The Ervika Runestone and Other Evidence for the Early Christianization of Northern Norway
In the early 1980s, a runestone fragment with a Christian inscription from the early eleventh century was discovered in Harstad town, northern Norway, in excavated masses originating from the farm Ervika. Runestones are very rare archaeological finds in this region, but, despite being included in runological overviews, the Ervika stone has not been studied or published by archaeologists or historians. This reflects a tendency where evidence of early medieval Christian influences and the Christianization processes in northern Norway have been surprisingly little discussed apart from general overviews and some local studies of specific find categories. In this article, we aim to initiate a broader debate about the complexities of the Christianization processes in northern Norway by presenting and evaluating relevant finds. This includes the material that has emerged over the last decade due to increased interest in private metal detecting. We emphasize the particularities of the geopolitical and sociocultural context in the north, where impulses from the Eastern Church and Saami culture and religion may have affected the reception and practice of the new religion. The Ervika runestone fragment serves as a point of departure, and we describe the find and its context in some detail to ensure it is included in future research by runologists, archaeologists, and historians.