Tag Archives: Länsstyrelsen i Stockholms län

Archaeology in Stockholm County part 3

It has taken me a little longer than planed but here comes the notes the from the final three (6-9) seminars held at “Archeology in Stockholm County 2009” at the County Administrative Board of Stockholm 2010. Link to part one and two.

On the marine archaeological work at the harbour of Birka

Johan Rönnby, Department of Culture and Communication; Archaeology, Södertörn University and Anders Olsson, the national maritime Museums

At the moment a status report on marine archaeological investigations is being compiled. Since the 17th century it has been known, and marked on maps, that there are construction under the water outside of Birka’s black earth (i.e. the area where the city once was). Traditionally these have been interpreted as a barrier of posts with the intent of controlling the boat traffic outside of Birka. There are a lot of finds that are showing a different story; there are remains of piers, posts and stone coffins, outside the black earth as well as outside of other places around the island. On some posts are features of construction that is more like those found at Bulverket on Gotland and at Hedeby (Haithabu). This indicates a more complex pattern than a just barriers, such as large bridges, poles where ships had to wait or anchor outside of the harbour; Who had access to the port of Birka? Who were using the ports outside of the town?, etc.

In 2008 test excavations under water outside of Birka’s black earth were carried out. These showed cultural layers that are about 1 meter thick, in which they find animal bones (carcass residues or waste food?), wood chips, sawdust, plugs, dowels, construction details for boats such as a keel to a Viking Age ship, tools and residues of rope. There is evidence to suggest that the keel never been used, but perhaps manufactured in or imported to Birka for a ship that never was built, or to be sold off to a ship builder etc.

Later this spring the compiling report and suggestions for future research will be put forth.

A boat grave at Mörby, Turinge parish

Sten Tesch, Sigtuna museum and Annika Larsson

This particular boat grave has been more or less lost in the literature and therefore Sten Tesch found it interesting to bring it fourth again. The results of this project will be presented more in detail at a seminar in Uppsala on 8 April.

The boat burial was found during the excavation of the grave field and settlement  Turinge 165:1 in1972. The Grave field contained 69 graves including 23 fire graves, 36 skeleton grave, ten empty burials and 30 children’s graves. The children’s graves were small rectangular burial pits, in these no bones were preserved. At the grave field was also cairns with chippings stone/fire cracked stones. The graves had few finds besides the bones and the preservation conditions were poor. The woman buried (tooth enamel) in this boat grave was buried together with a horse skull, parts of a bridle, oval-shaped twin-brooches, circular pendants, a knife, etc. She was laid on a bed of grass and straw and the entire tomb was covered with birch bark. The boat is a distended and elevated log boat, which is a common type of in boat burials, with 5 frames and 3 rowing pairs. It’s been ca 7.5 m long and 1,2-1,4 m wide. Of the wood only residue was to be found and then ca 250 boat nails.

Annika Larsson has studied the textile fragments found on the oval-shaped twin-brooches. Among other things, she interprets that oval-shaped twin-brooches been placed on top of the breasts rather than on the clavicles, and therefore held up an open dress, and thus probably had a more of a ceremonial role.

The Dominican convent in Sigtuna

Anders Wikström, Sigtuna Museum& Anders Wiberg, the Archaeological Research Laboratory (AFL), Stockholm University

A research excavation was carried out on the remains of the Sigtuna Dominican convent in 2009, founded by a private donation. The excavation was preceded by an exploration of geo radar. The Convent was founded in 1237 adjacent to St Mary’s Church that was opened in 1247. The Convent is one of 11 brethren convents in Sweden, there were also two sister convents. The Convent was demolished in 1529 in connection with the Swedish reformation.

Geographically the convent was situated in the northeast part of Sigtuna. The Convent has been partly excavated on several occasions, the first carried out in 1890’s, however no excavation have been in the Convents internal parts. To ensure that the excavation would have the best possible outcome it was decided to prospect the area with Geo radar. Anders Wiberg from AFL carried out the prospection and the results were pleasing – a clear picture of the walls below ground level emerged though some areas were problematic, probably due landfills and previous work. Among other things the prospection showed a previously unknown labatorie. Based on the prospection, it was decided to excavate the area around the labatorie and the adjacent southern wall, dating to ca 1300. During the excavation they found older walls showing a previous building phase.

– The prospection may be regarded as very successful and demonstrates the value of such methods, however, the project also shows that one can not remove excavations from the equation.

John Wendesjö, Stockholm city museum, was unfortunately sick so there was no seminar on the excavations at Spånga church – a completed project by.

These seminar type of gatherings arranged by County administrative boards for archaeologists working within the county, and sometimes as in Stockholm also open for others, is becoming more common and is a great way of meeting colleges and getting the big picture of what is and has been going on within the County. This year the seminars in Stockholm had a profile lingering more towards research excavations than assignment archaeology, which is great, but I missed a section of discussion on what the County board believes can be better – how we as assignment archaeologist can be better and how they as can be better; methods, applications, reports etc. I.e. a forum for ideas for the future. Anyhow – a great work by the County administrative board – many thanks!

Magnus Reuterdahl

These notes should not be used as references, if you’re interested I’m sure the people behind the seminars are happy to help you.

These are memory notes so there might very well a few faults or misunderstandings among them, if you find anything that is wrong or out of place please contact me so that I can fix it.

Archaeology in Stockholm County part 2

I’ll continue with the notes from next three (3-6) seminars held at “Archeology in Stockholm County 2009” at the County Administrative Board of Stockholm 2010. Link to part one.

At Jarlabankes home – Are the individuals buried at Brobybro grave field, in Täby parish, related?

Lars Andersson, Stockholm County Museum

The Brobybro grave field is dated to ca 1000 to 1100 A.D. The excavations are a part of the project Runriket (The land of runes) and the findings will be exhibited at the Stockholm County Museum in a new exhibit that opens on February 24th 2010.

Jarlabanke was one of the most powerful men in Uppland somewhere around 1000 AD who owned great land estates in Täby and Vallentuna. Jarlabanke and his family are known to us through the inscriptions on several rune stones.

The grave field consists of ca 20 burials, 12 of which are investigated. A burial mound, Oesten’s mound, has been removed due to cultivation during the 19th century and on the graves. On the grave field are three rune stones, there has originally been four. These are rare as the inscriptions are tied to the burial ground, and those who are buried there, including Estrid and Oesten. Oesten was Jarlabanke grandfather and died in Greece, therefore it’s believed that the mound was empty and erected to the memory of Oesten. The skeletons have been osteological analyzed and only one is female, possibly Estrid who is mentioned on one of the rune stones. From the skeleton a facial reconstruction has been made and will be on display at Stockholm County museum. Of the other skeletons eight has been deemed male, two are from children. One of the children were very young, possibly newborn, was buried in the outskirts of the grave field. In eight of the graves are indications of coffins, two were nailed together, and six had a trough-like design. Most appear to have lids and the lids seem to have been, at least in some cases, charred. Among the finds a number of coins stand out, among other things, a Olof Skötkonung (king of Sweden 995-1022) coin otherwise very few artifacts had been left with the dead.

Besides osteological analysis the skeletons has also gone through DNA analysis to see if the buried are related to each other, the analysis was not jet finished at this time. The reason for DNA-analysis were debated during the seminar as whether or not they turn out to be blood relatives or not might not matter all that much, as during the late Viking Age and early Middle Ages as adopted family members were as high in rang as blood relatives when it comes to the right of inheritance. Regardless of all this the analysis gives knowledge – either new or results that reinforce old knowledge. The results also accumulate to the database of DNA analyzed prehistoric skeletons.

Another thing that was debated was the absence of women, or the presence of just one woman. During the debate it was put forth that this is to be expected at grave fields from this time of this sort (small grave fields connected to an estate, a farm or a family) as the buried are those who stand in line to or have inherited the estate, which most often are sons. In this case Estrid is mentioned on the rune stones which might be due to the fact that she inherited the state as a widow or a lonely child.


– Interesting finds from a very interesting place. This gives me a good reason to visit Stockholm County Museum later this spring.

Prehistoric ceramic usage in the eastern part of middle Sweden – a result of university- and assignment (exploration) archaeology

Sven Isaksson, the Archaeological Research Laboratory (AFL), Stockholm University

Sven Isaksson has made a compilation of lipid analysis made at the AFL from 300 prehistoric vessels, where one fragment equals one vessel. The method used is mass spectrometry. With this you can see whether the lipids derived from marine/aquatic fats, respectively, land animals or vegetables. There are a overlap between lean fish and terrestrial animals to consider. One can, at best, also identify differences between ruminant and monogastric animals, and if the fat comes from meat or milk proteins. There is also possible to separate vegetable fat that is derived from oils and nuts.

Some ceramic shards are “empty ” ie. there are no lipids to be extracted, this may be due to preservation conditions, soil composition and the nature of the ceramics; ie. porous or solid ceramic and of course it might depend of how the vessel been used.

A kind of culinary context must be taken into account. What was the main function of the vessels; cooking, storing food or drink, a sacrificial piece etc. – The interpretation must include more than the vessel itself such as the context of usage; Who cooked the food? What cooking technique was used? For what reason did they cook food? Where they used for storage and for how long etc. There are, for example, several containers from the Bronze Age that are showing traces of tar. Most often pieces from the mouth of the vessel is used for analysis and this might be traces of a sealing, it might also be a residue from a technique to seal the walls of the vessel.

The analysis shows that there are differences over time in terms of cuisine. The early Neolithic, Funnel beakers (TRB), represents a different type of cuisine than the cuisine of the Pitted ware culture (GRK) in the later period of the Neolithic’s. The GRK cuisine continues into the Bronze Age, though developing towards a more one-sided use. During the Iron Age it once again goes towards a more diverse couisine and usage of the pottery.


– An interesting compilation that is worth a closer look.

Karsvik in Bromma – a plateau house environment, Norra Ängby

Anna Arnberg, Johan Runar & Bengt Windelhed, Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies, Stockholm University

The field course in Archaeology (General course) held by the department of archaeology at Stockholm University 2009 were carried out in collaboration with several institutions and companies such as Stockholm City Museum, Bromma local history association and Arkeologikonsult (private company).

The field course and the project concern a farmstead environment with its roots in the Bronze Age which can be followed forth through the Iron Age, the Middle Ages and newer Ages. The students in cooperation with the mentioned institutions have done surveys, studies of historic maps, and excavations. The excavation concerns the foundations of a Viking Age farmstead, Bromma 226:1, at a terrace and a stone setting (a burial monument), Bromma 30:1. The survey has identified four different elements from different periods;

  • A stone fence, Bromma 30:1, dating to the early Iron Age (500 B.C.–550 A.D.), a minor excavation of a smaller part for the purpose of dating the fence.
  • A stone setting (a burial monument), Bromma 66:1, made out of large stones and boulders, probably from the early Iron Age or Bronze Age. A find within the stone setting shows that it’s been reused during the late Iron Age.
  • A foundation of a Viking Age house on a plateau, Bromma 226:1.
  • A stone setting (a burial monument) and a five stone boundary cairn, Bromma 226:2-3. The boundary cairn is placed on an older burial monument, possibly. It’s a difficult context to interpret, the five stone cairn, in reality not a cairn but five stone placed in a cross formation where a heart stone marks the spot and the wing stones the direction of the border, these are often placed where a boarder makes a turn. According to historic maps there should be a five stone cairn about here, a there is a bit of difference in opinions if this is that cairn or not. Finds of cremated bones, fragments of a comb and a arrowhead is evidence of the grave, though if I understood it right, the outside of the stone setting was disturbed by later day activities and the possible five stone cairn.

After the Viking Age the settlement moved away from the plateau down slopes where several remains can be seen in the ground.


–          The scientific value of this place is the long time continuity of usage that have left traces in the landscape, possibly from the Bronze Age and forth

  • These notes should not be used as references, if you’re interested I’m sure the people behind the seminars are happy to help you.
  • These are memory notes so there might very well a few faults or misunderstandings among them, if you find anything that is wrong or out of place please contact me so that I can fix it.

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