The evolution of a construction (the chain of thoughts at a excavation).

Time just seems to fly away and I just been to beat the last few days upon coming home from work to write an update, well no more Mr Lazy.

At the excavation at settlement no.7 in Lantjärv Norrbotten we currently excavate a construction that I have mentioned before, see here and here, more info of the site can be found here.

Last week we started to excavate what has been named A7 (construction number 7). What could be seen after the turf had been removed and after a 10 cm dig was what appeared as a to be an oval shaped area filled with fullers’ earth (blekjord) that was partly surrounded by an area with a lot of spots of coal and some fire cracked stones. As we started to excavate we were hoping that this might be a hut from the Iron Age.


Photo taken from the southwest

As we descended through the layers we found two parallel finds of coal, belonging to some kind of poles. At first we interpreted this as some kind of hearth like those found in Sámi huts with two hearth arms or possibly a collapsed roof. The surrounding coal spotted area is interpreted as a possible collapsed wall or roof made of twigs and or birch-bark. In the south end of the construction is a more fire cracked stones and there is a row of fire cracked stones just south of this. This area is difficult as it is somewhat disturbed by a forest road.


Photo taken from the north

After this we decided to continue to excavate this construction in two big quadrants, a northeast and south west for the purpose of getting profiles in all directions. Further we decided to dig it layer by layer, a sort of single context like method. I and a colleague have been excavating the northeast quadrant. 

We started to excavate the area with fuller’s earth that we had interpreted a shallow dug down area. When we began excavate the northeast quadrant we saw that the eastern “hearth arm” was longer than originally expected and went into two larger dark spots, it became clear that it was not a hearth arm so we went with the other idea, that it was part of a roof construction.


Photo taken from the north

As we continued down we could see that the southern dark spot was deeper and was filled with more coal, it also had a “fatty” feel about it which made us take in a sample for analysis. We also found evidence inform of a pink sand, indicating that something has been burning in the vicinity and in this case we found it near the coal and in connection with layer that separate the fuller’s earth and the in the east surrounding area with coal spots. The dark spot was interpreted as a possible hearth, it is a bit small though only 0.4 meters x 0.3 meters and there are only a few fire cracked stones.


Photo taken from the north

The next step was to lift the hearth and to establish where the bottom of the fuller’s earth layer was. A few deep holes of pink sand went a little deeper otherwise the surface is more or less on the same height. At the bottom the sand gets redder, rust-coloured earth, (rostjord). On the picture below we have also scraped the surface of the coal spotted area.


Photo taken from the south

In the coal spotted area we find a lot of coal, mostly small pieces ca 2-4 cm, but also some larger pieces, more than 40 x 5 cm. There is also a lot of fire cracked stones, the area is well delimited, especially in the east.


Photo taken from the north

As we have descended yet another 3-4 cm the delimitation is defined by a thin line of pink sand, ca 1-2 cm in width. There are more stones and the stones are getting larger, and there is still a lot of coal.


Photo taken from the south

Yet another 3 cm down, the pink line is clearer and goes all around the construction, it is the outer delimitation, yet more stones and a few larger pieces of coal. We are beginning to doubt whether this is a hut or if it something else, the coal spotted layer is now more than 15 cm deep and it seems to continue downwards. If anything it is wider in this front than in the top.


Photo taken from the south

We have lifted the first two layers of stone and found a layer with bigger stones that is more closely packed and here is still a lot of coal, one area is fatty in its consistence. At this stage we have begun to despair. What are we digging? Will it ever end? What is it? To get some answers we use an earth probe to stick down into the layer and what do we find, it continues at least 10-15 cm and there is a lot more coal and stone.


Photo taken from the north

This is how far we have come until today. As we lifted the last layer of stone yet another got visible, tomorrow we will lift it and find out if we can find the fatty layer that the probe showed us.


Photo taken from the north

Now all this is about the Northeast quadrant, we have dug down ca 30-40 cm under the surface, while in the Southwest quadrant they have dug down ca 75 cm. In the first days they found nearly nothing but as you cab see in the profile there is evidence of a large and deep cavity in the north part and a smaller, possible a posthole, a bit further south. Most intriguing is the find of large pieces of coal at the bottom of the pit, at ca 75 cm depth.


Photo taken from the west

We far from finished but time is running way to fast and we still don’t know what this construction is. It is not a hut, possibly some kind of hearth formed in a most unusual way. It is probably prehistoric and probably from the early part of the Iron Age. The construction is ca 3-4 x 2 meter, the area with fullers’ earth is ca 1,8 x 1 meter and ca 0.15 – 2 meters deep. Hopefully a few more days’ excavation will make it clearer. If you got an idea please post a comment, we are open to suggestions.

Besides the mentioned collected samples we have collected a lot of coal for C-14 analysis and a few samples for macro-fossil analysis.

I’ll be back!

Magnus Reuterdahl


About Magnus Reuterdahl

I am an archaeologist/Osteologist from Sweden. My main intrest lays in north Euorpean archaeology in, preferbly the prehistory of the late iron age and the neolithic periods. I've also got a strong intrest for Chinese archaeology, especially the neolithc Yangshao culture. I also write about cultural heritage and cultural history. Mitt namn är Magnus Reuterdahl, jag är arkeolog och osteolog och arbetar företrädesvis i Sverige även om jag gjort ett par vändor till Kina. På den här bloggen skriver jag om mitt yrke, om fornlämningar, kulturarv och kulturhistoria m m. View all posts by Magnus Reuterdahl

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