”Sami circular offering sites” is an established category of cultural heritage in northern Norway, but details of their origin, time of use, function and significance in contemporary society have been little explored. This study aims to establish some basic facts about these stone enclosures, but a surprising conclusion is that the very offering site interpretation is uncertain. Substantial evidence rather suggests that the large structures were initially built for an entirely different purpose, while some have apparently later been reused and reconceptualised as offering sites. The question also arises if a range of structures with diverging characteristics that have recently been added to the same category can in fact be defined as the same phenomenon. The exploration of the genesis and distribution of the offering site interpretation for stone circles leads to a discussion of the socio-political implications of archaeological categorisation in general, and the preference for ritual explanations in Sami contexts in particular. It is maintained that while the materiality of the archaeological remains constitutes useful corrections and limitations to these narratives, any archaeological interpretations, including the present one, cannot escape the embeddedness in certain discourses and relations of power.
Marte Spangen (b. 1977) is an archaeologist with special interest in Sami archaeology, archaeology of rituals and religion, and critical heritage studies. Circling Concepts is her doctoral dissertation.