Monthly Archives: November 2010

Ice storm of 1929

In the Swedish internet newspaper (J is for Jonkoping the city where I was born some 36 years ago) is an article on the Ice storm of 1929. On January 15 after several days of a cold northern wind, Jonkoping is situated on the south shores of Lake Vettern. Lake Vettern is ca 150 km long and when the cold winter wind comes from the north over the lake it becomes really cold. At the night towards the 15th the wind was pushing to a storm from the north over the cold waters, about to freeze, at -10 degrees Celsius (ca 14 degrees Fahrenheit), creating an extreme cold where 16 trains were frozen to the railway tracks and fantastic ice formations were created, the article contains three great pictures. In the first a sign spells Jönköping city to the right and to the left a formation called the statue of liberty (though I believe it looks more like a Nazgûl in Peter Jacksons Lord of the rings), in the second some sees a dog and on the third are telephone wires that has fallen down due to the storm.

The storm itself lasted until January the 17th and on the 21st the railway traffic was running in a normal order. As it’s not quite sure who owns the right to pictures you’ll have to click this link to see them.

Magnus Reuterdahl

Thank God for weekends!

The excavation in Rissne outside of Stockholm continues and soon week three will be finsihed. I’ve gotten a prolongation of my employment at Arkeologikonsult until December the 17th so there are several days of archaeology left this season, in other words this is getting to be a real winter dig.

The last few days have been physically hard as it’s been cold, windy and quite damp. The cold in itself does not pose that big of a problem but snow and or rain makes it more difficult to interpret layers and structures in the earth and the wind is what really makes it cold. It seems we’ll be digging in tents the last few weeks which will make it a lot easier, I hope.

Well it’s just to hang in there and do the best of a difficult situation – but I can tell you a sleep like a pup every night and wake up with stiff limbs and muscles.

Only one day left this week, thank God for weekends, I need to rest!

Magnus Reuterdahl

Dreams of gold and riches?

A question that is frequently asked when I present myself as an archaeologist for people is; what is the nicest or most interesting thing you’ve found? By implication, they expect that you should talk about gold objects, lost cities or dinosaurs.

Though I’ve struck gold on a few occasions, it isn’t all that usual to find, other “valuables” include coins, bronzes etc. Now understand me correctly it’s wonderful to find these objects though it’s not really why I do archaeology or why it has caught my interest. It’s rather the possibility to better understand our past, how they thought and functioned, why and how they did things.

At present I participate in an excavation for Arkeologikonsult in Rissne, Stockholm. We excavate a grave field/burial ground dated to the late Viking age early middle ages. Most graves, so far, are built like Viking age burials; stone settings, mounds etc but instead of cremations the dead has been buried in coffins. At this stage the dead are still buried on the farm stead burial site and not a cemetery by a church.

If you would ask me right now what the most exacting thing I found is – I would answer two coffin nails as they currently helps me understanding a particular grave – where the coffin was put, in what direction the dead was placed etc. The answer will change from every time as you’re always in the now – the most exciting thing is most often the thing that currently is on your mind and not what shines most or is most “valuable”.

Magnus Reuterdahl

Ps. Archaeologists don not dig for dinosaur, paleontologists do! Ds.

No weather is good weather

Last week I was out excavating on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and this week it continues.

On Wednesday I came the day after a snowstorm, then the problem was snow and the fact that the ground was frozen and therefore difficult to dig. On Thursday it was a bit warmer but it was moist and rainy therefore it was difficult to see structures and differences of colour in the earth. On Friday it was rainy and now the mud became muddy and slippery – making it difficult to move and so it became almost impossible to see what happened in the earth.

On the other hand if it’s sunny it’s either to warm or difficult to take photos due to shadows – So there seems no weather is really good weather for archaeology – though I warm spring or autumn day.

Well, the weather this weekend might prove to have been good to us as all the snow has melted which will make it easier to see the big picture. So I’ll keep my fingers cross for a dry week which will make my life a little bit better.

As an old Swedish saying goes: There are no bad weather only poor choices of clothes.

Magnus Reuterdahl

Excavating in a snow storm

My future colleagues, from tomorrow onwards, got to experience excavating in a snow storm today. Whilest I on the other hand has spent the day indoors looking out on the snow storm. Tomorrow I’ll join the fun. Though, now, the temperature is ca 0 degrees and climbing – so tomorrow it will probably be a big mud puddle instead, in other word I’ll be down and dirty.

In Sweden we excavate as long as possible and as the country is rather long (N-S) it’s often possible to dig all year round in the south and the further north you go the season gets shorter. There are several tools to use as it gets colder to prolong the season; such as thermo blankets, tents and in worse case scenarios electric blankets – to keep the earth from freezing. Of course it’s never optimal to dig if there is snow or rain, but it is doable – with good results.

Today, though, I’m glad that I’m indoors and I’ll pray to the patron of Archaeologists for better weather the coming weeks.

Magnus Reuterdahl

I’ll be digging in Stockholm

Got unemployed last week but things are all ready brighter as I’ll start working on a new project on Wednesday next week for Sweden’s oldest private archaeology company Arkeologikonsult, in the business since 1988.

I’ll be working on an excavation, in Stockholm, on a gravefield dated to the late Viking Age/early Middle Ages the coming three or four weeks.

It will be great as I’ll work with Johan Klange, whom I’ve been working on the Yangshaoproject, and with osteologist/archaeologist Leif Johnsson, whom I worked with in Kronoberg and with Arkeologicentrum, among others.

Magnus Reuterdahl

Ölsoppa (Beer soup) – how does it taste?

Detta inlägg finns på svenska på min vinblogg Aqua Vitae.

I suffer with my ancestors if this was what was what generally was served at the tables during the 1700 and 1800s and possibly during the first part of the 1900s. Now I also understand what Wretman means when he says that this soup (?) is responsible for the Swedes earlier general aversion towards soups.

It’s not a pretty soup: it looks more like if you were to scoop the soup right out of a mud puddle. The scent is sweet, beerish and to be frank quite sickening. The taste is sweet, a bit “creamy” with the tone of off beer. The savoury version is possibly even worse here are the same tastes + nutmeg. Overall a spoon is more than enough to make me an absolutist when it comes Ölsoppa – the same applies to Anne.

This is not the worst thing I’ve tried but I can live a lifetime or two before I test it again. If you still feel the need and or desire to try it the recipe is here.

Magnus Reuterdahl

A cultural historic food adventure

Detta inlägg finns tillgängligt på svenska på min vinblogg Aqua Vitae.

Sometime in the coming week, I intend to take a little break from my Austria adventure in favour of a historic food adventure. Some time ago I bought a cookbook by late Swedish top chef Tore Wretman; Svensk Husmanskost (Swedish traditional cooking). This book is as much a cookbook as a mirror to the historic kitchen, some recipes are from yesterday and some are several hundred years old. He mixes recipes, with tips and historical contexts.

My first try from this book will be a soup that has some connection with my wine blog, Aqua Vitae; Ölsupa (Beer soup). Wretman writes that this soup might be the cause that many Swedes’ lacks enthusiasm for soups in general. Here I stop for a few seconds. The book was written in 1967 and obviously there has been some change as lot has happened since then, much of which we can thank Mr. Wretman for. While soup may not be as much a part of the Swedish cuisine as in most European kitchen they definitely have their place. Would you like to eat really good soups Swedish as well as international while in Sweden, I recommend a small oasis in central Stockholm called Sibiriens soppkök (Siberia’s soup kitchen).

Returning to the Ölsupa (Beer soup). Ölsupa was for a long time a large part of the Swedish cosine.

The recipe that Wretman presents comes from comes from Södermanland County.

You need this:

  • 2 bottles of svagdricka (about 6 ½ cup)*
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 ½ tablespoons sugar or syrup
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • a piece of ginger

You can also season with a piece of cinnamon, a little grated lemon peel; a little grated nutmeg but you should not use salt.

*) Svagdricka is a Swedish low alcohol dark malt beverage brewed since the Middle Ages. It’s like a sweetened small beer, dark small beer, a little like porter but a bit blander or a little like kvass.

Boil the Svagdricka and pour in the milk. Whisk the egg yolks and pour them down the pot while vigorous continuing the whisking. Add sugar, salt and ginger. Remove from the heat and season. If soup is too weak, let Ginger stay and take a while. If you want you can spice up the soup with the cinnamon, nutmeg and lemon, but then you should be advised to refrain the salt. The sugar can be replaced by syrup.

None of the variants above sounds particularly tasteful but of course both versions will be made and tasted. Wretman tells of a Frenchman who visited Sweden in the 1830s and was affected by this national soup and in a travelogue tells of his horrific encounters with this dish, in the middle-class homes he lived while in Sweden.

A simpler version is Drickasoppa (Drink soup), hot-brewed Svagdricka was poured over porridge or bread pieces before being served.

I will come back with notes on the taste or rather distaste for the course in a near future.

Magnus Reuterdahl

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