A part of the world’s largest natural monuments from the last ice age
If you’d like to experience one of the most historic and fascinating natural areas, you can travel to the majestic natural region of Mølen, as far south you can get in Vestfold county. Mølen is a bit of a huge gravel bed that goes around the entirety of Scandinavia. It was formed in the edge of the ice sheet between 12,650 to 12,350 years ago. In Southeast Norway, the moraine is called "Raet". One of the attractions of Mølen is the unique graveyard. Each cairn, small and large, is secretive and mysterious because many puzzles remain to be solved for us to see the full picture of why they were built and what they contain.
"Is it your opinion, that the past has real existence?”
George Orwell (1903 - 1950) in the novel "1984"
Mølen is the name of a part of the stunning coastline between Helgeroa and Nevlunghavn harbor. It has spectacular burial mounds, exciting rocks landscape, the country's largest pebble beach, and a wonderful walking area including coastal path that winds through the area. The gravel ridge covering the outside of Mølen is part of the powerful Vestfold Ra. The large moraine through Vestfold, coming across the fjord from Østfold, taking land by Horten, plows powerfully to the south, lines up in the landscape form that the glaciers had once, makes their way through Brunlanes and pops into the sea at Mølen, first showing up on an island outside Kragerø.
"There comes a time when those who remembered me are forgotten"
Peter Wessel Zapffe (1899 - 1990)
The melting and retreating of the great ice sheet that covered Scandinavia at the end of the last ice age took place unevenly. In periods of low melting, the ice cap was lying still in the same place. The ice transported sand and rock continuously out to the ice edge where gravel ridges formed. The ice front remained quiet for a time. Between 12,650 and 12,350 ago, it was in the same place. Then there was the ice edge which formed a giant gravel ridge that runs around Scandinavia. In Southeast Norway, we call this "Raet" or “The Ra” and Mølen is a piece of this huge ridge.
"That which is, is that which has been.”
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770 - 1831)
Norway’s most spectacular gravesite
Around 1500BC, the custom of burying individuals in large burial mounds arose. The cairns were placed on the tops of the countryside, close to the sky and overlooking the ocean or waterway.
The boulder moraine on Mølen by Nevlunghavn was the perfect place for our ancestors to build tombs: Good views of the dead and plenty of building material. Burial mounds located on the surfaces of individual beach ridges formed during periods of extreme onshore wind uplift during the last Ice Age. Because of the uplift, the lowermost burial mounds may not be older than a few thousand years. But the oldest farthest might as well come from the Bronze Age, 1800-500 BC. Little is known about the mounds; however it is not difficult to understand that in pagan times the tombs were placed right here - the place where the moraine disappearing into Skagerrak is kind of a natural place for the last earthly journey.
The vast burial ground contains 230 artificial stone cairns. The largest has a diameter of 35 meters. The minimum is two to three feet in diameter. Most are round, some are rectangular and one is the shape of a ship.
"Time is us"
Augustin (354 - 430)
Only one of grave monuments in Mølen is dated on the basis of grave contents, namely, a 20 meter long boat-shaped stone lying east of the largest burial mounds, later dubbed "The Mølen Ship".
Professor i nordisk arkeologi, Sverre Marstrander (Universitetet i Oslo), fant på begynnelsen av 70-tallet rundt 70 skipsnagler og store mengder jernflis etter oppløste nagler i den ovale, skipsformede steinrøysen "Mølenskipet". Her fant han også trekull, som han daterte ved hjelp av såkalte C14-prøver. På grunnlag av denne analysen konkluderte han med at røysen stammet fra eldre jernalder. Denne dateringen ble umiddelbart imøtegått av arkeologen Trond Løken, som blant annet pekte på at skipsformen først og fremst kjennetegner yngre jernalder og at jernklinking av båter ikke ble vanlig før på 400-tallet etter Kristus.
"For the history and landscape, or rather the landscape and history, are intricately linked"
Erling Johansen (1919 - 2000)
Yngling’s family grave?
Perhaps Mølen was the burial place of a branch of the mighty Ynglings?
"Along the Norwegian coast from Båhuslen to Bodø, the hills and islets, islands, and headlands lay round stone mounds, often many in the crowd, all thrown together. They continue on along lakes and rivers in Götaland and over to the coasts and islands in Finland and Estonia. They form a chain of thousands; we do not know how many thousand only in the present-day Norway. "
The archaeologist A.W. Brogger began his article in the booklet Mølen in Brunlanes, published by Norwegian archaeological company in 1938.
"What are they?" he asks and notes that it has to do with tombs from the Bronze Age people of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Estonia.
Of all the thousands of tombstones in Norway is Mølen the strangest, according to Brogger, primarily because of its excellent location. He describes the site as such:
"This mighty glacial reason, filled with endless masses of coarse, round, little stones, forming a beach overlooking the ocean, and it ends in a spit, it's like a small continent ends - here ends Vestfold. Broad and powerful it grows out of rocks west of Nevlunghavn, a powerful open beach where the sea touches. And the highest edge was crowned by the great old mounds as majestic and silhouettes its profile against the sky. "
Archaeologist Trond Løken was also one of the first to present the hypothesis Mølen as a cemetery for a branch of the mighty Ynglings.
“People who think they can explain everything put things into the system they have designed, suitable to their needs for attenuation of the fear of life, fear of death, and hunger for being eternally existent. "Per Hansson (1922 - 1982)
In the Bronze Age, it was common to bury the dead in the monumental burial mounds upon the heights of the landscape. The dead were to be seen - so the view of the sea and transport were the determining reasons of where and how the mounds should be. Burial mounds were erected over the grave of the most powerful people in the area. The burial caskets, built of stone slabs, were usually directly on the mountain in the middle of the mound.
A Mysterious Riddle
What have our ancestors symbolized on Mølen, or tried to signal to the outside world and perhaps the universe gods on Mølen? Experts are not quite sure what traditions were related to Mølen, and it remains an enigma and a mystery what burial mounds include, but archaeologists and experts are in no doubt that this is the burial mounds for a large family. These graves have a strategic location with expansive views of the countryside and the major works that sea and landmarks. You do not get such monumental tombs without basis in wealth and power. The smaller mounds are perhaps symbols of warriors who fell in sea battles or shipwrecked along with their chiefs.
Nearly all mounds have one or more grooves, which possibly show earlier pirate-like grave robberies, looting, or so-called mound breaches. Mound breaches involve performing a ritual removal of the dead, but researchers are uncertain of the reason. It may also be that the mounds are built with an emphasis on purpose, but they are, so no one has a natural explanation for it.
The youngest mounds probably originated from this era, but cairns located higher up on the beach may be older. Maybe the site has been used as a burial place for two thousand years.
"Every mood, yes, every moment is of infinite value, because it contains in itself an eternity."
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 - 1832)
Mølen is Scandinavia’s first Geopark
In June 2008, the Nordic region's first UNESCO European Geopark on Mølen opened. In addition, it is important to state that Mølen is listed twice - in 1939 for the spectacular grave monuments and in 1970 because of the abundant bird life on the peninsula and the waters around it. The name Mølen, mentioned in the saga year 1207, derived from the Old Norse mol, which means rock beat or stone embankment.
Rocks on Mølen
Mølen and Raet contain rocks of many different geological ages and origins as the glacier brought here from many places in Southern Norway. Among pebbles on Mølen you can find at least 100 different types of rock. Many of them we recognize, and we know where the glacier picked them up. Some typical types are:
• Quarzite from Telemark
• Gneiss from Kongsberg and Meheia
• Limestone from Grenland
• Sandstone from Ringerike
• Granite from Drammen
• Rhomb porphyry from Vestfold
Not surprisingly, larvikite and various Syenites, which we find in the mountains in the area just north of Mølen, are quite common among pebbles. The most exotic rock is flint - it came perhaps from a Denmark lab study in an iceberg.
Sounds and site you will never forget
Mølen is a majestic place in all weather and all seasons and perhaps it is even the most impressive being here on a day of extremely windy weather. Storm, sun, and rain interchanging provide fantastic lighting. It is never quiet in Mølen. With Skagerrak right outside, there is always wind in the air and always waves crashing against the shore.
During the day, the swells turn sharply and you can hear the powerful water rumble. The fascinating sound is the rolling of the boulders under the water pulled by the currents. It is impressive that such a powerful sound comes from under the sea and can still be heard from the beach. You won’t ever forget the visual and sound impression from Mølen.
"A river, a cascading stream is time. Hardly anything has appeared before it washed away and the other has driven in turn washed away."
Marcus Aurelius (121 - 180)
Walking in primeval landscape on Mølen is an experience you should treat yourself with, whether it is with family or the day’s walk with the dog. The coastal path passes just above the pebble beach. At the end of the pebble beach, the eastern side winds coastal path into lava rock area Saltstein.
This area features rare tracks by the so-called Brunlanes volcano. What makes the area so special is that Saltstein consists of a series of headlands and rugged cliffs of volcanic origin and is full of deep textures that take us back several million years.
What is fascinating is that the conservation and trope-like swamp forest, Sørskogen, extends into the coastal path just a few steps since I t found itself on barren lava rock. In Sørskogen, there is abundant birdlife and lush clusters of honeysuckle, which winds its way straight up the trunks almost like vines!