Category Archives: Stone 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


Mesolithic Motala on film

At the city Motala on the eastern shore line of lake Vettern a big excavation that in part is still on- going that concerns the mesolithics. The excavations are being done by Riksantikvarieämbetet (the National Heritage Board) UV Öst (RAÄ UV Öst) (link in Swedish about the excavation) and by Stiftelsen Kulturmiljö (link in Swedish about the excavation).

The excavations concern at least one settlement and several different activity areas; production sites, graves etc, that are dated to ca 6000-4000 BC. There are also remains of a medieval farmstead, dated to ca 1200-1300 AD.

There are several things that are special about this site among them the exceptional preservation environment, UV has made this film, with English subtitles, that allows you to find out more about this exiting place and the finds that has been made.

The film is produced by Martin Wanngård at BringitoLife during 2010 and 2011 and is 18 minutes long and is part of RAÄ UV Öst’s intermediary of the results.

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


Finnish archaeologist has unearthed a 7 000 year old grave in Osterbothnia

Through a Finnish friend I got notice on this interesting find. And to all you Finns out there forgive me if I’ve misinterpreted parts of this, and if so please correct me :)

Finish researchers has found a new model of Stone Age grave – at least new for Finland. A rectangular stone setting; 4×5 meter. It has been excavated this summer by Finnish archaeologist Teemu Mökkösen. The grave is situated in Keelaharjussa in northern Ostrobothnia.

According to the article this is the only grave of its kind in Finland. It’s filled with red ochre and has been dated to circa 5000 years BC, which makes it one of Finland’s oldest graves.

A few similar graves have been excavated in the north of Sweden, in Norrbotten. Late Stone Age graves for example at Lillberget and Ansvar etc. But somewhere in the back of my mind I believe I’ve read about similar graves in Finland before, though there is probably something special about this one, or it might be that this is the only one that has been dated or has the oldest dating.

If you know what please write a comment.

Nerveless it’s an exiting find. I felt quite pleased earlier today as me and my collegue had found a stone cist grave, though it feels a little petty in comparison – it’s not that unusal and its Iron Age so it’s a lot younger… can’t get it all can you!

Source; an article in HS.fi – a Finish newspaper.

Magnus Reuterdahl


Archaeology in Stockholm County part 1

Notes from the seminar “Archeology in Stockholm County 2009” held at the County Administrative Board of Stockholm 2010. I’ve divided it into three parts in the order they were given.

The Neolithic landscape at Albyberg in Haninge.

Michel Guinard SAU (Societas Archaeologica Upsaliensis)

A report on the results from an archaeological investigation in 2009 in Haninge where 16 settlements (Stone Age), one rock with cup marks (dating Stone Age – Iron Age) and four cairns that mark boundaries (medieval or newer times) was found.

12 of the 16 settlements consisting of finds of quartz, these are dated roughly to about 9000-6000 BP. They are positioned high in the countryside, about 40-55 m above sea level, in small sheltered positions on the highest peak levels. These sites might be some kind of temporary hunting stations temporary for seal hunters, fishers or bird hunters.

These can be compared with the four Neolithic settlements found at 30-35 m above the sea level on sandy flat surfaces.

Comment;

- The report is not yet published.

Korsnäs Revisited – about an ongoing research project on middle Neolithic activities at Södertörn

Elin Fornander, the Archaeological Research laboratory, Stockholm University

Korsnäs is a pitted ware settlement (ca 3200 BC– ca 2300 BC) at Södertörn, Grödinge parish. The settlement is situated ca 25 m above the sea level on a flat sandy surface. The settlement was discovered 1903. Several minor excavations and surveys has been made since then; 1931 phosphate mapping, 1933 minor excavation, 1964 survey, 1970/1973/1979/1991/2003 minor excavations, 2005 screening of old dump piles, 2009 minor excavation).

The 2009 excavation was part in the research project at hand, the excavation will continue in 2010 as part of the field courses (Archaeology, Archaeological Sciences, Osteoarchaeology) held by the Department of Archaeology at Stockholm University.

The place has very good preservation conditions for bones. What makes the enviorment good for bone preservation has been debated, during the project soil samples will be taken for the purpose of answering that question. Among the animal bones seals and pigs dominate but bone analysis shows that an essentially part of the diet was marine which leaves question on what they did and how they regarded the pigs. There are also seven known graves, the latest found in 2009. The graves in the pitted ware culture are often elaborate and diverse. In one of the graves the individual has been laid on a bed of herring bones together with a dog skull and a clay bead in one of the eye sockets. Also interesting is a child burial.

The 2009 excavation gave evidence for the richness of the site, they excavated a surface of 17 m2 and found nearly 49 kg of ceramic shards, ca 19 % are decorated. There are also several shards from miniature vessels, they’ve been ca 2-3 cm – 5-10 cm in size. Besides the ornate ceramics the ceramics can be divided into two types; porous and solid cargoes.

Comments;

- this is an interesting project that include several archaeological methods; soil analysis, lipid analysis, bone chemistry (13C-analysis), ceramic analysis, osteology etc. The results will come in a report, but also as part of a student essays and be part of at least one thesis.

Mass burn sacrifice (flint and other stone tools that has been purposely exposed to fire and heat as a ritual act) in early agricultural society, Stensborg, Grödinge parish

Lars Larsson, Department of Archaeology Lund University

Settlements are often a too wide term to describe a site as it includes many diverse and divergent types of sites; human settlements, farms, manufacturing sites, hunting sites, activity areas, etc. In this case a better word might be gathering sites (Samlingsplaster). They are well defined places, often they can be described as some form of enclosed by natural or manmade barriers such as ravines, trenches, open water, hills etc. At these locations one finds large amounts of deposited burned, and deliberately broken objects; flint artifacts, slate artifacts, ceramics, exotic objects, human bones, etc., Known places of this sort includes Sarup in Demark on Fyn, the Alvastra pile-dwelling and a number of premises in southern Sweden. An interconnecting element is fire and the deliberated destruction of the objects. The items are usually deposited in small pits or small thin flakes.

At a golf course in Stenstorp, Grödinge parish, a small field between two courses has be saved. On this field archaeologist Sven-Gunnar Bostrom have picked up, measured, positioned and collected more than 3,000 objects by field walking. Among the objects are large quantities of rock axes (thin-and with a pointed ridge), flint axes, and much Funnelbeaker (TRB) ceramics. A high percentage of the ceramic shards are decorated. There are also a lot of exotic objects such as a slate knife and the artifacts made of Kristianstad Flint.  These have artifacts have been deliberately destroyed by fire and by breaking. A lot of the objects have roughly the same size which shows that it’s important how to destroy them correctly. They could also be said to have been “baked” or cremated in a controlled way to make the destruction go a certain way for example the flints are often found as large pieces of white sheets of flint. Thereafter the destroyed objects have been “buried” in small pits that has been sealed with clay or in flat beds of clay that more resembles a form a sowing. Some artifacts, such as rock chisels are not destroyed, indicating that they instead have been used in the process of destruction.

In 2008 and 2009 excavations in the field and on the ridge which forms the northern boundary. During the excavation yet another interesting find was made, in the field, concentrations of burnt grain, more than 7000 grains were collected from three samples- The grain consist mainly of barley, spelt and bread wheat. The grain was well-stocked, severely burned and in combination with very little charcoal. This indicating that the grain exercised as fuel.  14C-dating of the grain gives dates to ca 4600 BP i.e. Funnelbeaker culture.

The excavations on the ridge resulted in more normal settlement finds.

Comments;

-          So far this place is unique in this part of Sweden, though not unique in Scandinavia.  It shows extraordinary similarities to their southern counterparts, which indicates arather close connection between the South Scandinavian Stone Age cultures and between middle Swedish owns. Among the finds are also artifacts that show contacts to the north, such as a slate knife, also broken.  The similarity between these sites indicates that there is a consciousness and organization within the society that reaches far beyond the tribe or the closest neighbors, that borders on the concept of organized religion.

Magnus Reuterdahl


These notes should not be used as references, if you’re interested I’m sure the people behind the seminars are happy to help you.

These are memory notes so there might very well a few faults or misunderstandings among them, if you find anything that is wrong or out of place please contact me so that I can fix it.


We’re close to the finishing line

Skepplanda 32 hearth

The Skepplanda 32 excavation is beginning to come to an end – only two days left. We’ve made a lot of interesting finds during the excavation and these last few days we also found some hearts and cocking pits whereof some might be Neolithic. Several of them looks like they’re from the Iron Age but we’ve made some finds that indicatives that they possibly are from the Stone Age. Today I found this arrow head (type C) belonging to last phase of the pitted ware culture in a hearth.

Skepplanda 32 arrow head C type

Today I took a few moments to look at the view over Gota Alv (river Gota) it’s magnificent. The scenery is nothing like that the people of the middle neolitic saw as this was in the archipelago at the time and the sea level met the beach right were here. On that they made hearths, hunted seal, fished and possibly lived, at least for a while.

Skepplanda 32 view

Well all good things have an end and it’s been a good dig. Coming up next is a week of vacation and then it is of Ostergotland for more work.

Magnus Reuterdahl


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