Category Archives: Bronze Age

A visit to Hästholmen a villa forensis in Östergötland, Sweden

Hästholmen lanterna 600I’ve been lazy when it comes to archaeology blogging lately, partly due to lots and lots of work. The other day I was asked to meet up with some folks from Jönköping County administrative board to tell a little on Hästholmen, as they were visiting on their annual staff day. This gave me a good reason for some blogging :)

Hästholmen hamnen 2 (600x450)

Hästholmen is a small town, ca 500 residents, by lake Vettern. It’s interesting out of many aspects, but lets start during the middle ages. Hästholmen is named in several historic documents, the oldest dated back to 1300 AD. It was never a town but it was what can be called a villa forensis (a place with a market) – this was one of the ports for transporting agricultural commodities from the fertile plains of Östergötland.

Hästholmen nya skärgården (450x600)

In medieval sources a church and a castle is also mentioned. The castle was probably more of a fortified farmstead than a castle. It was owned by one of Albrecht of Mecklenburg knights, Gerdt Snackborg. At Hästholmen was also a ting-place, a middle age court, this was active until at least 1523.

Hästholmen fyr (446x600)

Hästholmen peaked during the 14th and 15th century and then slowly faded into history as Vadstena, where the newly founded Vadstena Abbey was based, received its town charter. There hasn’t been done much archaeology within the medieval parts of Hästholmen, but the finds that has been found are mainly from the 14th or 15th century, for example weapons parts, a seal stamp and a collection of coins. The Seal Stamp is bourgeois and holds the name S.olai Pedarson. In 1983 a collection of 282 silver coins was found on the small hill where the “castle” is supposed to have been. The coins are from Sweden, Denmark and Germany and are minted between 1363 and 1520.

Hästholmen hamnen 4 600

Hästholmen hamnen karta 600The next time in history Hästholmen is visible in history is during the mid 19th century when it once again became an important harbour for agricultural commodities. This was to due with the steam-ship traffic on lake Vettern. In 1859 they rebuilt the harbour, much as it looks today, and 1860 the first the first harbor warehouses, one of this is till there. In 1939 they built a facility for storage and processing of grain which also is still standing. A narrow gauge railway was added in 1888 and a broad gauge (standard gauge) between Hästholmen and Mjoelby wasinaugurated in 1912.

Harbour ware house ca 1860

Harbour ware house ca 1860

In 1918 the ship Per Brahe went down during a storm just 500 meters from the Hästholmen port. It’s know as one the beloved artist John Bauer and his family together with more than 20 others died. The ship was salvaged from the bottom of the lake in 1922 and was was used for many more years in different parts of Sweden and Finland.

Facility for storage and processing of grain, build 1939

Facility for storage and processing of grain, build 1939

This is not the only find made in the harbour or nearby the harbour. Another ship wreck was found 2003, this is not dated but of old age (Viking Age or later). Added to this is also a stone age shaft-hole axe and a Vendel Age (550 – 800 AD) sword.

The old harbour

The area around Hästholmen, Alvastra and Omberg is one of the three pre-historic central areas in Östergötland. The district has been inhabited since the Stone Age, with plenty of both Mesolithic and Neolithic settlements, which has been around creeks, ancient lakes and wetlands in the plains and by lake Vettern.

Information sign rock art

Information sign rock art

During the Boreal period, about 8500-6800 BC we know of more than 30 Mesolithic settlements around the lake Tåkern, alone. In Hästholmen are traces of at least one Neolithic settlement and an Iron Age settlement. At Omberg, about 1-2 km north of Hästholmen is the Alvastra pile-dwelling site, ca 3100 BC. There has also been a megalith grave, that was destroyed in 1916. Excavations at this site was conducted in 1979-83 and found human bone material from both the Neolithic period, ca 3200 BC, and the Mesolithic’s, ca. 6300 BC.

In this area is also lots of medieval remains such as the ruins of the Alvastra monastery, Sverker Chapel, Sverkers farmstead and Alvastra mill. The Sverker-dynasty is one the early royal dynasty’s connected with the formation of Sweden during the 12th-13th century.

One rocks with carvings at Hästholmen

One rocks with carvings at Hästholmen

One of the more interesting sites in Hästholmen is the rock-art. Near Hästholmen are more than 80 known places with rock art, most of these are mainly dated to the Bronze Age. The normal type of carvings are cup marks (skålgropar, älvkvarnar) but in but six places there are also figurative motifs, all of are these close to lake Vettern and the most known are those at Hästholmen. It includes about 200 carvings spread over some 10 areas, including 130 cup marks, 29 ships, nine people, axes and animal etc. etc.

Hästholmen hällristningar 8 (600x450)

Hästholmen hällristningar 7 (600x309)

Hästholmen hällristningar 6 (502x600)

Hästholmen hällristningar 5 (600x450)

Hästholmen hällristningar 4 (600x449)

All in all a nice day :)

Magnus Reuterdahl


Ancient times along the Swedish east coast – An archaeological seminar in Blankaholm

As I check my back-log I see that I need to blog more about archaeology, but it seems that time just haven’t been there. During the coming weekend there will be time for archaeology though as it is time for the 5th annual archaeological seminar in Blankaholm – much thanks to Michael Dahlin.

The schedule holds 14 interesting seminars and it’s always fun to meet other archaeologists and archeo-buffs.

  • Michael Dahlin – On rhombic axes, from the late Bronze Age and their contexts in Kalmar County.
  • Gustaf Wollentz – On the future within the cultural heritage sector
  • Emelie Svenman – Beyond the grave – a georapahic analysis of the Bronze Age in Tjust
  • Kenneth Alexandersson – In the Age of Tingby. Mesolithics in Möre.
  • Lars-Erik Nilsson – the language of the rock art makers
  • Joakim Goldhahn – The rock art in Tjust – five years later
  • Michel Guinard, Mattias Pettersson & Roger Wikell – Early Mesolithic (flint) chips and their context
  • Helena Victor – Sandby borg at Öland – focusing on an ancient fortress
  • Helena Wilhelmsson – Archaeology captured in the moment – the osteological traces of the massacre at Sandby borg, ancient fortress, at Öland
  • Emelie Sunding – The residential district Gesällen – crafts and households in the 17th Century Kalmar
  • Ludvig Papmehl-Dufay – Back to the Tingby settlement
  • Patrik Gustavsson – A ship filled with goods – early Neolithic graves in Sörmland
  • Karl-Oskar Erlandsson – News from Kalmar County AdministrativeBoard – An archaeological report records and historic village sites
  • Anna Lögdqvist & Roger Wikell – Torshammarringar (rings with ritual symbols sometimes connected to Thor) seen in bigger geographic circles

14 seminars in two days and a great meeting place to discuss whats new and old in prehistorics! :D

Magnus Reuterdahl


Georgian National Museum, Tbilisi, Georgia

I recently was in Georgia on a wine-tour in combination with EWBC. Now Georgia also poses lots of interesting archaeological finds and some of the oldest that can be connected to wine and wine producing.

Vine branches with silver framing, dated to ca 2-1st millennium B.C. found in Georgia

We visited the Georgian National Museums archaeological exhibit and also got to see some finds that as yet has not reached the exhibit. If you go to Georgia this is a museum not to miss, lots of nice and interesting finds that shows both relations to West Europe, the Middle East and Asia – there’s really no question that you are on the Silk road.

Most of these finds are found in graves and there are several fantastic gold and silver artifacts. The exhibition represent the history of Georgian gold smithery from the 3rd millennium B.C. To the 4th century A.D. So lets get ready for some archeo- artifact – pornography! The pictures are just a few the objects on display and a few in the end that are not on display as yet.

Magnus Reuterdahl


Rock-art-lollapalooza part 2: the Fossum site

Next stop on my Rock art lollapalooza in the UNESCO world Herritage site Tanum is Fossum. The rock art in Tanum is dated to the Bronze Age, ca 1500-1000 BC.

Among the pictures are hunting scenes, people holding axes, people playing horns and of course lots of ships, animals, foot soles and cup marks etc.

I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves!

 There’s still more to come :)

Magnus Reuterdahl


Rock-art-lollapalooza part 1

 My fiancée, who also is an archaeologist, is currently participating in an archaeological dig at the Swedish west coast, at Tanum. Tanum is internationally known for its rock art sites, the Tanum UNESCO World Heritage site includes a multitude of rock carvings dated to the Bronze Age ca 1700-500 BC. In the area there are more than 1500 known sites with rock art. Last weekend I visited and we went on a rock art Safari visiting a few of the sites, the first Vitlycke, which is one of the biggest sites including the famous carving that is called the the wedding couple .

The most common motives are cup marks, ships, people, animals, footprints, wheels etc. Not being an expert on these they still captures my imagination, this is as close as we come to a written testimony of the Bronze Age world giving us glimpses into the world then. The rock carving as seen today is made on outcrops and rocks that are visible in the modern farming landscape, but during the Bronze Age they were situated near the waterline. What is ongoing in Scandinavia, since the last Ice Age, is the land uplift in progress, due to this the coastline has moved quite a bit since the Bronze Age and so landscape surrounding the rock carvings has changed as well.

Big outcrop with rock art at Vitlycke

On top of this hill, ca 100 meter higher in the terrain are two great burial cairns from the Bronze Age.

This is the first of several posts consisting mainly of photos from these sites.

The wedding couple

As you see the carvings have been filled with paint, when they’re found they’re not – can you see the carvings on the next picture?

In the middle is a foot sole and down to the left is part of a ship.

At Vitlycke is also a rock art museum, which includes a replica of a Bronze Age farm.

Magnus Reuterdahl


Heritage board’s course on Historic Landscapes day 1

Oxhagen in Rimbo

First day of the National Heritage board’s course on Historic Landscapes (Landskapshistorisk utbildning) we visited Oxhagen (the Ox pasture) in Rimbo, some miles north of Stockholm. I’ve been there a few years ago but had more or less forgotten about it, it situated in a rural landscape and we got some friends tagging a long for the ride.

Within the pastures are the remains of an late Bronze Age/early Iron Age landscape with clearing cairns, small fossilized fields, cairns of fire cracked stones, a grave field with stone settings and so forth – these remains is in part “disturbed” by newer features, such as younger fossilized fields and clearing cairns, military buildings etc.

An interesting area with gave cause to lots and lots of discussions – where why and how are important words. What makes you determine if something is a prehistoric remain or not– if in doubt use the rule of three:

Location – where is it situated, form – does it have the right shape and material - is it built by the right material.

Magnus Reuterdahl


Summer vacation 2009 part 7; Lodose museum

Last Wendsday we went to Vastergotland and Lodose museum, the plan were to go to Lodose (Lödöse) museum and then slowly return via the northen parts of Vastergotland to Jonkoping stopping at ancient monuments etc, the weather got a bit bad though so all we did was visiting the museum, which in itself was well worth the trip.

Lödöse museum building

A model scale 1:1 displaying the thickness of the cultural layers

A model scale 1:1 displaying the thickness of the cultural layers

Lodose is small town ca 40 km north of Gothenburg.  Lodose is possible best known for the finds from the medieval town, ca 1/3 of the medieval town has been excavated, the cultural layers are up to 4 m in depth and more than 150000 finds has been registered.  Lodose oldest parts as a town is from the 10th century, this is not say that there isn’t older phases, it was one of Sweden’s main port and trading cities in the Middle Ages and for a long time the only facing west. Due to changing natural conditions the operations were relocated during the late 1400’s and 1500’s to what came to be Gothenburg and in 1646 and Lödöse lost its town privileges.

The museum is primarily an archaeological museum with a focus on the medieval town Lodose but they also have a nice exhibit on the prehistory in the Gota river valley.  The museum opened in 1965, and the new museum opened in 1994.

I must say I like this museum, is just big  and/or small enough, the premises are fresh and the exhibits interesting. The exhibits are what could be called a bit traditional (which I find positive) but at the same time it feels fresh and up to date, lets call it post pomo pro retro.

There are plenty of findings in the displays, they are partly broken down in traditional groupings such as trade, port activities, crafts, etc. but the  artifacts returns in several contexts which shows that they are multicontextual, eg. it dispalys that we must interpret them according to the context . The information is narrative but leaves room for interpretations and questions, though the visitor isn’t left on his or her own as I feel has been the case in some museums in latter years. This is an example of a museum that uses their collection in a good way, that trusts the value of the artifacts in themselves and in their contexts and dares to tell the story of them. This is the kind of museum that I like!

I took some pictures of the displays and on some finds

From the medieval exhibit;

A cannon

 Lödöse museum cannon

Swords

Lödöse museum swords

Knife sheath made of tree and lead

 Lödöse museum knife

Make a coin, I did

 Lödöse museum make a coin

Medieval shoes

 Lödöse museum shoes

Bone flutes

 Lödöse museum bone flutes

A funt of tree

 Lödöse museum funt

As you can see below runic inscriptions can be carved into almost any object. These medieval finds shows that runes were used by all groups in the cities, in other words rune literacy during the Middle Ages are high in the cities. Still we find very few finds of this sort in the country side though this might be due to preservation possibilities. In the deep cultural layers of the medieval towns there is a much better chance for objects of tree or leather to be preserved.

At the back; part of a Besman scale, in front; a measuring tool with a rune inscription.

 Lödöse museum runes

A thresh tool with a runic inscription

 Lödöse museum runes 2

Two calendar stick with a runic inscription

 Lödöse museum runes 3

Lödöse museum runes 4

From the prehistoric exhibit;

Antler from a reindeer and a jaw from a polar bear. The finds are dated to ca 13000-10500 BP, in other words from the end of the ice age.

 Lödöse museum reindeer

Stone Age axes

Lödöse museum stone age axes

Flint micro chips or microliths in displayed as the they were in the elder days

 Lödöse museum stone age flint microliths

These flint scrapers are either from the late Neolithics or the Bronze Age.

Lödöse museum Stone age scrapes daggers

Bronze Age swords

Lödöse museum Bronze Age swords

The next display is a 3-D model of the Gota river valley on which is projected how the country has raised itself and the valley has changed over the last 12 000 years, since the last ice age, and how man has taken possession of the landscape. A good presentation that is clear and makes it easy to see the changes, man made as well as natural. I miss one thing though and that is markers that show where today’s societies are. This is shown in the very beginning of the presentation but I feel that the presentation should gain on showing this all the way through.

Lödöse museum model Lödöse museum model2 Lödöse museum model3

If you’re in the neighborhood this is a museum you shouldn’t miss, it’s well worth a detour.

Magnus Reuterdahl


Summer vacation 2009 part 6; Ostergotland

On our way south we passed a few rune stones in Ostergotland. First out was Ög 190 in Vikingstad parish. It is dated to the 11th century and the inscription is “…erected this stone after Agute a good…”.

 Ög 190 runsten

As you can see the rune stone has been mended but some fragments are missing.

Next stop was the three rune stones; Ög 207-209, along an abandoned road (hålväg) by an prehistoric grave field in Viby parish. The stones are dated to the 11th century. Ög 207 and 208 are in their original place while Ög 209 was found nearby in the 1860’s and later placed here. The grave field predates the rune stones. The grave filed is used during the Iron Age but might have used also during the Bronze Age.

ög 207-209 and the abandoned road

The abandoned road, it’s known as the old country road in sources from the 17th century but is very possible as old as or older than the rune stones.

Ög 207

 Ög 207

Redulv and Gere erected this stone after Ofeg, their uncle, a good farmer.

Ög 208

 Ög 208

Vige erected this stone after Ofeg, his father.

Ög 209

Ög 209

Toste erected stone after Toke and Oruste, his nephews.

Magnus Reuterdahl


Skepplanda Rock Art

As I returned to Skepplanda this afternoon I saw a road sign just outside of Skepplanda saying; Rock carvings (Skepplanda 20:1). 

rock_art_skylt2

So I stopped the car and took a quick walk – the pathfinder sign is due for replacement though.

rock_art_skylt1

The rock carving was set at big rock wall at Stugåsberget, in my eyes it’s a bit of an odd placement but I’m no expert of the Swedish west coast rock carvings. These are normally dated to the Bronze Age, ca 1800-500 BC in Scandinavia.

rock_art_10

The motive is a rather large ship ca 3 x 0,5 m and a wagon/carriage just below to the left.

rock_art_11

Magnus Reuterdahl


Alvhem Rock Art

 rock_art_01

In Alvhem (= the home of the elves) ca 40 km northeast of Gothenburg on Jätteberget (the mountain of giants) is a small rock with a number of beautiful rock carvings, Skepplanda 56:1. The rock is ca 10 x 5 m.

 rock_art_02

Most of the carvings on this rock are of ships but there are also few animals and couple of humans and some cup marks etc.

rock_art_03

rock_art_04

rock_art_05

rock_art_06

rock_art_07

rock_art_08

rock_art_09

On top of the mountain is a cairn, though heavily damaged (since long ago), and a few hundred meters north of the rock carvings finds of flint has been made.

Magnus Reuterdahl


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