Category Archives: Rock art

A visit to Hästholmen a villa forensis in Östergötland, Sweden

Hästholmen lanterna 600I’ve been lazy when it comes to archaeology blogging lately, partly due to lots and lots of work. The other day I was asked to meet up with some folks from Jönköping County administrative board to tell a little on Hästholmen, as they were visiting on their annual staff day. This gave me a good reason for some blogging 🙂

Hästholmen hamnen 2 (600x450)

Hästholmen is a small town, ca 500 residents, by lake Vettern. It’s interesting out of many aspects, but lets start during the middle ages. Hästholmen is named in several historic documents, the oldest dated back to 1300 AD. It was never a town but it was what can be called a villa forensis (a place with a market) – this was one of the ports for transporting agricultural commodities from the fertile plains of Östergötland.

Hästholmen nya skärgården (450x600)

In medieval sources a church and a castle is also mentioned. The castle was probably more of a fortified farmstead than a castle. It was owned by one of Albrecht of Mecklenburg knights, Gerdt Snackborg. At Hästholmen was also a ting-place, a middle age court, this was active until at least 1523.

Hästholmen fyr (446x600)

Hästholmen peaked during the 14th and 15th century and then slowly faded into history as Vadstena, where the newly founded Vadstena Abbey was based, received its town charter. There hasn’t been done much archaeology within the medieval parts of Hästholmen, but the finds that has been found are mainly from the 14th or 15th century, for example weapons parts, a seal stamp and a collection of coins. The Seal Stamp is bourgeois and holds the name S.olai Pedarson. In 1983 a collection of 282 silver coins was found on the small hill where the “castle” is supposed to have been. The coins are from Sweden, Denmark and Germany and are minted between 1363 and 1520.

Hästholmen hamnen 4 600

Hästholmen hamnen karta 600The next time in history Hästholmen is visible in history is during the mid 19th century when it once again became an important harbour for agricultural commodities. This was to due with the steam-ship traffic on lake Vettern. In 1859 they rebuilt the harbour, much as it looks today, and 1860 the first the first harbor warehouses, one of this is till there. In 1939 they built a facility for storage and processing of grain which also is still standing. A narrow gauge railway was added in 1888 and a broad gauge (standard gauge) between Hästholmen and Mjoelby wasinaugurated in 1912.

Harbour ware house ca 1860

Harbour ware house ca 1860

In 1918 the ship Per Brahe went down during a storm just 500 meters from the Hästholmen port. It’s know as one the beloved artist John Bauer and his family together with more than 20 others died. The ship was salvaged from the bottom of the lake in 1922 and was was used for many more years in different parts of Sweden and Finland.

Facility for storage and processing of grain, build 1939

Facility for storage and processing of grain, build 1939

This is not the only find made in the harbour or nearby the harbour. Another ship wreck was found 2003, this is not dated but of old age (Viking Age or later). Added to this is also a stone age shaft-hole axe and a Vendel Age (550 – 800 AD) sword.

The old harbour

The area around Hästholmen, Alvastra and Omberg is one of the three pre-historic central areas in Östergötland. The district has been inhabited since the Stone Age, with plenty of both Mesolithic and Neolithic settlements, which has been around creeks, ancient lakes and wetlands in the plains and by lake Vettern.

Information sign rock art

Information sign rock art

During the Boreal period, about 8500-6800 BC we know of more than 30 Mesolithic settlements around the lake Tåkern, alone. In Hästholmen are traces of at least one Neolithic settlement and an Iron Age settlement. At Omberg, about 1-2 km north of Hästholmen is the Alvastra pile-dwelling site, ca 3100 BC. There has also been a megalith grave, that was destroyed in 1916. Excavations at this site was conducted in 1979-83 and found human bone material from both the Neolithic period, ca 3200 BC, and the Mesolithic’s, ca. 6300 BC.

In this area is also lots of medieval remains such as the ruins of the Alvastra monastery, Sverker Chapel, Sverkers farmstead and Alvastra mill. The Sverker-dynasty is one the early royal dynasty’s connected with the formation of Sweden during the 12th-13th century.

One rocks with carvings at Hästholmen

One rocks with carvings at Hästholmen

One of the more interesting sites in Hästholmen is the rock-art. Near Hästholmen are more than 80 known places with rock art, most of these are mainly dated to the Bronze Age. The normal type of carvings are cup marks (skålgropar, älvkvarnar) but in but six places there are also figurative motifs, all of are these close to lake Vettern and the most known are those at Hästholmen. It includes about 200 carvings spread over some 10 areas, including 130 cup marks, 29 ships, nine people, axes and animal etc. etc.

Hästholmen hällristningar 8 (600x450)

Hästholmen hällristningar 7 (600x309)

Hästholmen hällristningar 6 (502x600)

Hästholmen hällristningar 5 (600x450)

Hästholmen hällristningar 4 (600x449)

All in all a nice day 🙂

Magnus Reuterdahl

Advertisements

Ancient times along the Swedish east coast – An archaeological seminar in Blankaholm

As I check my back-log I see that I need to blog more about archaeology, but it seems that time just haven’t been there. During the coming weekend there will be time for archaeology though as it is time for the 5th annual archaeological seminar in Blankaholm – much thanks to Michael Dahlin.

The schedule holds 14 interesting seminars and it’s always fun to meet other archaeologists and archeo-buffs.

  • Michael Dahlin – On rhombic axes, from the late Bronze Age and their contexts in Kalmar County.
  • Gustaf Wollentz – On the future within the cultural heritage sector
  • Emelie Svenman – Beyond the grave – a georapahic analysis of the Bronze Age in Tjust
  • Kenneth Alexandersson – In the Age of Tingby. Mesolithics in Möre.
  • Lars-Erik Nilsson – the language of the rock art makers
  • Joakim Goldhahn – The rock art in Tjust – five years later
  • Michel Guinard, Mattias Pettersson & Roger Wikell – Early Mesolithic (flint) chips and their context
  • Helena Victor – Sandby borg at Öland – focusing on an ancient fortress
  • Helena Wilhelmsson – Archaeology captured in the moment – the osteological traces of the massacre at Sandby borg, ancient fortress, at Öland
  • Emelie Sunding – The residential district Gesällen – crafts and households in the 17th Century Kalmar
  • Ludvig Papmehl-Dufay – Back to the Tingby settlement
  • Patrik Gustavsson – A ship filled with goods – early Neolithic graves in Sörmland
  • Karl-Oskar Erlandsson – News from Kalmar County AdministrativeBoard – An archaeological report records and historic village sites
  • Anna Lögdqvist & Roger Wikell – Torshammarringar (rings with ritual symbols sometimes connected to Thor) seen in bigger geographic circles

14 seminars in two days and a great meeting place to discuss whats new and old in prehistorics! 😀

Magnus Reuterdahl


Rock-art-lollapalooza part 2: the Fossum site

Next stop on my Rock art lollapalooza in the UNESCO world Herritage site Tanum is Fossum. The rock art in Tanum is dated to the Bronze Age, ca 1500-1000 BC.

Among the pictures are hunting scenes, people holding axes, people playing horns and of course lots of ships, animals, foot soles and cup marks etc.

I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves!

 There’s still more to come 🙂

Magnus Reuterdahl


Rock-art-lollapalooza part 1

 My fiancée, who also is an archaeologist, is currently participating in an archaeological dig at the Swedish west coast, at Tanum. Tanum is internationally known for its rock art sites, the Tanum UNESCO World Heritage site includes a multitude of rock carvings dated to the Bronze Age ca 1700-500 BC. In the area there are more than 1500 known sites with rock art. Last weekend I visited and we went on a rock art Safari visiting a few of the sites, the first Vitlycke, which is one of the biggest sites including the famous carving that is called the the wedding couple .

The most common motives are cup marks, ships, people, animals, footprints, wheels etc. Not being an expert on these they still captures my imagination, this is as close as we come to a written testimony of the Bronze Age world giving us glimpses into the world then. The rock carving as seen today is made on outcrops and rocks that are visible in the modern farming landscape, but during the Bronze Age they were situated near the waterline. What is ongoing in Scandinavia, since the last Ice Age, is the land uplift in progress, due to this the coastline has moved quite a bit since the Bronze Age and so landscape surrounding the rock carvings has changed as well.

Big outcrop with rock art at Vitlycke

On top of this hill, ca 100 meter higher in the terrain are two great burial cairns from the Bronze Age.

This is the first of several posts consisting mainly of photos from these sites.

The wedding couple

As you see the carvings have been filled with paint, when they’re found they’re not – can you see the carvings on the next picture?

In the middle is a foot sole and down to the left is part of a ship.

At Vitlycke is also a rock art museum, which includes a replica of a Bronze Age farm.

Magnus Reuterdahl


Going places

A constant in life is that time is passing – at present the days seems to go with the speed of light. Since a week back I’m part of the excavating crew at the E22 in Blekinge, in the south part of Sweden, still employed by Kalmar County museum. The excavation concerns several areas, among them several Mesolithic settlements and activity sites, and some later Stone Age burials, Iron Age burial sites etc., etc. Lots of exciting stuff – though this post is not about that.

This has though meant that I transferred my living quarters to Sölvesborg – a new town means new things to see – among them are two rune stones. One is placed inside S:t Nicholai church in Sölvesborg. the oldest parts are from the 13th century. Inside the church are several interesting paintings from the 15th cen

  

Back to the rune stones. Its not everyday you see rune stones from the 6th – 8th century, e.g. rune stones with runes from the older futhark, and fewer still that you see two.

Just outside the church is the rune stone DR 356 (Sölvesborg 18:1).

The inscription on the stone in the church is:

Orti Vað[i] [ept] Ásmund, son sinn.

English translation should read some like; Vaði wrought (in memory of ) Ásmundr, his son.

The other rune stone, DR 357 (Sölvesborg 18:2) is placed inside the church and has been moved to Sölvedborg from Gammeltofta parish and is called the Stentofta rune stone.

<niuha>borumz <niuha>gestumz Haþuwulfz gaf j[ar], Hariwulfz … … haidiz runono, felh eka hedra, niu habrumz, niu hangistumz Haþuwulfz gaf j[ar], Hariwulfz … … haidiz runono, felh eka hedra, ginnurunoz. Hermalausaz argiu, Weladauþs, sa þat, briutiþ.

English translation: (To the) <niuha>dwellers (and) <niuha>guests Haþuwulfar gave ful year, Hariwulfar … … I, master of the runes(?) conceal here nine bucks, nine stallions, Haþuwulfar gave fruitful year, Hariwulfar …

I’ll try to take a few hikes and see some more ancient monuments in Bleking the coming weeks, my current employment last till the end of September so its also time to look for new employments – I’ve been on a couple of interviews the last weeks so its possible that its soon time for a new move.

Magnus Reuterdahl


Skepplanda Rock Art

As I returned to Skepplanda this afternoon I saw a road sign just outside of Skepplanda saying; Rock carvings (Skepplanda 20:1). 

rock_art_skylt2

So I stopped the car and took a quick walk – the pathfinder sign is due for replacement though.

rock_art_skylt1

The rock carving was set at big rock wall at Stugåsberget, in my eyes it’s a bit of an odd placement but I’m no expert of the Swedish west coast rock carvings. These are normally dated to the Bronze Age, ca 1800-500 BC in Scandinavia.

rock_art_10

The motive is a rather large ship ca 3 x 0,5 m and a wagon/carriage just below to the left.

rock_art_11

Magnus Reuterdahl


Alvhem Rock Art

 rock_art_01

In Alvhem (= the home of the elves) ca 40 km northeast of Gothenburg on Jätteberget (the mountain of giants) is a small rock with a number of beautiful rock carvings, Skepplanda 56:1. The rock is ca 10 x 5 m.

 rock_art_02

Most of the carvings on this rock are of ships but there are also few animals and couple of humans and some cup marks etc.

rock_art_03

rock_art_04

rock_art_05

rock_art_06

rock_art_07

rock_art_08

rock_art_09

On top of the mountain is a cairn, though heavily damaged (since long ago), and a few hundred meters north of the rock carvings finds of flint has been made.

Magnus Reuterdahl


Kinky Rockcarvings in Sweden

Kinky Rockcarvings in Sweden by Hjalmar Olsson is presented as an entirely new kind of history book, I’ve not read so I don’t know nothing about it bur who can resist such an equivoque tile. After reading about it I think history book is perhaps not the correct definition, but it seems fun.

kinkycoverfront_small

Regarding the interpretations the publishers mentions that they may not be entirely accurate, who would have guessed? But sometimes you got to let the scientific interpretation stand back in favor of a looser and crazier interpretation. And who knows in the middle of crazy is perhaps something useful.

According to the publishers it is a 64-page book with pictures of genuine rock carvings from the Bronze Age, depicting erotic scenes of all kinds.

bronzeagejohnholmes_small

(Interpretation from the book; Bronze Age John Holmes )

hooray_small

(Interpretation from the book; Hooray! I just solved my erctile disfunction!)

As they interpretation is in eye of the interpreter.

The carvings in the book are from the Tanum area in Bohuslän, Sweden, a part of UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

The pictures are downloaded press images from http://www.kinkyrockcarvings.com/

Magnus Reuterdahl


The Nature Reserve Storforsen

Last Saturday I made a trip to the Nature Reserve Storforsen, some miles north of Älvsbyn.

Winter is on its way; the weather was fine but it was cold as you can see on the pictures below the night frost was still clearly visible at 2 p.m. and small pools of water had frozen to ice.

 

 

Storforsen or the grand rapids are the biggest rapids in the Nordic countries and it is a might sight. On the way to the rapids one passes an area where the rapids once rushed is today a beautiful landscape of smooth slabs of rock and giants’ cauldrons.

 

 

The great rivers of the north are not just spectacular sceneries it is also part of the cultural heritage, along the watercourses people have lived and worked. They’ve been used for fishing and for transportation. Along the courses there are several traces of human activities; rock art, settlements, hearths, remains from log-driving etc. At this site a lot of old houses have been collected as an open-air museum. In the summertime one can visit the houses and get to see examples on how people have lived and worked since at least the 17th century. There are also examples of different forest related industries such as tar-production.

 

Two of the buildings, these were built ca 1920-30.

A tar pile, on the roof massive amounts of chopped wood was placed and slowly consumed by fire and out through the pipe came the tar.

 

As I said before it was cold and I wasn’t really clothed for the occasion so the visits became a quick stop.

 

Magnus Reuterdahl


Amongst Runes, ships and foot soles in Uppland

This weekend I visited a friend who has a summerhouse just south of Enköping in Uppland. In the area surrounding his “estate” are many interesting ancient monuments and remains, among them some fantastic rock art. In this case rock carvings from the Bronze Age (c. 1800-550 BC). We also stopped at a couple of rune stones; two that are used as stones in a church wall and one is a rune stone without runes.In Upland there are over 800 known rock carving sites, most of them can be found in the vicinity of Enköping. Many pictures are painted which makes them easy to spot.

Rock art

A ship at the site Brandskogsskeppet.

Rock art human

A human at the site Brandskogsskeppet.

First stop was at Brandskogsskeppet (The Brandskogs Ship), which is one of Upplands, most famous rock carvings. The carvings were discovered in 1925. The carvings are made upon flat rock; there are the big ship (c. 4 meter), several smaller ships, foot soles and cup marks.  The foot soles have been interpreted in different ways, a popular theory is that they represent a God, that can’t be showed in another way. Some of these foot soles are filed and some are just contours, some have put forward that this could one represents females and the other males. Just above the carvings were a cairn or large stone setting that was excavated in 1926.

Rock art Branskogsskeppet

The ship Branskogsskeppet.

On the big ship the prows are shaped like elk heads, the human that can be interpreted as carrying the ship has been discussed in several articles. Is he/she carrying the ship, swimming or doing something else? I believe that it could be argued that the image symbolize a part of a story that is lost to us, but at the time probably was well recognized, a part of a collective memory. There are another six humans connected to the carving, the men/women who are paddling the ship.

Rock art Brandskogsskeppet detail

The man “holding up” or swimming by the ship. 

 

Rock art Brandskogsskeppet detail 2

The six persons paddling the ship.

The second stop was at Rickeby, which is known for a “chair”. The Chair is a deep carving that has been interpreted as a chair, throne or a stool. The “chair” has later been interpreted as a man’s cloak. On the flat rock there are more than 180 figures; the chair, foot soles, 35 ships, five humans, rings, spirals and cup marks among others.

Rock art - ”the chair”

“The chair” or the “the cloak” at Rickeby.

Rock art - foot soles

Foot soles, cup-marks and other figures.

Rock art dog

A dog/wolf or fox at Rickeby

The third stop was Hemsta. On the flat rock on can find 210 ships, 20 humans, 67 animals and over 100 cup marks and yet a big number of diverse geometric symbols. I was here a few years ago when it was newly painted, then this site was impressive. Today, though, it is in dire need of refilling (with paint) the figures, the colors are bleak and many figures are difficult to identify.

Rock art Hemsta

Ships at Hemsta.

Rock art foot sole with toes

A filled foot sole with toes.

On our way home we stopped at Kungs-Husby church from the 13th century, but as you can see, there has happened a lot since then. On the south side of the church two rune stones are walled in.

The Church Kungs-Husby

Kungs-Husby Church

Rune stone U 707

U 707

“… * ysurkR –… * stan * þina * at * ka-…(n) * faþur * sen * koþan * (h)… * hier * man * stanta * stan * ——–i ** bali * risti * r(u)–r * þis– *”

Translated to English: Ósyrgr … this stone in memory of … his good father … Here will the stone stand … Balli carved these runes.

The stone was re discovered in 1965 of which one can read more in Fornvännen 1966:29.

Rune stone U 708

U 708

* kali * l-t (r)…–a * stn * (a)t * sigraif * brþur * — …un * sairR *”

Translated to English: Kali had the stone raised in memory of Sigreifr, his brother, <sairR>’s son(?).

The last rune stone (U FV1955;219) we visited hasn’t gotten any runes carved but the ornamental art is of the type that is normally found on rune stones. This stone was found in 1953 when the road where it today stand were to be widened. The figures are two animals.

Rune stone U FV1955;219

U FV1955;219 (FV=Fornvännen)

The evening ended with a few glasses of red wine to many but all in good company, many thanks to Anders Olsson, who guided us to the rock art and shared wine and houseroom during the night.

Anders Olson at Brandskogskeppet

Anders Olson at Brandskogsskeppet 2007-07-10.

This is my contribution to the 19th edition of the Four Stone Hearth blog carnival that is hosted by Sherdnerd, be sure to check out the other contributions there.

 Magnus Reuterdahl


%d bloggers like this: