Boathouse and military organisation
An historical cornucopia
On the neighbouring farms, a natural terrace which has formed in the landscape reveals that in the late Stone Age, approximately 7 500 years ago, the sea was roughly 48 metres higher than it is today. 12 burial mounds and a small collection of stone mounds most probably date from the period between the Roman Iron Age (0 - 400 AD) and the age of the Vikings (800 - 1050 AD).
The boathouse is located at a strategic position
Leiranger Farm is located by an inlet that features a narrow channel and forms an excellent, well-hidden natural harbour. The location also occupies a strategic position on the north side of Boknafjord Fjord. From the drumlins on each side of the approaches, ruling chieftains had excellent views over the fjord allowing them control of all passing maritime traffic and thus control of a large part of the fjord.
A well-preserved stone wall which is part of a large boathouse foundation is to be found at the innermost part of the inlet. This stone wall is estimated to date from the Viking era or possibly a bit earlier.
One of the longest boathouses
With a boathouse stretching all of 34 metres in length, this is one of the longest boathouses in southwest Norway that dates from the Iron Age and the early Middle Ages. The entrance measures a broad 9 metres in width while the centre of the building is 10 metres wide. Today, all that remains of the boathouse are low stone walls.
In archaeological terms, the largest boathouse foundations (over 18 metres in length) are divided into two main categories: The oldest ones, dating from approximately 100 - 600 AD, are often 5 - 6 metres wide and feature elongated arched walls. The youngest, dating from around 900 - 1400 AD, are wider (up to 16 metres) and feature long straight walls.
The boathouse at Leiranger Farm has never been excavated, but it does bear a resemblance to both categories and it is reasonable to date the building as being of the late Iron Age/Viking era, approximately 600 ? 900 AD.
A part of an organised coastal defence system
Based on its large size and strategic location, the boathouse is reckoned to have been part of an organised coastal defence system. This coastal defence system was known as "leidang", a system established by Håkon the Good in the middle of the 9th century. However, it is possible that the Leiranger boathouse existed prior to this period.
The basis of the "leidang" system was that each geographic area within the system should maintain a boat and crew that could be called out at short notice to defend the coast from attack. These boats and their crews were known as Ship Raiders. We know that Leiranger a centre for Ship Raiders, which in the 1500s included all the farms and settlements in Nedstrand, 17 farms in Tysvær, 19 farms in Skjold and 2 farms in Vikedal. The stone walls at Leiranger are testimony to the fact that Leiranger occupied a strategic coastal position in the 8th and 9th centuries.