Monthly Archives: January 2009

The Yangshao project year 6

The Yangshao project is the baby of me and fellow archaeologist Johan Klange. We been at  it since 2003 and during the process managed to go to China for two field trips, in 2006 and 2007, more on that here. Last year we had hoped to return and participate in an excavation at a Yangshao site, sad to say it didn’t happen as the intended dig was postponed.

painted pottery motive

Now it’s a new year and we started up again, we hope to go to China either as participants in an excavation at a Yangshao site or on a field trip. I’ll get back to the matter as I (we) know more.

painted pottery Banpo

What I do know is that I am meeting with Mr Giuliano Arnaldi super superintendent/curator of Tribaleglobale, Italy, this weekend in Stockholm. It shall be interesting as I am not 100 % sure of what they expect from us, though I’ve understood that Tribaleglobale is a form of art laboratory that do exhibits that mixes art from different periods and places. In this case the project is called “Neolitico Futuro” and it aims at, if I have understood it correctly, to bring together painted pottery from the Chinese Yangshao culture and Egyptian Naqada culture and modern art. For this they are interested to create a platform or build a network of archaeologists, artists, linguists etc.

More about Tribaleglobale and “Neolitico Futuro” can be found here.

Magnus Reuterdahl

I’ve got post

I’ve been in meetings all day. When I returned to my office I got a pleasant package in the mail, Fornvännen 2008/4.

Fornvännen is Sweden’s oldest (1906-), largest and most important journal of prehistory and Medieval studies, and publishes Scandinavia’s largest reviews section in the field. In this issue I’ve got a review published;

Kaliff, A. (ed) 2007.  Archaeology in the east and the west. Papers presented at the Sino-Sweden Archaeology forum, Beijing, in September 2005. p 297-299.

Magnus Reuterdahl

Galway on my mind

These last few weeks I’ve been reading a lot since I’ve found a new favourite author; Ken Bruen, who by the way been very productive. It is nice when you find someone who speaks directly to you, who seems to know what you want to read but still manages to make every page an adventure.

Most of my favourite authors are long since dead and buried; I love the crime-noir authors like Cornell Woolrich and Raymond Chandler, the authors of the Beat generation, Ayn Rand and many others (many of whom are but obscure footnotes in literature). Ken Bruen combines much of the prementioned and he adds in his writings lots and lots of references to novels, short stories, authors, poets, songwriters and musicians. To this comes a unique voice and languish which is probably what intrigues me the most and that create a universe of its own. His stories are not light nor are they difficult; they are intelligent, warm, humorous and just a little blue but more than that they are human.

Of the books and authors mentioned in his books I’ve read some but most I’ve never heard of, though I am now interested in knowing more of. Some refrences are easier or at least quicker to find, among them Irish musician Johnny Duhan who has several songs on youtube. He is mentioned as a favourite to the fictional ex guardi (cop) Jack Taylor and do in some way describes at least part of the mode in Bruens books;

Johnny Duhan – Just another town

Why Galway on my mind? Check out Bruens books!

Magnus Reuterdahl

The Swedish Osteological Association’s annual seminar 2009



The Swedish Osteological Association in collaboration with the Osteoarchaeological research laboratory (OFL), Stockholm University, hold it’s annual seminar and a workshop at Stockholm University February 14th 2009.

“Bird and fish bones – methods and seasonality”.

Seminars by Fil. Dr. Carina Olson, the Osteoarchaeological research laboratory (OFL), Stockholm University, Professor Inge B Enghoff, Natural History Museum of Denmark (Zoological Museum, University of Copenhagen) and Fil. Dr. Kristiina Mannermaa, University of Helsinki, Finland.

DATE: 14th February 2009.

LOCATION: Stockholm University, Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies, seminar room, level 3, Wallenberglaboratoriet, Lilla Frescativägen 7.

Språk/language: Swedish and English

Chair: Senior lecturer Jan Storå 


13.00-13.15 Welcome

13.15-14.00 Fil. Dr. Carina Olson, Osteoarchaeological Research Laboratory, Stockholm University. “Tolkning av fiskben från arkeologiska lokaler”. (Interpretations of fish bones in archaeological contexts; seminar in Swedish)

14.00-14.45 Professor Inge Bødker Enghoff, Natural History Museum of

Denmark (Zoological Museum), University of Copenhagen. “Archaeoichthyology: Size estimates and repesentation of skeletal elements”. programfeb2009a1

14.45-15.15 Coffee.

15.15-16.00 Fil. Dr. Kristiina Mannermaa, University of Helsinki, “Bird bones in graves at Yuzhniy Oleniy ostrov (Russian Karelia)”.

16.00-18.00 Workshop two sessions/species (16.00-16.45 and 16.45-17.30)

18.00-18.30 Discussion and reflection.

18.30 Dinner at the Department



Carina Olson “Tolkning av fiskben från arkeologiska lokaler” (In Swedish)

Vid tolkning av fiskben från arkeologiska lokaler används metoder som kroppslängd- och viktberäkning, ålders- och säsongsbedömning. Exempel på detta där kotor och otoliter av torsk använts kommer att visas och sedan praktiskt provas på. En aspekt på kvantifiering är att jämföra NISP och antal förekomster per kontext får man fram olika slags information från kvantifieringen. Istället för att bara erhålla antal per art från en boplats (NISP), får man genom antal artförekomster per kontext fram fler dimensioner till tolkningen. Till exempel hanteringen av fisk (eller andra djurben) inom en boplatsyta, vilket indikerar hur aktiviteter rumsligt förekommit inom lokalen.

(I’ll translate this later tonight)

Inge Bødker Enghoff “Archaeoichthyology: Size estimates and representationskeletal elements”

Measurements of subfossil fish bones can be used for estimating the total length of the fish from which the bones derive. The total length of the fish can in turn be used for inferences about fishing methods and season. The relative frequency of, e.g., bones from head vs. body, can be used for inferences about processing of the fish for consumption. However, the method of excavation needs to be taken into consideration when interpreting the finds. The talk will be illustrated with examples from the author’s own research on fish bones assemblages from Danish sites, e.g., Vængesø III (Mesolithic), Viborg Søndersø (Viking Age), and Selsø Vestby (Medieval).

Kristiina Mannermaa “Bird bones in graves at Yuzhniy Oleniy ostrov (Russian Karelia)”

Yuzhniy Oleniy Ostrov in Karelia, northwestern Russia, is the largest known Mesolithic cemetery in northern Europe. Most of the graves are well preserved, and a wealth of materials, including human skeletal remains and a variety of grave goods, has been documented during the excavations in 1937 and 1938. Animal bones, both unmodified and in the form of artifacts were found in the graves. In this presentation I talk about fresh results of the analysis of bird bones from graves on Yuzhniy Oleniy Ostrov. The most common bird species in the cemetery was the osprey (Pandion haliaetus). By studying the location of bird bones in burials as well as the distribution of anatomical elements,

it is possible to interpret the roles of birds in burial practices. The behaviour and ecology of the identified species can be used for investigating and estimating why these species may have been placed in graves and what kind of significance or value these species may have had for the Late Mesolithic people who used the cemetery.

Participation entries are due no later than febuary 8th 2009. For payment see Osteologiska föreningens webpage (in Swedish) or contact me for further information. The price is 60:- for members and 95 for non members, this includes the seminars, the workshop and coffee. For dinner participants the price is 175:- for members and 225:- for non members.

Programme (pdf-file part in Swedish part English).

Magnus Reuterdahl

Door to Door


I’ve taken up the habit of walking through the rows of church cabins in Gammelstads Kyrkstad (church town) during the weekends. The silence and void of people makes you flinch at sudden movements or sounds and it is easy to let your thoughts wander. When I walked around the other day I noticed something I hadn’t before. A repeating pattern of some sort, I realised that most doors wore a resemblance. Certain normative symbols appeared every other step; triangles, squares etc. So I started to make a small survey in my head, grouping them according to appearances. I also took some photos of them. Now I did not look at all doors nor did I pass all cabins so this is quite summarily but it still gave a result; I identified four groups of doors.

The most usual one is the one with triangle at the top and standing panel on the bottom(ca 20)




The second group is a more classic door with X numbers of panels(ca 15)




Then I found a couple of doors with a fish bone pattern(2)



And one with a rounded archway(1)


As you can see the frequency show that some are more common than others. The cabins in them self are often quite simple, the red painted panels are from the beginning of the 20th century, but the outer doors and the window frames are more elaborated.


When one looks in between the cottages there are those who have a more old-fashioned appearance as well as some walls that have no panels.



There is a kind of beauty in those ruff edges and weather-beaten walls that has stood the test of time just as it is a bit ghost like as no one lives in them. They’re empty, silent, closed in by walls of snow and deserted ‘til the next church festival or festivity.


Magnus Reuterdahl

I’m for sale!

And obviously I’m worth 150 Swedish kronor (ca 13€ or 17 US $) in the second hand book store Classica antikvariat in Vaxjo. Well not me but a book I wrote while working at Kronoberg county administrative board. The book or rather the report is called I Rotvältors land (In the land of uprooted trees) concerns the surveys of ancient monuments in 2005 and 2006 due to the storm Gudrun, see this post among others.


Växjö 2007. 175 sid. Rikt illustrerad med fotografier i färg, tabeller och diagram. Stort format, 30×20 cm. Häftad med omslagsbild. Nyskick. (Länsstyrelsens meddelande, 2007:03).
– Sammanfattning av skadeinventeringarna av stormen Gudruns skador på fornlämningar som gravar, gravfält, begravningsplatser, bebyggelselämningar, boplatser, agrara lämningar och fossil åker.

Boknummer: 26455

Pris: 150 kr.


Magnus Reuterdahl

it’s carnival time again

Four Stone Hearth # 58 is up and running at Moneduloides, as always lots of great stuff to read and ponder on. Check it out!

Magnus Reuterdahl

Are there porn stars hiding behind the spade?

On occasion it is fun to check how people end up on Testimony of the spade. I guess that the who ever entered “Magnus porn star” in his or hers search engine didn’t get off on my posts, though everyone has ones own turn on!

Magnus Reuterdahl


The most merciful thing in the world is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.
H. P Lovecraft

Cholera cemeteries; abandoned overgrown but remembered.

Today I worked on a matter concerning a cholera cemetery, now I’ve got a bit of a weak spot for these remains. Most of them are classified as permanent ancient monuments/remains though they’re really not that ancient. The meaning of the word ancient in this particular case is dependent on its context; the application of the Swedish Heritage Conservation Act (KML) where among other things the concept of permanent ancient monuments and remains is defined.

In short;

–         Ancient monuments and remains are marks or traces of human activities. They are remains of human activities from ancient (or former times) derived from ancient (former) times manners and customs and be lastingly abandoned.

In other words it’s not the age of a remain that determines if it is an ancient monument and is protected by KML but rather the conception if it bears witness of times gone by.

I’m not sure if I got this translation quite right it’s a bit difficult to translate law into another languish as the importance of the words might vary and it is difficult to find the exact phrases, though I believe I’m pretty close.


Back the issue at hand cholera cemeteries, these are most often from the 19th century and can be describes as a sort of mass grave or several mass graves where people who died of cholera. These are often mixed up with a pestilence cemeteries these are a bit older from the middle ages to 18th century. They are difficult to separate as they are registered as Pestilance-/Cholera cemetaries in the registry of ancient monuments (FMIS) and one has to read through the entry to get an idea of what’s what.

There were 11 cholera epidemics that raged through Sweden between 1834-1873, the worst one was the nation wide epidemic of 1853, in total ca 37000 died.

The cemeteries are often quite small, 10-15 x 10-15 m, and the graves are normally not marked. But there is often a sepulchral monument in stone or Iron with a memorial text like “here lays those who died of Cholera 1853″ and it’s not unusual that it is enclosed by a wall or a low fence. This sounds as if they’re easy to spot, well some of them are but most are uncared or cared very little for and nature has more or less taken over which makes the more or less invisible.

Cholera is a highly contagious disease that within a few days might give cause to extreme diarrhoea. The real danger is the loss of fluids, untreated this might and did often lead to death with 24 hours. This is quite easily treated by supplying fluids; it took some time before the doctors made the connection between the disease and unhealthy water. This in turn led to better sewer system in the cities and other hygiene improvements.

These cemeteries also has scientific value, here is an almost untapped archaeological resource for research on well defined small groups. These groups can are bound to a specific time and place and most of them are probably bound to rather small social groups; farmers, farmhands and the poor. A qualified guess is that those with wealth still got buried on cemeteries or in family tombs. Here are possibilities for several studies within archaeology, osteoarchaeology (physical and forensic anthropology), history and ethnology. Among other things there’s bound to be a difference between the countryside and the city burials, the study of life history and compartment between different burials, health status etc. Then there’s the question of who died, to meet those whose faith was cholera and death. There are a few cemeteries that have been excavated but not many so this could be an interesting.

A quick search in FMIS in the category Plague-/Cholera cemeteries gives 634 hits whereof eight have been excavated. To get anywhere one would have to categorise them more closely; plague vs. cholera, the dating, check the written sources, how many been buried and when etc. But there might also be more to be found in older texts etc. Another thing that would be interesting to investigate is the different plagues and make comparisons between different materials. There’s just too much and way to little time and money to do anything of it.

These abandoned cemeteries can be found all over Sweden, often more or less forgotten with marker; a stone or a cross that tells of those who got the final rest far from the regular cemetery. They’re found both outside of villages and towns, though those outside of towns is said to be more common as the hygiene situation was worse in the cities than in the countryside. I guess this must have been difficult step in a time where religion and the sanctity where more vivid than today and that is probably why we know of so many of these cemeteries still, it was important to remember the dead and therefore the memory of the places lived on in people’s mind till the big surveys for ancient monuments during the later half of the 20th century.

I’ll probably come back to this subject as I’ll reread the book Pestbacken (Pestilence hill) about an excavation a few years back in Bleking county.

  • Arcini, Caroline, Jacobsson, Bengt & Persson, Bodil E. B 2006. Pestbacken, Riksantikvarieämbetets förlag, Stockholm.


Magnus Reuterdahl

Olle Krantz (1906-1999) – a Swedish painter and sculptor

One of my favourite Swedish painters is Olle Krantz, he lived and created his art on the island Visingsö. He built an estate on the island a kind of haven which reflected and displayed his art, Tempelgården (the Temple estate). My parents knew his so I had the opportunity to meet on several occasion in my youth. At the time I don’t believe the art was what fascinated me the most, it was the temple and his home; His home is best described as a mix of Pippi Longstockings house and the treasure cave of Aladdin. If my memory serves me correct there where things and trinkets everywhere, mixed with colours and art of different kinds, you could look all day and still not be able to get it all in – I loved it.

Today I appreciate his art, I like the way he used colours, mixed the naive with expressionism and his capturing of the moment.


Women by the waterfront
Women by the waterfront

As I was in Jonkoping during the holidays I spotted some of his paintings and photographed them thinking I write a post on him. A few days ago I googled him and found close to nothing, now that’s a shame – but my father use to save articles and such so I asked him if he saved any on Olle Krantz. As I guessed he had and hence a post on a artist from the island Visingsö in lake Vaettern, Sweden.

Self portrait
Self portrait

Olle Krantz was born at Visingsö in 1906 one of eight siblings. In an Interview from 1993 in local paper Jonkopingsposten (JP) Olle talks about his art. The paintings often depict scenes of love, bodily pleasures and bare women others concerns biblical motives and questions concerning his personal faith and yet others are pictures from his life, for example from his childhood on Visingsö, from his first marriage and his later partner Rut who died due to illness.

Dancing women & Wedding carriage
Dancing women & Wedding carriage

In the article he talks about the therapeutic value of painting as a way to deal with the grief and find both happiness and meaning in life. His main purpose with his art was not to get recognition but to feel good and joy within himself.

The important thing in life is not to loose faith in your own abilities, to not lose your spark. Many postpone everything believing that they will do all the fun things when they retire. One should not postpone but do.”  

Boy playing the flute
Boy playing the flute

In 1951 Olle Krantz gave up his day job as proprietor of a small grocery store on Visingsö to become a professional artist to the disbelief of others. But Olle persisted that he would live his dream and so he did.

“…every community should have place for an oaf and on Visingso the oaf is me!

Young woman
Young woman

During the 1940’s he had begun building the cottages that would become a vital part of the Temple estate (Tempelgården) and in 1956 as he bought and rebuilt the Temple that have given the estate its name. The Temple is a copy of the Parthenon and was originally built by the Theosophists by the castle ruin Visingsborg for their world peace conference on the island in 1913. Olle used it as a centrepiece in the garden and as an exhibit hall for his paintings. The estate can be said to be his legacy to Visingso and those visit the island. 

Olle Krantz did his last exhibit in 1996 and he could look back on a life as a professional artist on Visingso that spun over more than four decades. He is one of those who gave all for art for the purpose of art, he was able to create his own universe and open it up for those interested. I believe and hope that there still is a place for this kind of personalities that lets us now that not all need to conform and be conventional and who can show us an alternative view of the world.
Olle Krantz, unknown photographer
Olle Krantz, unknown photographer

The temple estate is still open for visitors, at which one can rent a cabin and live on the estate among his art; in the garden are many of his statues and in the temple are a selection of his paintings. Though it’s been a few years since I visited it I believe it’s still a treat. I’m sorry to say that I don’t have any good pictures of the estate but there are several pictures on the home page. 

The temple and art exhibit

The sculptor park

The cottages 

Magnus Reuterdahl

(Quotes translated by Magnus Reuterdahl from an article in JP 1993)
The photo of Olle Krantz is probably from JP though I am not sure, if the owner of the photo wants it removed please send me a mail on inventerare [delete_this]

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