Setesdal is a valley in Aust-Agder coun­ty and is made up of the local commu­nities of Bygland, Valle and Bykle. The Otra river flows through the vallev which is deep and narrow in maw - places, with the surrounding hills reach­ing over 1000 meters (3300 feet) abcn e sea level. In the past, Setesdal was fair­ly isolated. Rugged terrain meant there was little contact with the coast. Before the main road between Kristiansand and Valle was completed in 1846, peo­ple traveled on foot and horseback and had to cross the river at several places. Setesdalsbanen, the railroad line which opened in 1896, was also important in improving contact with the outside world. gallery of stave construction.

Bjørgum in Setesdal, Photo: A. B. WilseBecause of its isolation Setesdal has preserved many old customs and traditions. Medieval characteristics were common in folk art and architec­ture into the 1800s. Agriculture, animal husbandry and forestry were the main subsistence bases, supplemented by hunting and trapping. Historically, the farms in Setesdal lay up on the hillsides, surrounded by small patches of culti­vated land and fields. Over the centuries many farms had been divided, and the buildings of four or five differ­ent holdings could be gathered in one farmyard.

The innhus and uthus were separated, often divided into two rows. Depending on the terrain the two rows could be placed at different angles, but the innhus were nearly always placed high­er up the hillside than the uthus.

Grain, mostly barley, was the main crop, and from the early 1800s the potato was common. Turnips were also a staple. There was little gardening until the late 1800s. There was plenty of pas­ture in the surrounding fields and up in the hills.

The open-hearth house, or årestue, was used as a dwelling house in Setesdal into the 1880s. It had an open gallery in stave construction running along the front, and its furnishing and decoration bore traces of the Middle Ages. After 1700 it became common to add a new room with windows, a wooden floor and a fireplace on to the existing dwelling. This new room became the main living quarters. The old årestue became the summer living quarters or the eldhus for baking, brewing, wash­ing and other heavy tasks. Next to the dwelling was the loft, a storehouse of two or three stories, whose gable faced the farmyard. The loft buildings in Setesdal were built on stone foundations and had galleries of stave con­struction surrounding the upper story.

The Setesdal farmstead

The Setesdal farmstead shown here is made up of two farms which share a yard, as was common before the land reforms. There are two of most types of buildings and the others would have been shared

The Setesdal Farmstead at Norsk Folkemuseum

Interior. Åmlidstua in the Setesdal Farmstead.

Farmhouse from Kjelleberg
Farmhouse from Åmlid
Loft from Ose