Tag Archives: inventering

Death aesthetics

To decompose

Decompose, haste, o beloved bride,

make the bed in our lonely camp.

Deferred by the world, rejected by God,

you’re my only hope for salvation…

Erik Johan Stagnelius (1793-1823, Swedish poet and writer) (My translation)

A dead bird on a dirt road, ants eating away, caught my eye – most animals aren’t this still.

Alice Cooper Dead babies

On occasion you’ll find bones laying about, most often leftovers from hunters – and as I’m up here some bones of bear or lynx would be nice, but non such luck as yet, though bears are present. Bear feces and torn stumps indicating their presence – but they are shy animals and perhaps that’s just as well.

I’m not sure what animal left this track, though it got claws and a paw which is about 4-5 cm in diameter, and I’m pretty sure it’s not a dog.

Other animals that are common are different kinds of raptors such as hawks, falcons and a few eagles, they often revolves around forestry clearings and circles around you screaming and hissing – ones presence is not fully appreciated.

Though this is a poor a picture, this is one of them.

Even though you see and meet quite a lot of animals most are to quick away to be photographed, and as you move about you make your presence known. I’ve seen about 15-20 moose, several mice, voles, foxes, squirrels, frogs etc. but havn’t caught them with my camera.

Magnus Reuterdahl

Too tired to blog

Mondays, what one would not give for make them disappear? The survey in northern Jämtland continues, up hill, down hill, through wetlands and over clearings and always through woodland (which can be very nice but not when it mainly consists of densely planted pines and shrub – the forests of northern Jämtland just never seems to end.

Monday’s done – I’m going to sleep!


Tomorrow’s historic remains

When we’re out on archaeological surveys for ancient monuments and historic remains we sometimes encounters remnants that do not quite meet the criteria, the criteria being permanently abandoned. Such remnants can be abandoned farms and houses still standing and in some cases provided for, at least enough to not fall apart. Sometimes it lies on the border, the two houses, shown below, does not have many years left before they can be registered as historic remains in form of house foundations. Even if they are on the ropes, they still hold a kind of desolate beauty, they are still vital enough to tell tales of their late owners, in and around them are evidence of how their lives.

House number one, from a distance it seems quite ok, but when you get closer you see that it has began to fall apart.

The entrance is more or less overtaken by plants.

You can see the inner construction of the roof through an opening in the wall.

Inside, the ceiling is about to collapse…

…in a corner a bed with the madras is left…

…and on the wall, a picture of a young woman has been left…

…on a nail a couple of old pants have been hung, to dry?

The second house just 20 meters away is closer to a collapse, the roof has fallen in and the walls are well on their way to give up.

These abandoned buildings will be tomorrow’s historic remains in soon future. They are situated just outside of our working area so who knows we might come back in a year or two and find that they have fallen down and register them.

Magnus Reuterdahl

Dressed for success

In recent weeks I have been working in the field with an archaeological survey in northern Jämtland, and next week we go again. Nature up here, in the north of Sweden is magnificent and the scenery is grand. The seemingly endless forests and the closeness to the mountains are ever present and so are the marshlands. Small and big the marches runs through the forests between small hills and ridges.

As beautiful as they can be they also poses problems, they are wet and sometimes difficult to pass through and foremost they are the breeding grounds for insects such as mosquitoes, flies and wasps. This year they breed in masses thanks to the wet spring and warm summer. Once your out walking these mini-beasts follows you in forms of swarms and when you stop to describe a remain or take a quick break the sky is almost completely blackened by them. As if this isn’t bad enough the eternal buzz they make almost drives you insane, it is never quiet – for those of you who have seen the World Cup in South Africa earlier this summer think vuvuzelas – and you’ll get the idea.

Of course you’ll take the precautions you can, a mosquito jacket helps some as well as different kind of repellents such as oils, deodorants etc.

What do we find? Here as everywhere traces of human activity is everywhere if you know where to look. On the mountain sides the summer pastures where an important complement to the farms. Some are still used and in fine conditions but most have long been deserted and all we find are the remains; house foundations, traces of cleared areas and fields, clearance cairns, etc. We also find traces of other activities in the forest such as charcoal burning sites and hunting pits.  The hunting pits are often found on small hills and ridges; sometimes there’s only one, sometimes in pairs and sometimes in big systems.

This one is ca 4 m in diameter, 1,5 m in depth and surrounded by a low earth bank. It was probably used for hunting moose (elk) or reindeer. This method of hunting is old and has been used since the Stone Age until1864, it was at least outlawed in 1864 in Sweden.

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

Dolmens Froboke type

This week the field season started with a survey in Bredaryd parish in Halland. As I’ve been sitting in the office for a few months the body is not quite ready for action – every limb feels sore after a few days of hiking in the country side – still it’s great to be outdoors again.

On the way to the survey I passed the grave field Froboke and took a couple of pictures. This grave field is perhaps most known for a fascinating type of burial monuments called Iron Age dolmens, which originally was called Fröböke dolmens after this site. The grave field is located in Bredary parish, Halland, a few miles from Halmstad.

Photo at the south part of the grave filed towards north

Photo from the middle part of the gravfield towards the south part

I’ve written about Iron Age dolmens before, here and here. In short Iron Age dolmens can be found on grave fields in the south west part of Sweden; in the west part of Smaland, in Halland and in the south west part of Vastra Gotaland. They are generally dated to ca 500 B.C. – 400 A.D. and only a few have been excavated. This type of burial monuments was first described in 1876 while the road next to the grave filed was built.

The north part of the grave field

The grave field at Froboke is quite small and consists of seven visible grave monuments; three Iron Age dolmens and four erected stones. The grave field has probably been larger but have been diminished over time due to agriculture and road works in historic and modern times. Two archaeological excavations have been carried out at the grave field in 1914 and 1933 – among the finds is a glass bead, cremated bones and pieces of quartz. The “complete” Iron Age dolmen just next to the road was restored in the end of the 19th century, it’s possible that some kind of excavation was carried out then as well.

The reconstructed Iron Age dolmen

Not all that chatch my eye is of cultural historic interest, like this spider’s web.

Next week I’ll be in Växjo in Kronobergs County doing more archaeological work.

Magnus Reuterdahl

Speed update

Been a little tired these last few days (arcaheological jet lag?); the small excavtion in Ostergotland, Klockrike, gave nothing. We did a number of search shafts, which were more or less empty. All we found were some pieces bricks, normally you can find porcelain, scrap iron, glass, etc. but here it was basically completely empty.

Then it was off to Lerum in Vastergotland where we have added to an earlier survey which led to three descriptions of three croft ruins and one remain from charcoal production.

Tomorrow morning it’s off to Stockholm to finish up a report.

Magnus Reuterdahl

Just another day at the job

Today became an excruciating day, we started at 0800 and went home at 2100 but it was rewarding; we described and took GPS coordinate points to make polygons etc on maps at three croft ruins, three fossilized fields and one abandoned farmstead with a medieval heritage.

Though now I feel beat; a few cold ones and then I’ll hit the bunk.

Good night

Magnus Reuterdahl

Skaftesfall in Korsberga parish

Then I am in Smaland again and up for some surveying around Skaftesfall some miles south of Vetlanda in Korsberga parish.

Klavreström 4

Our livings quarters is a few miles south of the working area in a small community called Klavrestrom; in a former Klavrestoms Works that opened in 1736. A lot of the buildings are still standing and a museum tells the tale of the works.

Klavreström 2

Klavreström 1

Klavreström 3

Today we did a drive through of the area and did survey one croft and some fossilized acres in its surroundings.

Today’s find (at least for me) was a nice elk cranium (yet another to the collection).

elk cranium

I also found this near buried car carcass, anyone wanna guess the model (or know what model it is)?

car wreck 1

car wreck 2

And on a small cairn in one of the acres I saw snake taking a nap.


Best wishes

Magnus Reuterdahl

What’s next?

The weekend is coming up and I’m going home to Stockholm, I’ve got one more post on last week’s vacation to post, it’s coming on Saturday or Sunday at latest. Next week I’ll be working in Korsberga parish, Jonkoping County, Smaland with an archaeological investigation in an area where it is planned to build wind turbines.

Most likely we’re bound to find remnants of the cottages and back cabins of the 17th and 18th century cottage and back cabins, but also of forestry, tar production, coaling  production, iron production, water mills etc.

I’ll keep you posted

Best wishes

Magnus Reuterdahl

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