April 2008: Millstone quarries at Hyllestad, western Norway
This month we display a quarry landscape outside the project region, in the home ground of the coordinator. From the Roman Period until the early 20th century, production of rotating millstones left behind huge quarry landscapes all over Europe. In Norway, the preferred rock for millstones was mica schist containing grains of garnet or staurolite. This bimodal distribution between hard and soft minerals proved ideal for the purpose of grinding. The Hyllestad quarry landscape is one of the largest and most long-lived quarry sites in the country, displaying more or less continuous production from the Pre-Viking Period until the last millstone was quarried in 1929. During the Viking Period and the Middle ages, the millstones were carved directly from the bedrock, leaving behind circular “negatives” on the quarry floors. Later on, the extraction techniques changed towards blasting with black powder, after this was introduced in the Norwegian mining sector.
Today, the Hyllestad quarry landscape remains as a well preserved testimony of quarrying through history. In addition to the many hundred quarries, there are also remnants of roads and harbors, from which the millstones were shipped. As Early as the Viking Period, millstones from Hyllestad were distributed also outside Norway, and in the Early Medieval Period they constituted a major part of millstones used in parts of Southern Sweden and Denmark.
The Hyllestad quarry landscape is easily accessible for the interested traveler, thanks to the municipality and enthusiasts in the local community. There is an outside museum containing several of the most interesting quarries, and in the summer time one can grind grains on handmills in a medieval camp just beside the museum.