A Rich and Powerful Dynasty
When the Chieftain’s House was redeveloped and extended in the 700s, the farmstead belonged to a rich and powerful family. The Chieftain of Borg had connections with a network of chieftains along the coast. The building of alliances with other mighty men was vital to maintaining power.
At the same time, a chieftain also had to relate to his subjects. We can assume that society was organised in a kind of redistribution system. This would involve the chieftain collecting taxes from the people in exchange for protection, the development of infrastructure and the organisation of other common business. In this way, the chieftain developed his power, alliances and wealth.
In order to gain the support of faithful kinsmen, the chieftain had to be wealthy and share his wealth generously with his kinsmen. In the feasting hall the chieftain would entertain guests and make sacrifices to the gods. Written sources like Njál’s Saga tell us that the chieftain would sit in the seat of honour, often with the lady of the house at his side. We can imagine that chieftains from the surrounding areas and prominent people from nearby farmsteads would be invited to such feasts.
In the Landnamabok (Book of Settlements) we find the name of a chieftain from the island of Lofot. At the time, “Lofot” was the name given to what is today the island of Vestvågøy, where Borg is situated. The chieftain was called Olaf Tvennumbruni. He was described as a great man of sacrifices and a “hamram”. This means that he led the Norse sacrificial ceremonies and gave great feasts in honour of the gods. “Hamram” means that the people believed he could shed his skin and transform himself into an animal. The Landnamabok also tells us that Olaf Tvennumbruni was married to Åse and had three sons.
The Chieftain’s House was abandoned in the 900s. We do not know why, but this was a time of great upheaval. Power structures were changing as a result of both the unification of Norway as a nation and the Christianisation process. We know that several great chieftains resettled in Iceland towards the end of the Viking Age.
Many of them left due to conflicts of power at home. After the Chieftain’s House had been abandoned, there was still some activity at Borghøyden. A smaller longhouse was in use in the 1000s. However, the church was probably quick to take power on the Borg heights. We know there was a church there in the 1300s.
The mediaeval buildings that have been excavated, and that date back to the 1100s-1200s, may have been an early vicarage. Churches were often built near places where the Norse gods were worshipped. Up here on the high ground, political and religious power has been amassed from the Early Iron Age and up until today, in the form of the modern church.