Monthly Archives: May 2010

Skog church ruin

As I’m going back and forth between Stockholm and Östersund I’ve seen a few places that would make a good stop. Sometime ago I stop at Skog church ruin some miles southeast of Bollnäs is Skog and on small cape by lake Bergviken is the ruins of Skogs old church in Hälsingland. It was built during the 13th century and abandoned during the early 17th century as the water  level in the lake became higher and higher and finally damaged the building and the cemetery.

I stopped late one night on my way to Östersund, and as the sun was slowly descending it gave a beautiful light and due to the time day it was perfectly still. It’s a bit uncanny how light it is late at night in these parts of Sweden – these photos was taken at approximately 23.30.

An excavation was made in 1927-28, a few coins from the 14th century was found as well as a tombstone from the 16th century and the skeleton of a young boy. On site is an information sign in Swedish, English and German.

A picture from the restoration and excavation 1928 by an unknown photographer, the National Heritage Board, Sweden (RAA), Kulturmiljöbild.

In the current Skog church a famous medieval tapestry called Skogbonaden was found. It’s dated to 13th century and shows an image that includes a stave church.

Skogsbonaden  (the Skog tapestry)- Picture from wikipedia

Magnus Reuterdahl

Two books from yesteryears

I bought a couple of books today. The first is about the Swedish author Gustav Hedenvind-Eriksson (1880-1967) by Örjan Lindberger. I hadn’t a clue who he was but I was attracted by the rune stone on the book cover.

I flipped through the pages and found another picture that caught my eye, a picture of a Viking age sword handle and scanned the closet pages – concerning an archaeological excavation he participated in under dr Knut Kjellmark (1866-1944) of Viking Age graves at Röstahammar, Jämtland. As the price was 5 sek (ca 0,75 US $ or 0,60 €) there really wasn’t much to talk about.

As I got back I googled Hedenvind-Eriksson and found that there is a Hedenvind society (Hedenvind-sällskapet) that had lots information on him and his life.

Hedenvind was born in the village Gubbhögen in Alanäs parish in the northern parts of Jamtland. He didn’t get much schooling and left his home at the age of 15 to work as a lumberjack, as a rafter, as a navvy, as a sailor etc. In 1903 he got the chance to get back to school, at a folk high school, near Östersund called Birka. At the time archaeologist dr Knut Kjellmark, perhaps best known for his work in Småland (in southern parts Sweden), worked as teacher in History and in 1904 he let Hedenvind be part of the excavation of a Viking Age grave field in Röstahammar, the results are described in Ymer 1905. Hedenvind was inspired of this as an author which can be read in works such as Järnets gåta (the mystery of iron) and Jämtländska sagor (sagas from Jamtland) (1941). Hedenvind first book was published in 1910; Ur en fallen skog (From a felt forest) he was one of the pioneers in Swedish autodidact working class authors and was a big influence on coming authors in the genre. He mixed realism and myths to a writing style of his own where he often describes the situations for navvys and their life, several novels concerns Jamtland and the northern parts of Sweden, about the forests and about forestry.

Some of his better known later works, include a book I actually own and have read Jorms saga (1949), and Jämtändska sagor (1941), Sagofolket som kom bort (the people of the sagas that was lost) (1946) and Gismus jägares saga (the saga of the hunter Gismus) (1959). In these books he takes a starting point in stories he remembered from his childhood, existential questions such as religion and culture.

“To look back at ones own history is like rowing: the direction is forward, but the gaze is directed backwards, and field of view continually extends.” Quote by Hedenvind translated by Magnus Reuterdahl

It’s often said that you should judge a book by its cover, and mostly I agree with that statement, but sometimes the cover gives you just enough to catch your eye which might lead to an interesting adventure or to new knowledge. In this I learned something new and I feel that a walk to library is in order to read up on some of his work.

I’m not sure but it’s possible that some of his works is translated to English, I think I’ve seen Jorm’s saga in English somewhere for example.

For another fiver I got Sten Bergman’s (1895 – 1975) Min far är kannibal from 1959 published in English in 1961 under the title My Father Is A Cannibal.

This book concerns one of his scientific journeys to Papua New Guinea in 1956, where he and his wife were adopted by the Cannibal Chief, Pinim, and his wife, Akintjes, in a dramatic ceremony. In the book he describes the nature and animals he studied such as the tree kangaroos and the forest turkey. During his stay he kept company with the native Papuans which he describes as primitive and still living a Stone Age kind of life and being cannibals. I read parts of this book several years ago and there are things that can be said of the descriptions of the Papuans, though one has to read them in their historic context. If I remember it correctly it was an enthralling read, we’ll see what I think of it today.

Sten Bergman was a Swedish biologist and zoologist and is perhaps best known for his expeditions to Kamtchatka 1920-23, The Kuril Islands 1929-30, Korea 1935-36 and Papua New Guinea 1948-50, 1952-53 och 1956-59. More can be read on the website Sten Bergman Upptäcktsresor i bild (Pictures from expedition), in Swedish but with great photos.

On the website a project regarding Sten Bergman’s travels and research is presented with the aim of making a documentary, a book and an exhibition with his photos. I’ll keep a look out on what’s happening about that and write a few words on the book.

Magnus Reuterdahl

Between Holsjunga and Ostersund

I’m back at the office in Östersund to produce a couple of reports and do some preparation works for some jobs in Ostergotland County. When I returned from Vastergotland to Stockholm last week I made a few stops along the way; a rune stone, a grave field and at the excavations at the Mesolithic sites in Motala where Kulturmiljövård Mälardalen (Link in Swedish) and the national Heritage board (Link in Swedish, great pictures) are working.

On occasion you’ll get envious on others projects, this is such an occasion. I can’t wait for the reports from these excavations – many of the finds are very well preserved in layers of wet mud – artifacts made of bone, antler and tree are emerging in excellent condition as well as antler chips from making the tools (Link to picture of antler with carvings). The national Heritage board has excavated at one of these sites some years back which resulted in a doctoral thesis and I wouldn’t be surprised if one or more will come out of these ones too. In total ca 50 archaeologists will work on these sites this summer. More in this in a future post.

Magnus Reuterdahl

Surveys on my mind

At the moment I am working on a couple of small surveys in Vastergotland County, in the southwest part of Sweden. This time of year is perfect, it’s not too hot and not too cold, which makes it easy to walk long distances, and the grass hasn’t really begun to grow yet and therefore do not cover the remains. During this time of year the forest is never quiet; birds are singing and animals moving about, tress twitching and whining.  Everywhere nature’s waking up from its long winter slumber.

Sometimes when you’re out you get the feeling that you might be the first person walking in this parts –to boldly go where no man has gone before – and then you’re reminded that nothing could be further from the truth. Almost all parts of our woods have been and are being used in some way or the other. Today it’s mainly forestry and hunting. In past times small crofts and cottages has been placed in what today is forests; in here they farmed small acres, held animals, made tar and coal, hunted etc. If we go further back in time we find traces of settlements, graves and grave fields, from iron production, small acres etc. What is forest now has been affected by man since the first time he or she sat foot on what became Sweden until today and the traces can be seen everywhere.

The remains of a hunting tower

From the forestry machines and tractors small roads or wheel tracks can be seen, clearings or  trees planted in straight lines, traces after soil preparation, hunting towers, ditches etc are clearly visible.

Wheel tracks from a forestry machine

Historic traces are tar ditches and pits, fossil acres most often identified by small cairns, foundations of crofts etc. Prehistoric remains include some of the above mentioned, graves, settlements of different kinds etc. Clearing cairns can be remains from agriculture but also from clearings for a settlement or an activity, the historic ones that we connect with crofts are often a bit bigger, 3-5 meters in diameter and 0,5-1,5 m high and often relatively close by the remains of a croft, a hut or a farmstead, while the prehistoric ones are more shallow and often quite difficult to see.

A croft type clearing cairn

Crofts and such can often be identified by studying historic maps and sometimes modern as well as place names often has lived on and therefore can reveal the locations. While prehistoric settlements are searched for in certain types of environment, height above the ocean, close to lakes, on slopes etc. When we find clearing cairns one looks for fire cracked stones etc. Other things that can be a giveaway are small surfaces cleared of stones, terraces on slopes, flat areas.

During these surveys the usual finds are from historic times and connected to crofts or different activities in the forests as mentioned before. When I come up on the ruins of a croft where you often can the foundation of one or a few buildings; the croft, a barn, an earth cellar etc I can’t help but to think on the people who once built their lives there. When we’re out on these jobs we regularly live at hostels and such and there really isn’t all that much to do during the evenings but to read, blog or watch DVD’s. This time around I’m watching the Waltons (season 3) and I can’t help but comparing the show to what we find. The Waltons is played out during the great depression in the US during the 30’s. Many of the remains we found are from the second half of the 19th or the beginning of the 20th century. The situation for the Waltons is probably not that apart from those who lived far out in the country side in Sweden, they lived on the land under hard and pressing times. Many of these remains are from crofts that where abandoned in search for a better life during what could be called a form a depression in Sweden and many other European countries at that time leading up to great waves of emigration to the USA and other countries. When you walk around the remains of croft and see the amount of work that has been done clearing the ground you relies what a big step leap of desperation it must have to pack your bags, abandon your home, your friends, part of your family and your life to seek fortune in the unknown. At that point it feels valuable to document the traces of their history – or rather our history as it is part of what shaped the history my land as well many other lands.

A well preserved earth cellar at croft abandoned ca 1890

Magnus Reuterdahl

R.I.P. Ronnie James Dio

One of my all time heroes is gone, and even though his music will live on it’s a great loss for the world of heavy rock. Now’ll you get the answer if evil or divine,

and now you can truly see the ever after.

Thanks for all the tunes and all the great times!

Rest in Piece

Magnus Reuterdahl

On the go

Just finished a quick job in Jonkoping County close to Aneby – a small archaeological investigation concerning a single wind power plant. A nice enough area where two fossil acres just became a bit bigger and two new been found. I’ve also managed to wing it into a PM/report – that’s being checked at the moment before being sent to the proper authorities.

I’ll be in Jonkoping until sometime tomorrow and then it’s off to Vastergotland County for two 3-day jobs – more on this in a coming post.

I’ve also gotten a new colleague in Magnus Stenhols – Welcome to Arkeologicentrum, there might be yet another on the way in.

Magnus Reuterdahl

Deadlines and articles

I’ve been a bit slow on posting lately, this is due to some deadlines. I’ve been writing an article, together with Johan Klange, on the neolithic Yangshao traditions of the Yellow river valley for a periodical called Kinarapport (China report) published by the Swedish-Chinese association. And I am currently working on two shorter articles for Benbiten, the Swedish Osteological associations periodical on the Iron-Age dolmen Arkeologicentrum (the company I’m employed at) excavated in Odensjö a few years back. The third article is on a bone find, a madible of a coelodonta antiquitatis (a woolly rhinoceros). The find is a curiosity I read about some time ago – in a church in Smaland someone deposited it in the late 19th century and there is stayed. Someone wrote about it in the 30’s or 40’s in a local history book and I stumbled upon it and got interested – and went there and took some photos. Tomorrow I’ll stop by The Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm and look at some reference material and then write a few lines about it.

Otherwise it’s been a few weeks of indoor work, I’ve finished the first report of the year etc.

Magnus Reuterdahl

High school reunion class of 1990

In Sweden, class reunions parties aren’t really a big thing, although it has become more common. This year marks 20 years since I left high school, 1981-1990. From grade one to nine, I went with the same class, first at Hisingstorpskolan and later at Junedalskolan in Jonkoping.  I’ve noticed that not all that many from my class will attend, but as it doesn’t cost all that much it’s not the end of the world if it’ll suck, and anyways I know some good friends that will attend and if it gets to bad then there are other bars. This weekend it is teenage drunkenness revisited all over again.

Magnus Reuterdahl

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