Monthly Archives: February 2009

I am open to suggestions!

As it looks now; the coming Monday will be the start of my last month in Norrbotten County, at least for this time.  So in about a month I will be back in Stockholm – this has both pros and cons, it will be nice to come home but I will miss colleagues, work and newly acquired friends.

So it is high time to start job hunting. Luckily there are some openings, a few museums are looking for staff for the upcoming season and a couple of substitutes and also there are a few ads regarding employment at a couple of County Administrative Boards and at an archaeological entrepreneur.

This also means that it is time to update my CV and write something smart about myself. I’ve begun to contacting a few selected museums, archaeological entrepreneurs and County Administrative Boards that I would like to be associated with or work with.

This time around I’ve also turned to the international market and applied for a job at Museum of London; which could be very exacting.

In other words, I am open to suggestions! (Preferably regarding archeology or osteology).

Well I’ve got a month left of employment so I’ll know what to with my time, and luckly I also got a few days of vacation to use before March 31st; This will be used for among other things a trip to Thessaloniki in Greece at the end of the month.

Magnus Reuterdahl


4SH #61 is up at Moore group


Now it’s up and running!

Moore group blog  hosts the Four Stone Hearth Blog Carnival# 61 and wants more posts for it, but hurry the deadline is today! So if you’ve written or read something interesting and wants to join the carnival contact them!


Magnus Reuterdahl

Bird and fish bones – methods and seasonality

At February 14th 2009 the (Swedish) Osteological Association held their annual symposium/work shop in cooperation with Osteoarchaeological Research Laboratory (OFL), Stockholm University, under the title; “Bird and fish bones – methods and seasonality”.

As always, I might say, Seminaret held as always high quality with good speakers and an interesting theme;

Carina Olson (PhD), Osteoarchaeological Research Laboratory Stockholm University. “Tolkning av fiskben från arkeologiska lokaler”. (Interpretation of fish from archaeological premises).

Inge Bødker Enghoff (PhD), Natural History Museum of Denmark (Zoological Museum), University of Copenhagen. “Archaeoichthyology: Size estimates and repesentation of skeletal elements”.

Kristiina Mannermaa (PhD), University of Helsinki, “Bird bones in graves at Yuzhniy Oleniy ostrov (Russian Karelia)”.

Bødker Enghoff Carina Olson Kristiina Mannermaa

Inge Bødker Enghoff, Carina Olson & Kristiina Mannermaa

First out is Carina who talks about the importance of the right archaeological field methodology and what different field strategies might result in. And with this she sets the theme of the day. In her dissertation Stone Age fisheries in the Baltic sea – Subsistence, marine environment and lifeways of Neolithic people along the east coast of middle Sweden, Gotland and Åland (2008) Carina presents several interesting and new finds many of them due to different test of methodology; different sieve sizes, resieving and sieving of samples in the laboratory. Among the finds are herring in contexts they previously not have been found. She also discussed methods for size and weight estimations of cod and methods of estimate seasonality. Overall an interesting lecture, by the way her dissertation is a must read if you’re interested in fish osteology in general or the Neolithic fauna in the Baltic Sea.

It’s never easy to follow a good lecture but Inge Bødker Enghoff did a good job. She painted a general picture of the Stone Age sites of Denmark using fish as the common denominator. Using different examples she discussed methods on length estimation and what it can tell about fishing methods and seasonality, e.g. the importance of knowing the fish life history. She also talked about the importance of field methods to the result, without the fine sieves we’re bound to miss whole species witch can make us misinterpret the material. Example of fishes that we might miss is eel, herring and smelt.

Kristiina Mannermaa was the last woman out and here we changed from fish to bird, but field methodology is still central for the interpretation. Mannermaa talked about a Russian material from Yuzhniy Oleniy Ostrov in Karelia. This is the largest known Mesolithic cemetery in northern Europe, dated to ca 7500 BP. The graves were investigated in 1937-38, in the end at the brink of war which makes it important to know when the grave was excavated; some graves were documented in a bit of a rush. The skeletal material is well preserved and includes both human skeletal remains and a variety of grave goods such as animal bones, both unmodified and in the form of artefacts. Mannermaa has been successful in refinding the bird bones found in the graves, unfortunately many of the bones are no longer possible to match to what grave they were found in. 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 the burial practices but also the behaviour and ecology of these species.

After the lectures the work shop started, it had three stops;

Table one regarded Bird bones and was held by Kristiina Mannermaa. Among other things she described problem bones and pressed on the importance of a good reference collection and of allowing the estimation to take it’s time.

An interesting thing she put forward was the likeness of the femur of Crane (Grus grus) and Capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus). Now these bones are uncunningly alike even though the birds themselves are not.


Crane (top) and Capercaillie


Crane vs. Capercaillie

There are of course differences but you must know to look for them in the first place. It’s a bit of an eye opener; I guess that I might very well have been satisfied just looking at one of them.

At the second desk stood Carina Olson and described the method of measuring otholits and allowing us to study them closer, both via microscope and by measuring instruments.

At third and final table Inge Bødker Enghoff showed us how to separate the first four cod vertebras.

All in all a really good day, filled with interesting lectures, a good work shop and last but not least the possibility to reconnect with friends and colleagues through Osteology.

Next year it’s my turn to make sure that we manage to make yet another good da capo. I’m not worried though as I have a fine board helping me out this year.


Magnus Reuterdahl

the (Swedish) Osteological Association

On occasion I’ve lend my blog to the (Swedish) Osteological Association (OA) now there is no need as the OA gotten a brand new blog; most parts are written in Swedish but there is also an English section and some blog post will be bilingual.

The OA was founded in 1978 with the aim to promote interest in human (physical anthropology/bioanthropology) and animal (zooarchaeology) osteology from prehistoric and historic contexts. At present we have about 50 members, mainly in Sweden, but also in Norway, Denmark and Finland. We publish an Association Journal; Benbiten. If you got an interesting article or information on conferences, work shops, links etc. please contact us via the (Swedish) Osteological Association blog.

From February 2009 I am the head of the Association and therefore it’s mine and the board’s responsibility to keep it alive. For 2009 we plan to publish two issues of benbiten and hold a seminar and/or a work shop.

Welcome to visit our new blogg! If you have any ideas on what’s missing or what we might add please write a comment.

Magnus Reuterdahl

Theme change and a new header

I was planning on writing a post but I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather this weekend so instead of a post, this not included, a new theme and header was what I managed.


Magnus Reuterdahl

the Culture investigation part 2


I am disappointed with the Culture investigation due to several factors, but most regarding the fact that it focuses on organizational aspects rather than on visions or practical aspects. Much of the result can be summed up by the suggestion that 24 authorities are to become three. Statements regarding this investigation are due in just 3 months, not much time to digest 900 pages and provide good comments. The plan is to kick this off in 2010.

Why the rush? Was super organisations really what we needed and/or wanted?

When confronted by the finance situation in the Cultural Heritage sector one can’t help but ask how the sector is to survive; as it slowly but surely has been dismantled for many years and according to plan this will continue.

In 2009 the Cultural sections of the County Administrative Board applied for ca 369 million sek (ca 36 million €) in appropriations. In the end 210 millions was granted i.e. a gap of 159 million or 43% less than was applied for. Now it’s not quite as bad as it looks. The applied money can be divided into two parts; money for basic activity and money for various project applications (which most often is sought from external partners such as museums via the Cultural sections of the County Administrative Boards). I would guess the latter part is ca 20% of the applied amount i.e. ca 74 million sek. A large proportion of these projects will never be realized neither will parts of the planned activities.

I feel that is a problem that there is such a big discrepancy between funds applied and approved as this shows that there is a great need for funding. Furthermore I believe it would be better for all parts if the museums and different organisiation where to apply directly to the National Heritage Board instead of making the extra step via the County Administrative Board.

In the beginning of this post I mentioned the dismantling of the cultural heritage sector (and for that matter many other government sectors), which have been lasting for several years. It is one thing if this was a clearly stated objective, against which the sector could respond to. As it is now the government do not to provide full compensation for price and wage developments, the 2008 ratio was approximately 0.8: 3. i.e. raising the allocation with 0.8% while prices and wages rose by about 3 percent is cut back with more 2,2 %. This combined with “market” rent for the premises occupied, which in many cases are rooms that may only be used for a single purpose, such as museums. The state gives with one hand takes it back with the other. The effect is that they slowly but surely dismantle the sector without adding special saving requirements, read more about it here (article in Swedish).

Unfortunately it feels like it doesn’t matter wheatear we have a right or left government, when none of them seems to have an ideological or visionary interest in these issues. The system was introduced by the Social democrats and is being retained by the non socialist government of today, i.e. the dismantling has been in effect for more than 15 years. And during this 15 years Sweden has been doing good financially. I don’t know if the effect has been 2 %/ year but either way it is a lot of money and services lost.  Now it must be said that it is in principle applicable to cultural policy as a whole and not only those related to cultural heritage.

As I see it most of the ideas that is brought forth in this investigation is yesterdays news, it feels old and dusty and do not set a vision for either today or tomorrow. Why place the Cultural heritage sector together with art and exhibits when most work we do is in a higher degree connected with issues regarding planning, development, environmental protection, landscape etc.

I hope that this proposal does not go through as it stands today.

Now I’ve sulked long enough on this, it is time for something more uplifting and less domestic; next post is on Osteology, and that’s a promise!


Magnus Reuterdahl

It’s a good day!

This morning I woke up as king of the realm, lord of the manor and as newly appointed chairman of the Swedish Osteological Association.

Here begins my rule! My first task is to take on a new webpage or rather create a blog!

Magnus Reuterdahl

Among fish, bird, fur beetles and larder beetles

Some years ago I got a couple of boxes with eagle candy, e.g. the leftovers collected underneath eagles nest. These were collected in the 70’s and given to me a few years back. They’ve never really looked through been neither by the colletor or me  and has been stored in my food cellar until now. As you can see on the pictures there are lots of parts of plastic bags which show that they have dived in one way or another but mice or other rodents have been feasting in the boxes and destroyed the plastic bags.


I and my fiancée, who sheers my interest in bones; her particular interest is fish bones, started to sort them today. As there was a bundle of them it took the better part of the day just to sort the fish from birds, we also found some bones from rodents and other small animals.



This is therapy work with an osteological edge; it is fun and interesting but a bit bizarre. Fur beetles (Attagenus pellio), larder beetles (Dermestes lardarius) and rat/mice turds made the process a bit groce. But all in all we found a lot of interesting bones that will be part of our reference collection, will have lots of doubles so there might be some if anyone interested though we have some who already queues.


Most of the bones are from birds; wading birds, ducks and hens of different sorts and of course fishes such as pike, herring, perch etc.

Pike head (large)
Pike head (large)
Pike head (large)
Pike head (large)

In the future we will take the bones to the osteological laboratory and art determine them.

In a way this was good preparation for the Osteological association’s seminar tomorrow (today) which is called “Bird and fish bones – methods and seasonality” (more info here).

Magnus Reuterdahl

Drawin frozen in time?

This is a memorial post on Darwin; He would have been 200 years old if evolution allowed it, as it didn’t this post is in remembrance of him as a scientist and person. The theory of evolution was perhaps not a work of a single mind but it was presented by one man who had the guts to stand up for his beliefs though ridiculed by some of his pears. Ridiculous as it sounds he still is by some!

Caricature of Charles Darwins theory of evolution, 18th cent.
Caricature of Charles Darwins theory of evolution, 18th cent.

I’ve never understood the fear of being related to apes or other animals, I rather look at it as George Eliot (1819-1880); “If Darwin’s theory should be true, it will not degrade man; it will simply raise the whole animal world into dignity, leaving man as far in advance as he is at present” . This said I don’t doubt Darwin’s theory, though it can be and has been evolving since it was first told/printed.


In spirit of this, this post is more about theories and ideas in general than on Darwin per se. A theory flourish, evolve and is criticized and this is the very soul of a theory, it thrives as long as it’s being questioned, used and tested. Thereafter it becomes a footnote or a parenthesis in science history. This led me to think of a few articles I’ve read the last few months on UNESCO’s decision that traditions and customs are to be classified as world heritages. The aim is to find representative traditions and customs that we want to protect and preserve.

What would happen if theories and ideas were to become classified as world heritages? It isn’t all that farfetched; the idea of making an immaterial or intangible world heritage isn’t new. A few years back the idea of making Carl Linnaeus (Carl von Linné) into a world heritage was set in play, or rather the heritage of Linnaeus. Besides protecting and preserving buildings, parks etc the aim is also the environment where one can find traces of Linnaeus’ research. It might include plants and animals that are still present in the countryside, in gardens and in places where Linnaeus’ disciples made their collections. In other words a world heritage concerning Science and Technology.

Linneaus Rashult
Linneaus Rashult

What would happen if this is applied on ideas or theories? To protect and preserve!

Would an idea or a theory suddenly be untouchable/unchangeable if it became a world heritage? Would it be submitted to committees regarding what or how the theory should be interpret or used?

I don’t much like the idea of making traditions and customs into world heritages. It is the protect and preserve part I am questioning; I feel this is the something that rather belongs in an ethnographic/anthropological museum.

For example;

In Sweden there is talk about making the process of fermented herring a world heritage; I ask how? There are more than one way to produce this, such as diffrent local customs. Who will decide what the proper way? There is a risk of freezing the tradition or stopping it from evolving and in so making it stagnate and in the end perish. Evan worse if say a tradition as Midsummer’s eve would become a world heritage. The customs are changing, the people celebrating it are changing and probably the reason for celebrating is changing over time?  If this became a world heritage what would to protect and preserve mean?

I see traditions and customs as evolutionary phenomenons. It is the task of museums, journalists, authors and researchers to record how, why and when we do things so that the knowledge isn’t lost. I don’t see any gain in petrify these with the risk of making them stagnate or become obsolete and foreign to those living with them. If they do not change with time and with the users they will wither and fade. I belive that this is as true concerning ideas and theories as well, they need to be used and misused, to go where no man (or ape) has gone before.

Happy Birthday Mr Darwin, where ever you are, and may your memory be used, misused and evolving.

Magnus Reuterdahl

The culture investigation report (Sweden)

The culture investigation report is now published at Kulturdepartementets (The Ministry of Culture) webpage.

Kulturutredningens betänkande SOU 2009:16 (In Swedish)

It’s massive, ca 900 pages, though only portions of it are of direct interest to me. I’ll begin reading it or rather portions of it during the day. I guess I’ll have opinions on at least parts of it.

A first update;

One of the proposals is that a single authority with responsibility for issues concerning time, history and habitat is to be formed. This authority is to be formed by the current authorities; Riksantikvarieämbetet (the National Heritage Board), Riksutställningar (Swedish travelling exhibitions), Nämnden för hemslöjdsfrågor (The National Swedish Handicraft Council), Statens konstråd (The National Public Art Council) and Arkitekturmuseet (the Swedish Museum of Architecture).

I’m not sure if this is a good idea, I feel that it is a big risk that the issues regarding cultural heritage, archaeology and historic building etc. are being obscured by the issues regarding art and crafts or become an authority of mishmash with to many purposes and focuses.

I feel that most current issues in our field are better suited to be handled within either Boverket (The National Board of Housing, Building and Planning) or Naturvårdverket (the Environmental Protection Agency). Now this is my opinion and I do understand some of the reasons brought forth in the investigation, for example the connection between the Swedish travelling exhibitions the museums and the National Heritage Board. But in this case one must consider the differences between the museums and not bundle them together. I would rather propose the considered and rejected alternative; That two new authorities are to be formed: One authority on heritage issues formed by Riksantikvarieämbetet (the National Heritage Board), Riksutställningar (Swedish travelling exhibitions) and another authority on architecture, form and design formed by Nämnden för hemslöjdsfrågor (The National Swedish Handicraft Council), Statens konstråd (The National Public Art Council) and Arkitekturmuseet (the Swedish Museum of Architecture).

Kullenmannen (the hill man) also comments on the culture investigation report (in Swedish). It seems that our views on the matter of a new authority is more or less the same.

Update 2;

I note that the investigation proposes a big change; from “the cultural heritage are to be preserved, used and enrich people’s lives” to “the cultural heritage are to be preserved, used and interpreted.” Now that’s rethinking!

No, it is not rethinking but rather a form of recycling. It is a shift of focus; from the view that cultural heritage is something important for people in their immediate environment to the interpretation of cultural heritage. Does this mean that the government wants to go towards a narrative again, to return to knowledge rather than follow popular opinions? There is a part of this investigation that indicates just that, among other things it concerns the need for more resources to education and research. I will return to this as I’ve read this part more thoroughly!

Update 3;

Regarding the term interpret it is said in the investigation:

Vi har formulerat oss så att det skall vara tydligt att uppgiften att bevara, bruka och tolka kulturarvet är något som står öppen för envar och allra minst är något exklusivt ansvar för myndigheter och institutioner. Det tolkande inslaget i målet öppnar för en mångfald perspektiv på det kulturarv som tillhör alla. ” (Ch. 8.2.2. p.44-45)

We have formulated us so that it should be clear that the task to preserve, use and interpret the cultural heritage is something that is open to anyone and least of all is an exclusive responsibility of the authorities and institutions. The interpretive element of the case is open for a variety of perspectives on the cultural heritage that belongs to everyone.” (Translation of the quote by me)

If I hadn’t read the explanatory text, above, I would have interpreted it in another way, as I did. In this case interpret means it is open for interpretation by anyone, for a flicker of time I thought I saw a small glimpse of light; an opening for professionalism.

Update 4;

Reactions in Swedish newspapers 

Dagens Nyheter (all in Swedish);

Stora förändringar med Kulturutredningen  

Kultursverige kommenterar utredningen  

De nya kulturpolitiska målen

Kulturthriller mot sitt slut

“En del blir glada, andra inte”

Svenska Dagbladet (all in Swedish);

Rejäl ommöblering i kulturlivet

Visionen bakom ändrad organisation

Kultur viktigt som politiskt varumärke

Update 5;

That’s all for today, I’ve got a Darwin-post to write that will be up tonight or tomorrow and I’m flying to Stockholm for the weekend in a few hours. The Osteological association seminar is on Saturady so that’ll be a post as well. Lots to look foward to, I’ll get back to the investigation tomorrow or on Monday.

Magnus Reuterdahl

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