Tag Archives: UNESCO world heritage

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

Drawin frozen in time?

This is a memorial post on Darwin; He would have been 200 years old if evolution allowed it, as it didn’t this post is in remembrance of him as a scientist and person. The theory of evolution was perhaps not a work of a single mind but it was presented by one man who had the guts to stand up for his beliefs though ridiculed by some of his pears. Ridiculous as it sounds he still is by some!

Caricature of Charles Darwins theory of evolution, 18th cent.
Caricature of Charles Darwins theory of evolution, 18th cent.

I’ve never understood the fear of being related to apes or other animals, I rather look at it as George Eliot (1819-1880); “If Darwin’s theory should be true, it will not degrade man; it will simply raise the whole animal world into dignity, leaving man as far in advance as he is at present” . This said I don’t doubt Darwin’s theory, though it can be and has been evolving since it was first told/printed.


In spirit of this, this post is more about theories and ideas in general than on Darwin per se. A theory flourish, evolve and is criticized and this is the very soul of a theory, it thrives as long as it’s being questioned, used and tested. Thereafter it becomes a footnote or a parenthesis in science history. This led me to think of a few articles I’ve read the last few months on UNESCO’s decision that traditions and customs are to be classified as world heritages. The aim is to find representative traditions and customs that we want to protect and preserve.

What would happen if theories and ideas were to become classified as world heritages? It isn’t all that farfetched; the idea of making an immaterial or intangible world heritage isn’t new. A few years back the idea of making Carl Linnaeus (Carl von Linné) into a world heritage was set in play, or rather the heritage of Linnaeus. Besides protecting and preserving buildings, parks etc the aim is also the environment where one can find traces of Linnaeus’ research. It might include plants and animals that are still present in the countryside, in gardens and in places where Linnaeus’ disciples made their collections. In other words a world heritage concerning Science and Technology.

Linneaus Rashult
Linneaus Rashult

What would happen if this is applied on ideas or theories? To protect and preserve!

Would an idea or a theory suddenly be untouchable/unchangeable if it became a world heritage? Would it be submitted to committees regarding what or how the theory should be interpret or used?

I don’t much like the idea of making traditions and customs into world heritages. It is the protect and preserve part I am questioning; I feel this is the something that rather belongs in an ethnographic/anthropological museum.

For example;

In Sweden there is talk about making the process of fermented herring a world heritage; I ask how? There are more than one way to produce this, such as diffrent local customs. Who will decide what the proper way? There is a risk of freezing the tradition or stopping it from evolving and in so making it stagnate and in the end perish. Evan worse if say a tradition as Midsummer’s eve would become a world heritage. The customs are changing, the people celebrating it are changing and probably the reason for celebrating is changing over time?  If this became a world heritage what would to protect and preserve mean?

I see traditions and customs as evolutionary phenomenons. It is the task of museums, journalists, authors and researchers to record how, why and when we do things so that the knowledge isn’t lost. I don’t see any gain in petrify these with the risk of making them stagnate or become obsolete and foreign to those living with them. If they do not change with time and with the users they will wither and fade. I belive that this is as true concerning ideas and theories as well, they need to be used and misused, to go where no man (or ape) has gone before.

Happy Birthday Mr Darwin, where ever you are, and may your memory be used, misused and evolving.

Magnus Reuterdahl

Two papers on the Struve Geodetic Arc

Some time ago I got an interesting response on the posts Struve Geodetic Arc part 1 and part 2. Vitali Kaptüg sent me two papers on the Struve Meridian. Thanks!

I of course got interested in who Vitali Kaptüg is, he is from Russia and is the secretary to the Board of the St. Petersburg Society for Surveying & Mapping and was in charge with the compilation of the national documents for the FIG-UNESCO project “Struve Geodetic Arc” (SGA).

My desk’s been a bit over crowed the last few weeks but now I’ve read the papers that if I’ve understand are either based on two seminars held at  FIG Working Week 2008 in Stockholm earlier this summer or written for the occation.

Paper # 1; On Comparison of the three Meridian Arcs in Lapland. 

  • – The paper concerns the accuracies of the historic measurements made by Maupertuis, Svanberg and Selander in the 18th and 19th century. The first two measurements are well documented whilst the last is less known.


  • – To asses the measurements re-measurement has been used. In this case it was possible as the previous measurer had marked their point in different ways, for examples crosses in the bedrock, church towers etc. Though some are easy to find some are more difficult and others are lost.


  • – The comparison shows that all measurements are pretty close and demonstrates a successively improving technique of measurement.

Though the text is somewhat technical it is rather easy to understand, it gives a good picture how the measurements was done, their strength and weaknesses and the results. It’s a combination of social history and natural science. The mathematic and the formulas flew a bit over my head, but all in all an interesting paper on if nothing else science history.

Paper #2;  Index of field and other important manuscripts relating to the Scandinavian segment of the world heritage monument “Struve Geodetic Arc2”. 

  • – In this paper Kaptüg presents the result of archive studies in Russia, Norway and Sweden regarding the field works carried out between 1845-1852.


  • – SGA operations were carried out over a period of 40 years, from 1816-1855 so the archive material is vast.


  • – In the article the archives of interest is presented, a where to find what guide.


  • – Kaptüg believes that he has identified and found most of the documents that has survived in Russia. The work has shown that there are interesting documents to be found in Norway and Sweden, hopefully, at least there is proof of that it has existed, for example “22 hæften Selanders och Agardhs och Skogsmans gradmåtningsjournaler I Lappland 1846-1852″ (22 booklets Selander’s and Agradh’s and Skogman’s latitude measurement journals in Lappland 1846-1852) which is said to hold a complete amount of the field registers relating to the SGA Lapland segment.

Perhaps not as easy to read as the first, it’s more of an account but still it holds some interesting facts regarding the measurements, where to find more information etc.

I found a lot of information that I hadn’t before which has give a better background and understanding of how the work was carried out and about the effort these pioneers did.

Many thanks to Vitali Kaptüg for the articles

Magnus Reuterdahl

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