Last week I worked around Storuman and Vilhelmina in Västerbotten County, Lapland, Sweden.
We’ve been walking up and down a mountain in search of ancient and historic monuments and the view was stunning as well was the nature. This picture is taken from a viewpoint in Storuman.
Much of the trees in this particular area is about 80-90 years old and some look both strange and mystical, as you turn around it feels as the ents are ever present, and possibly Treebeard is awaiting, humming, studying somewhere in the great forests of the north.
What can be found in these northern parts? While passing Vilhelmina we made a quick stop at Vilhelmina Church village and Vilhelmina museum where some of the finds made at excavations in the area in the 70’s and 80’s are on display – a nice stop well worth a few hours. In the museum is also exhibitions on historic times.
The oldest finds is from the Stone Age such as axes, arrowheads mostly made out of different types of quartz and slate and axes, hacks and clubs of other types of stone etc. The oldest find in the vicinity is a cocking pit dated to ca 8000 BC.
From the Viking Age (ca 800-1050 BC), a term that perhaps is not quite right for these parts, a find of glass beads is on display. This particular find was found together with some bronzes and iron knifes as a likely burial eroded by the shoreline of Maksjön (Mak lake).
On this job I worked with my college David Loeffler, who were here and excavated during the 70’s and 80’s. He showed me a Stone Age settlement (Vilhelmina 577) near the area we worked in, that he excavated, and some nearby hunting pits. The settlement is dated to ca 3000 BC and can be seen as a round bank of fire cracked stone.
Surrounding the settlement and nearby are several hunting pits that are very easy to identify, due to thier size, you could amost call them monumental (Vilhelmina 573 and 577). Most are between 5-10 m in diameter, 0,5 m high and 1-1,5 m deep. In total there are more than 60 hunting pits covering a ca 2 km long area. The oldest of these hunting pits are dated to ca 5000 BC and the youngest to ca 300 AD. Due to the size they probably were used to hunt elks and or reindeer. This hunting method was used at least until it was banned in 1864.
We also visited a bear grave (Vilhelmina 899) that was excavated at the same time by osteologist Elisabeth Iregren. Today nothing can be seen of the grave itself. The bear was buried under some bark and tree; some of the long bones was split open, and by the cranium two lead bullets was found. The lead bullits dates the burial to the 17th, 18th or early 19th century. The custom of burying bears dates back to at least 200AD and continued to the 19th century.
Unfortunately the area around the hunting pits (Vilhelmina 573) and the bear grave has been heavily damaged due to soil preparations for reforestation. No pits was damaged in themselves but the machines had moved pretty close and there is no longer easy to see the context, though the pits are still well worth a visit as they are magnificent and very obvious even for an untrained eye. The path that I guess once was there is no more so use good shoes. Another good pedagogic thing is that all pits are marked by poles painted red.
This time around we did our work upon a mountain so we didn’t expect Stone Age settlements or hunting pits of this type but rather traces of later times such as cocking pits, tar pits, tar trenches, charcoal burning sites, historic house grounds, remains of summer pastures, farms or crofts, mining, old roads etc. On this particular mountain we didn’t find all that much.
That’ s all for now…