Category Archives: The Osteoarchaeological Research Laboratory

Osteo-doctoral day for Ylva Telldahl

Ylva Telldahl will do her doctoral defence for her thesis on December 19 at Stockholm University föreläsningssalen, Botaniska institutionen, Lilla Frescativägen 5 at 13:00.

Her thesis is called: Working animals and skeletal lesions. Paleopathology of cattle and horse in Iron Age and medieval Öland, Sweden.

Ylva has concentrated on the relationship between animal husbandry practices and the associated pathological conditions using methods such as osteometric analysis, conventional radiographic and bone mineral study, as well as incorporated molecular analysis.

The material used was excavated (1964-1974) at Eketorp ringfort on Öland. The fort was used during the Iron Age and early Middle Ages, ca 300–1300 AD and from the Skedemosse wetland site that was excavated in the early 60’s.  This site is a ritual site where weapons, animals, coins and other valuables was offered to the gods, 200-500 AD.

Read the full abstract here.


Magnus Reuterdahl

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

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

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

The Swedish Osteological Association’s annual seminar 2009



The Swedish Osteological Association in collaboration with the Osteoarchaeological research laboratory (OFL), Stockholm University, hold it’s annual seminar and a workshop at Stockholm University February 14th 2009.

“Bird and fish bones – methods and seasonality”.

Seminars by Fil. Dr. Carina Olson, the Osteoarchaeological research laboratory (OFL), Stockholm University, Professor Inge B Enghoff, Natural History Museum of Denmark (Zoological Museum, University of Copenhagen) and Fil. Dr. Kristiina Mannermaa, University of Helsinki, Finland.

DATE: 14th February 2009.

LOCATION: Stockholm University, Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies, seminar room, level 3, Wallenberglaboratoriet, Lilla Frescativägen 7.

Språk/language: Swedish and English

Chair: Senior lecturer Jan Storå 


13.00-13.15 Welcome

13.15-14.00 Fil. Dr. Carina Olson, Osteoarchaeological Research Laboratory, Stockholm University. “Tolkning av fiskben från arkeologiska lokaler”. (Interpretations of fish bones in archaeological contexts; seminar in Swedish)

14.00-14.45 Professor Inge Bødker Enghoff, Natural History Museum of

Denmark (Zoological Museum), University of Copenhagen. “Archaeoichthyology: Size estimates and repesentation of skeletal elements”. programfeb2009a1

14.45-15.15 Coffee.

15.15-16.00 Fil. Dr. Kristiina Mannermaa, University of Helsinki, “Bird bones in graves at Yuzhniy Oleniy ostrov (Russian Karelia)”.

16.00-18.00 Workshop two sessions/species (16.00-16.45 and 16.45-17.30)

18.00-18.30 Discussion and reflection.

18.30 Dinner at the Department



Carina Olson “Tolkning av fiskben från arkeologiska lokaler” (In Swedish)

Vid tolkning av fiskben från arkeologiska lokaler används metoder som kroppslängd- och viktberäkning, ålders- och säsongsbedömning. Exempel på detta där kotor och otoliter av torsk använts kommer att visas och sedan praktiskt provas på. En aspekt på kvantifiering är att jämföra NISP och antal förekomster per kontext får man fram olika slags information från kvantifieringen. Istället för att bara erhålla antal per art från en boplats (NISP), får man genom antal artförekomster per kontext fram fler dimensioner till tolkningen. Till exempel hanteringen av fisk (eller andra djurben) inom en boplatsyta, vilket indikerar hur aktiviteter rumsligt förekommit inom lokalen.

(I’ll translate this later tonight)

Inge Bødker Enghoff “Archaeoichthyology: Size estimates and representationskeletal elements”

Measurements of subfossil fish bones can be used for estimating the total length of the fish from which the bones derive. The total length of the fish can in turn be used for inferences about fishing methods and season. The relative frequency of, e.g., bones from head vs. body, can be used for inferences about processing of the fish for consumption. However, the method of excavation needs to be taken into consideration when interpreting the finds. The talk will be illustrated with examples from the author’s own research on fish bones assemblages from Danish sites, e.g., Vængesø III (Mesolithic), Viborg Søndersø (Viking Age), and Selsø Vestby (Medieval).

Kristiina Mannermaa “Bird bones in graves at Yuzhniy Oleniy ostrov (Russian Karelia)”

Yuzhniy Oleniy Ostrov in Karelia, northwestern Russia, is the largest known Mesolithic cemetery in northern Europe. Most of the graves are well preserved, and a wealth of materials, including human skeletal remains and a variety of grave goods, has been documented during the excavations in 1937 and 1938. Animal bones, both unmodified and in the form of artifacts were found in the graves. In this presentation I talk about fresh results of the analysis of bird bones from graves on Yuzhniy Oleniy Ostrov. 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 burial practices. The behaviour and ecology of the identified species can be used for investigating and estimating why these species may have been placed in graves and what kind of significance or value these species may have had for the Late Mesolithic people who used the cemetery.

Participation entries are due no later than febuary 8th 2009. For payment see Osteologiska föreningens webpage (in Swedish) or contact me for further information. The price is 60:- for members and 95 for non members, this includes the seminars, the workshop and coffee. For dinner participants the price is 175:- for members and 225:- for non members.

Programme (pdf-file part in Swedish part English).

Magnus Reuterdahl

Urminne nr 7 2008

A new issue of Urminne (7/2008) is available, Urminne is a periodical concerning prehistoric and medieval issues in the Swedish provinces Småland, Öland and Östergötland. All articles are written in Swedish and it is possible to order it from Jonkoping County museum.


In this issue me and colleague; Ludvig Papmehl-Dufay, have an article; Tre oväntade fynd från Ottenby Kungsgård, Öland (Three unexpected finds at Ottenby Kungsgård).

Abstract: This paper presents three somewhat unexpected finds made in connection to the excavation in 2004 of a Pitted Ware site (Neolithic) at Ottenby Royal Manor on the southernmost part of Öland, Sweden. The first find to be treated here was identified during the excavation, and consists of an Early Medieval glass bead of Hungarian origin, of a type not previously documented from the Scandinavian area. The other two finds were identified during the osteological analysis; in the material from the 2004 excavation a Gannet (Morus bassanus, formerly known as Sula bassana) was identified, being the first of this species from a prehistoric context on Öland and the forth find from the large islands in the Baltic Sea altogether. Secondly whilst analysing bones from the 1991 excavation at the site a previously unidentified human bone was identified.

Magnus Reuterdahl

The other articles are (sorry I haven’t translated ´em);

– Jörgen Gustafsson: “Paradis i inland”
– Magnus Reuterdahl & Ludvig Papmehl-Dufay: “Tre oväntade fynd från Ottenby Kungsgård, Öland”
– Michael Dahlin: “Låt gravarna berätta! Några nygamla bronsåldersgravar i södra Tjust”
– Alexandra Nylén & Åsa Jönsson: “Gripeberg. En fornborg i Smålands inland”
– Christina Helander: “Att tända den livsgnista som släckts. En tolkning av två stensättningar i Bäckseda”
– Erika Räf: “Varifrån kom järnet? Om framställning av blästjärn i Östergötland under förhistorien”
– Mikael Nordström: “Död mans dörr och järnåldersdösens gåta”
– Anna Kloo Andersson: “Hälsa och ohälsa under medeltid och efterreformatorisk tid i södra Vätterbygden. Med utgångspunkt från skeletten i Barnarps kyrka”
– Rickard Wennerberg: “Skogens svarta guld. Undersökning av kolframställningsplatser i Nifsarp utanför Eksjö”
– Leif Häggström: Om viljan att kommunicera resultat. En analys av olika aktörers publiceringsfrekvens från en småländsk horisont”

Neolithic Fisheries – Osteoarchaeology of fish remains in the Baltic Sea region

Last Friday I sat in on Carina Olson defence of her doctoral thesis; Neolithic Fisheries – Osteoarchaeology of fish remains in the Baltic Sea region at Stockholm University. Her dissertation is of importance for those interested in fish osteology and marine economy during the Neolithic’s especially regarding the Pitted ware culture along the east coast of Sweden and on the islands of the Baltic Sea.

I’ll get back with some notes on the papers in her dissertation but one that I felt was especially interesting is paper III; Selectivity across the millennia. Prehistoric vs. modern Baltic cod fisheries by Karin Limburg, Yvonne Walther, Bongghi Hong, Carina Olson and Jan Storå as it introduces some new elements and interesting openings within osteology. This concerns life history of cod during the Neolithic’s and present, the authors are trying to say something of the how the environment has changed from then to now and how that has affected the cod. There are several factors that are in work, such as the salinity of the water, the temperature, natural predators, the industrial fishery etc. 

The thesis is available in an pdf file here. ‘

Magnus Reuterdahl

Pitted ware culture thesis

Today I am going to the disputation of Petra Molnar; she will defend her thesis in Osteoarchaeology Tracing Prehistoric Activity – Life ways, habitual behaviour and health of hunter-gatherers on Gotland at Stockholm University. I’ve read the thesis which includes five articles on the neolithic pitted ware culture. She ‘s been studying traces of prehistoric stress through stress markers, dental wear and oral pathology, the graves and grave-goods, she has compared these Neolithics health status with the health status of those living in Sigtuna during the middle ages (interesting results) and she has been studying the link between osteoarthritis and activity.

The abstract is available here.

I’ll get back with a few more in depth thoughts of the thesis.

Magnus Reuterdahl

A day at Ulriksdal Palace

Just a few kilometres away from home is the royal Palace Ulriksdal, it is situated at the brink of Edsviken just east of Bergshamra (where I live). As a student at the Osteoarchaeological research laboratory (OFL) at Stockholm University I spent two years here as the laboratory at that time was situated in one of royal stables. Today OFL is no longer at Ulriksdal and can now be found at the Wallenberg laboratory, Stockholm University campus.


In this building OFL was situated until 2003.

The surroundings hold many scenic spots both of cultural historic importance and due to beautiful nature scenery.

As one walks from Bergshamra one passes a cemetery for soldiers that became invalids during wars between 1788-1814. King Karl IV Johan made Ulriksdal available for veterans that had been injured during these wars, thus Ulriksdal served as a nursing home between 1822-1849. In total 383 officers, soldiers and enlisted men lived and were taken care of at the castle. The cemetery was founded in 1824 and is the final resting ground for some 200 men. A small part of the cemetery is enclosed and except for five tombstones the graves are unmarked.

The palace was built during the 17th century by field marshal Johan De la Gardie and was then named Jacobsdal. When Queen Hedvig Elenora acquires the castle in 1684 the name is changed to Ulriksdal. The exterior of the palace today is from the mid 18th century. As time have passed several kings and queens has made changes and added to the castle and the surroundings. This very obvious if one takes the tour of the castle, where different periods of its history are displayed. One of the interesting things is one of Stockholm’s first living rooms. It is designed by Carl Malmsten for the crown prince Gustaf VI Adolf in the 1920’s.

The castle park was originally created during the second half of the 17th century, within the park is the Orangery and several sculptures by artist such as Carl Milles and Pehr Henrik Lundgren.

The Orangery is a building from the beginning of the 18th century by the architect Nicodemus Tessin the younger. It was restored in 1987-91 and works as a museum for art by Swedish sculptors such as Tobias Sergel, Bengt Erland Fogelberg, Johan Niklas Byström and Christian Eriksson.

Another buildings is the Ulriksdal royal chapel, it was build in the 1860’s by King Karl XV. It is a popular spot for weddings.

At Ulriksdal is also one of Sweden’s oldest preserved theatres; the rococo theatre Ulriksdal royal theatre aka the Confidence. The theatre was built by Queen Lovisa Ulrika and was opened in 1753. Sorry to say I have no picture of the theatre at the moment.

Across the theatre is Ulriksdals inn (Värdshus) the building is from 1867 and the food and environment is great.

And to finish this post a few pictures of the surroundings at Ulriksdal.

Ulriksdal palace

Magnus Reuterdahl


Notes from the Osteological Associations 2008 symposium part 4

These are notes that will be edited, I urge you to comment on anything that seems to be out of place or faulty so that I can correct this. The intention is to compress these notes into a far shorter and more focused version to be printed in the Swedish Osteological Associations journal Benbiten during 2008.  The last lecturer of the day was Fil. Dr. Caroline Arcini from the National Heritage Board (RAA), UV Syd. UV is RAA’s department for archaeological excavations, and UV syd is the regional office for the south in Sweden, mainly Scania.

Reconstructing daily life in past populations. The future of Paleopathology.

Fil. Dr. Caroline Arcini


Caroline Arcini started off with a discussion of anthropology and the importance of collaborations to answer questions of what happened, how it happened and why did it happen instead of merely describing what we see.

For example how do we determinate if markers from a trauma are due to an accident or to violence? In some cases as in beheadings, shootings and stabbings these markers can be clear in others as fractures it can be more unclear.

Examinations of skeletal material from Lund dated to ca 1000-1500 has showed that many wounds/injuries have been treated and healed well, this includes both in infections and fractures. Some injuries have healed so well that it is hard to detect them at all, but there are exceptions.


Some diseases lead to Social exclusion for example Leprosy, the oldest written sources of leprosy is from ca 600 BC and comes from China and India. A common misperception is that the disease makes you drop your limbs, this is not the case instead it is bone resorbtion that makes it seem as the patient loses his or her limbs

The oldest finds in Sweden has been dated to ca 700 AD. The normal funerary practise of the time is cremation. The skeletal material with traces of leprosy has not been cremated, is this due to the disease? (Skeletal funerals do exist side by side with cremations through the late Iron Age though they are not as common and most of these have not had leprosy.)

In the Viking Age skeletal material from Lund ca 3-4 % show signs of leprosy.

990-1100 AD                      42/1300 individuals = 3,2 %

1100-1536 AD                    1/1500 individuals = > 1 %

This is material from within Lund which shows that not all were banished to special hospitals. These hospitals were normally placed outside of the cities. It seems as the frequency decreases during the Middle Ages, this might indicate a new view on the lepers for example that they have been forced to hospitals outside of the city.

Leprosy has existed for a long time though it is more or less non-existing in Sweden today; though as late as in 1864 a new leprosy hospital was built at Järvsö where ca 400 lepers lived. Outside of Visby at Gotland are ruins after an older leprosy hospital (St Görans? ca 1300-1540 AD).


Finds of Arteriosclerosis has been made in China (ca 2100 yrs old) and from mummies in Egypt. There are also a few finds from Scandinavia. The finds looks like a dried macaroni or a cheese doodle and has approximately that size. They are found in the cranial region and are very fragile, therefore one should be very careful when cleaning skeletal finds, and when it is done it should be done in a laboratory.

Atherosclerosis is a disease affecting arterial blood vessels. It is a chronic inflammatory response in the walls of arteries. It is commonly referred to as a “hardening” or “furring” of the arteries. It is caused by the formation of multiple plaques within the arteries.

Tooth health

Of the teeth from the Middle Ages examined by Caroline Arcini ca 40 % was affected by caries, this problem is big in both adult and milk teeth. Another big problem during this period was tooth loss.

On teeth we can find evidence of people’s habits for example smoking. Clay Tobacco Pipes gives clearly visible marks on the teeth. Findings of these markers can be dated (in Sweden) from the end of the 17th century till the 19th century. Until the 19th century it seems like it was almost exclusively a male habit.

In situations like this archaeology and ethnology has lots of information to share with each other.

Case study the Dome of Linköping

Caroline Arcini has skeletal material from 560 graves, dating to ca 1100-1810 AD, to analyze. In this case there are records such as death certificates from ca 1750 and forth that can be compared with the analyses and church books regarding who is buried where, date of birth and death etc. In other words a great part of this material comes with answers and should be possible to use as a Swedish standards.

Possibilities regarding age estimations which in turn is important concerning issues of health etc.

In a well documented material as this one can study and interpret living conditions. Here we cam find information about access to food, occupation, kinship etc. All this information is interesting when compeered to Osteological data, for examples, common traits, teeth hypolasia. The key to all this is of course dating and identifying the individuals.

When studying welfare three components are important; Age groups, how old did the population get, stature and child morality.

A part of the study will be concerning Tuberculosis. Between 1780-1810 there were 4500 deaths recorded, of these 36 (8 %) were recorded to have died from TB. An estimation is that 5-7 % would have skeletal TB and 2-3 5 TB on the spine. Of these 4500 individuals 140 has been exhumed, among these 1 can be expected to have had TB.

There are other marks than those of disease.

Arcini have been working on an article that is coming in BAR in a near future concerning man made marks on teeth, teeth mutilation in Scandinavia. In this article she has been studying 60 teeth from Gotland, 1 from Öland, 1 from Denmark and 4 from Scania. All teeth have been filed. These are among the few finds in Europe, though there are several other finds in the world.

This concludes my notes from the symposium. I’ll now start working on a summary that will be presented in the Osteological Associations annual, Benbiten, later this year.

Remember that these are notes that will be edited, I urge you to comment on anything that seems to be out of place or faulty so that I can correct this.

Magnus Reuterdahl

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