Season’s greetings from Bergen Osteology!


Smalahove is a traditional Norwegian dish made from a sheep’s head and often eaten in the period leading up to Christmas. The name of the dish comes from the combination of the Norwegian words hove (meaning head) and smale (meaning sheep). The dish is considered a delicacy in the western part of Norway, although it is certainly not everyone’s favorite. The head is salted, sometimes smoked, and dried, and is boiled or steamed for several hours before serving. It is served with boiled potatoes and kolrabi mash, and if you need some help washing it down, a little glass of akvavit.

In addition to the cultural delight some of us take in eating this dish every year, it also provides great specimens for our osteological collection. The fact that smalahove is often sold already cut in half means that it gives us a nice sagittal cross section of the sheep skull. This is helpful in understanding the internal anatomy of the sheep’s head, and helps in identifying small skull fragments from archaeological excavations. Can you spot the petrosal bone, the densest bone in the body?

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