Category Archives: Iron 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


Osteo-doctoral day for Ylva Telldahl

Ylva Telldahl will do her doctoral defence for her thesis on December 19 at Stockholm University föreläsningssalen, Botaniska institutionen, Lilla Frescativägen 5 at 13:00.

Her thesis is called: Working animals and skeletal lesions. Paleopathology of cattle and horse in Iron Age and medieval Öland, Sweden.

Ylva has concentrated on the relationship between animal husbandry practices and the associated pathological conditions using methods such as osteometric analysis, conventional radiographic and bone mineral study, as well as incorporated molecular analysis.

The material used was excavated (1964-1974) at Eketorp ringfort on Öland. The fort was used during the Iron Age and early Middle Ages, ca 300–1300 AD and from the Skedemosse wetland site that was excavated in the early 60’s.  This site is a ritual site where weapons, animals, coins and other valuables was offered to the gods, 200-500 AD.

Read the full abstract here.

 

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


Going places

A constant in life is that time is passing – at present the days seems to go with the speed of light. Since a week back I’m part of the excavating crew at the E22 in Blekinge, in the south part of Sweden, still employed by Kalmar County museum. The excavation concerns several areas, among them several Mesolithic settlements and activity sites, and some later Stone Age burials, Iron Age burial sites etc., etc. Lots of exciting stuff – though this post is not about that.

This has though meant that I transferred my living quarters to Sölvesborg – a new town means new things to see – among them are two rune stones. One is placed inside S:t Nicholai church in Sölvesborg. the oldest parts are from the 13th century. Inside the church are several interesting paintings from the 15th cen

  

Back to the rune stones. Its not everyday you see rune stones from the 6th – 8th century, e.g. rune stones with runes from the older futhark, and fewer still that you see two.

Just outside the church is the rune stone DR 356 (Sölvesborg 18:1).

The inscription on the stone in the church is:

Orti Vað[i] [ept] Ásmund, son sinn.

English translation should read some like; Vaði wrought (in memory of ) Ásmundr, his son.

The other rune stone, DR 357 (Sölvesborg 18:2) is placed inside the church and has been moved to Sölvedborg from Gammeltofta parish and is called the Stentofta rune stone.

<niuha>borumz <niuha>gestumz Haþuwulfz gaf j[ar], Hariwulfz … … haidiz runono, felh eka hedra, niu habrumz, niu hangistumz Haþuwulfz gaf j[ar], Hariwulfz … … haidiz runono, felh eka hedra, ginnurunoz. Hermalausaz argiu, Weladauþs, sa þat, briutiþ.

English translation: (To the) <niuha>dwellers (and) <niuha>guests Haþuwulfar gave ful year, Hariwulfar … … I, master of the runes(?) conceal here nine bucks, nine stallions, Haþuwulfar gave fruitful year, Hariwulfar …

I’ll try to take a few hikes and see some more ancient monuments in Bleking the coming weeks, my current employment last till the end of September so its also time to look for new employments – I’ve been on a couple of interviews the last weeks so its possible that its soon time for a new move.

Magnus Reuterdahl


The Karlevi rune stone, Vickleby parish, Öland (Öl 1)

I promised to get back to you with some further information on the Karlevi rune stone.

It is placed on the island Öland in Vickleby parish and has the signum Öl 1. The inscription is dated to ca 1000 AD. Part of the inscription on the Karlevi rune stone is written in dróttkætt, an Iron Age metre. It is the only rune stone with a complete dróttkætt on it. The name in itself is interesting; drótt is a collective word that can be translated into; a chieftain or someone who had sworn retainers. In other words dróttkætt could be translated into a verse or metre suitable for a chieftain or court of sort. It includes two  kenningar, a kenning is a euphemism for something, often euphemistically.

The inscription1:

s-a… –(s)- i(a)s * satr * aiftir * si(b)(a) * kutha * sun * fultars * in hons ** lithi * sati * at * u * -ausa-th-… +: fulkin : likr : hins : fulkthu : flaistr (:)* uisi * that * maistar * taithir : tulka * thruthar : traukr : i : thaimsi * huki * munat : raith:uithur : ratha : ruk:starkr * i * tanmarku : –ntils : iarmun**kruntar : urkrontari : lonti

Inscription in latin letters:  IN NONIN-  +HE… …

The first strophe is quite ordinary: “This stone is set up in memory of…” The second strophe goes as follows:

Folginn liggr hinn’s fylgðu

(flestr vissi Þat) mestar

Dáðir dolga Þrúdar

Draugr í Þeimsi haugi

Mun-at reið-Viðurr ráda

Rógstarkr í Danmǫrku

Endils iǫrmungrundar

Ørgrandari landi

Translation into English:

This stone is set up in memory of Sibbi Gódhi/Godhi, son of Foldarr, and his retinue set on … Hidden lies the one whom followed (most know that) the greatest deeds, Thrud’s warrior of battles, in this mound. Never will a more honest, hard-fighting ‘wagon-Vidhurr’ upon Endill’s expanses rule the land in Denmark. [This stone is placed in memory of Sibbi the good, Fuldarr’s son, and his retinue placed on … … He lies concealed, he who was followed by the greatest deeds (most men knew that), a chieftain (battle-tree of [the Goddess] Thrúdhr) in this howe; Never again shall such a battle-hardened sea-warrior (Vidhurr-of-the-Carriage of [the Sea-king] Endill’s mighty dominion ( = God of the vessels of the the sea) ), rule unsurpassed over land in Denmark.]  In latin letters: In the name of Jesus(?) …

The stone was erected for the chieftain Sibbe, Foldar’s son, on the stone he is called dólga Þrúdar draugur; the last word draugur is a well known kenning for ‘warrior, doer, performer of battles’, dólg means ‘hostility, strife, battle’ and Þrúdar is the name of one of Thor’s daughters, a goddess in norse mythology. According to Sven B.F. Jansson2 the translation should be something like; executor, performer of the goddess in battle or warrior, warlord.

Another interesting passage in the runic text is the word another kenning, devided into two strophes: reið-Viðurr + Endils iǫrmungrund. Endill is the name of a Sea-king, iǫrmungrund ‘mighty ground’, reið means ‘a wagon (chariot)’ and Viðurr is another name for the god Odin. This could be interpreted as; The God of ships (wagons of the sea) is the Sea-King (or warrior), according to Klaus Düwel3 – in this case Sibbe might be seen as the Sea King or perhaps that he sails with the sea-King or is with Odin. The word iǫrmungrund is also interesting as it appears in Beowulf and Grimnismál as well which puts it in a larger geographical context than just Öland as do the mentioning of Denmark.

The latin inscription is also interesting:  IN NONIN-  +HE… … It has been interpreted as In the name of Jesus(?) … … So the inscription is also part of a Christian context both regarding the letters and religion.

Magnus Reuterdahl

More information:

  1. The runic database Samnordisk runtextdatabas
  2. Jansson, Sven B.F. 1997. Runes in Sweden.
  3. Düwel, Klaus 2001. Runenkunde, dritte Auflage.r, troligen naturligt.

Excavation at Rissne on Swedish Radio

Currently I’m employed by Arkeologikonsult at the excavations of a grave field in Rissne, Stockholm. The grave field is from the late Viking Age or the early middle ages. The burials are mainly Christian, buried in coffins, but the graves have superstructures that are a relic of ancient burial forms, such as stone settings or mounds, and the dead are still buried at the farmstead grave field rather than at a cemetery by a church.

SR (Swedish Radio) program Vetenskapsradion history (Science Radio: History) has a report on the excavation on the show (in Swedish) under the title The Spectres at Rissne. Pictures from the excavation are available at Arkeologikonsults webpage.

Magnus Reuterdahl


Heritage board’s course on Historic Landscapes day 3

It’s been a long day, and I’m rather tired so this just a quick update of the day.

We started off looking at the area around Sagaån (Saga river) where lots of time and effort has been put in over the years concerning a new route for the highway E18. One alternative was to put the route between two great mounds and the assumed place for the medieval king’s road Eriksgatan and the passage where the king left Västmanland and entered Uppland. The other alternative was to place the route in a landscape which shows a well-worked-industrial agricultural landscape. The issue has been resolved and the new route is being built but it was an interesting discussion on how to different values sometimes clashes.

From there we continued north towards Bergslagen and Norberg – on the way we stopped by the grave field at Anunds mound at Badelunda – an amazing site – well worth a visit. Anunds mound is the largest burial mound in Sweden measuring 60 m diameter and 14 meters in height. On the grave field are also several smaller mounds, ship settings and a line of stones, including a rune stone, a monument called a bridge. The grave field is dated to the Iron Age and the rune stone bridge monument to the late Iron Age or the middle Ages.

After this we stopped at the UNESCO world heritage site Engelsberg Ironworks – a part of Bergslagen (http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/556) Engelsberg is one of the best preserved ironworks from the 17th and 18th centuries. The complex is more or less complete, with a manor, with smithies, and blast-furnace among other things.

Though I don’t have a photo – the worlds oldest, still standing, oil refinerie is also in Engelsberg , built during the early 1800s.

From here to Norsberg and a visit to Nya (New) Lapphyttan – Nya Lappnyttan is a reconstructed medieval village, Blast furnace and Iron production open-air museum based on an archaeological excavation of Lapphyttan, during the 80’s, of one the oldest blast furnace remains in Sweden and Europe. It’s been dated to the 12th century.

This is all for now

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


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