Medieval period
Photo 4: T11614 – Crucibles from Trondheim, the Medieval period

Pictures above: Ole Bjørn Pedersen, NTNU Vitenskapsmuseet, CC BY-SA 4.0


Then there is a few objects that might have been drinking vessels.

Photo 1: T13736 – Vessel from Ødyn, Early Iron age
Photo 2: T13444:b – Vessel from Opdøl, Early Iron age
Photo 3: T14014 – Vessel from Hitra, Early Iron age
Photo 4: T14402 – Vessel from Nærøysund, Late Iron age

Pictures above: Ole Bjørn Pedersen, NTNU Vitenskapsmuseet, CC BY-SA 4.0


Do you own something made of soapstone?



Information:
Store norske leksikon – kleberstein
Store norske leksikon – grjot
Collections Online, NTNU


If you want to read more about soapstone, I found some amazing articles while doing research that I didn’t have time to read. Here is one from Per Storemy, one from NGU, one from Universistet i Bergen and one from Universitetet i Oslo.


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