Tag Archives: World Heritage

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

Struve Geodetic Arc part 2

I am sorry to say that I had to cancel, or postpone, my trip to the survey point at Alanen Perävaara due to the weather.

As I wrote in my previous post the Struve Arc is a chain of survey triangulations points. It stretches from Hammerfest in Norway to the Black Sea and covers more than 2,800 km. The world heritage is made up by 34 of the original 265 survey points of which four are in Sweden on the mountains Tynnyrilaki, Jupukka, Pullinki, and Perävaara in the municipalities Haparanda, Kiruna, Pajala and Övertorneå in Tornedalen. The Struve Arc was made a UNESCO world heritage in 2005.

In the beginning of 19th century the German-Russian astronomer Wilhelm von Struve (1793-1864) decided to triangulate the exact form and size of the Earth. The survey was carried out between 1816 and 1855. All in all he used 265 measure points 30 km apart from each other, from in Hammerfest Norway to Izmail at the Black Sea. The measurements proved that the latitudes were ca ten meter less wide in Scandinavia than at the equator, thus proving that the Earth was oval rather than round. The project started in Russia 1816, in Sweden it started in the 1840’s and was finally finishes at the Pulkovo observatory where the finishing calculations where made.

Struve’s measurement wasn’t the first attempt to investigate whether the earth was oval or round; in 1745 the royal French academy of sciences sent an expedition to Peru and another to the Sweden led by in De Maupertuis. The expedition came to Tornedalen (Torne valley) in 1736 and included among others Anders Celsius and was finished in 1737. Jöns Svanberg during continued the work during 1800-1804.

Magnus Reuterdahl

The Struve Geodetic Arc

I’ve been somewhat neglecting Testimony of the spade for the better part of a week and a half, but posts are coming. I had planned to visit the world heritage Struve Geodetic Arc, at least one of the points, but since there has come snow we’ll have to see about that.

I must confess I had no idea what Struve Geodetic Arc was or that it was a world heritage before I stumbled across it during work. I got interested and have done some general research into the matter to get a picture of what Struve Geodetic Arc really is. In short The Struve Arc is a chain of survey triangulations. It stretches from Hammerfest in Norway to the Black Seaand covers more than 2,800 km. The heritage is made up by 34 of the original 265 survey points. The survey was carried out between 1816 and 1855 by the astronomer Friedrich Georg Wilhelm Struve and was the first accurate measuring of a long segment of a meridian. Four of the points are situated in Sweden; they can be found on the mountains Tynnyrilaki, Jupukka, Pullinki, and Perävaara in the municipalities Haparanda, Kiruna, Pajala and Övertorneå in Tornedalen.

The visit I have in mind is at Alanen Perävaara in Haparanda municipally. It should be a 3-4 km hike to the spot that supposedly is marked by a cross and a cairn, but the weather is a factor if I’ll go or not.

A map of the can survey be found here.

Magnus Reuterdahl

Gammelstads kyrkstad (Church town) a world heritage site

Now I’ve gotten me a internet connection so hopefully I’ll be a little bit more active that I’ve been the last months.

As I currently live within a world heritage site I’ve walked around and taken some pictures. The parts that are easily accessible are the visible parts, in this case the church and buildings that make up the church town.


Lets start with the church that was built in the 15thcentury, consecrated in 1492 or possible a few years earlier during the final years of the middle ages (in Sweden we normally say that middle ages end around the coronation of king Gustav Vasa 1523 or in connection with the reformation of the church to Protestantism). The church is known as Nederlulea church.


The baptismal font is most probably older than the church. As you can see it is two parts whereas I believe the top part (the font) is the older.


The frescoes in the chancel was found under the plaster and restored in 1909 and probably painted by the famous Albertus Pictor during the 15th century.


This round stone is a bit of a mystery.

When first I looked at it I supposed it was grave stone from the Iron Age as it looks much like the circular stones that mark some graves in the southern and middle parts of Sweden. It is ca 45-55 cm in diameter. Then I noticed the markings and supposed that those were of Sámi origin. I’ve later larded that the stone is a bit of a mystery, it can’t be connected to a grave, though this is not impossibility, and the carvings are not Sámi.

If I’ve understood it right the common belief is that the stone has been placed in the church sometime during the last few hundred years and that the carvings have been made by someone to look like Sámi markings. Exacting isn’t it?

This church has like many others traces from several ages, the pulpit in Baroque style was mad in 1712 and painted in 1742.


The church town I s made up by about 500 wooden cottages. The oldest written source concerning the church town is from the 17thcentury by Johannes Bureus who visited it in the year 1600. The cottages have been used and are still used for accommodation for churchgoers as they visited the church on church festivals, for example Christmas and Easter. This was also used by the state to collect taxes from the churchgoers who often lived far from the church.


The oldest part of the Church town is from the first half of the14thcentury. I’ll get back to you with some pictures and some facts of the archaeological part of Gammelstad church town.

Magnus Reuterdahl

New header and profile: City wall of Xi’an

I made an update of the profile and the header last night, on the picture is a part of the city wall of Xi’an, in Shaanxi. It is one of the most complete city walls that has survived in China. It was build by the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) Zhu Yuanzhang (emperor between 1370-1378 AD).The wall is ca 12 meters tall, 12-14 meters wide at the top and 15-18 meters thick at the bottom and is ca 13.7 kilometers in length, surrounding it is a deep moat. Every 120 meters there is a rampart which extends out from the main wall, in total there are 98 ramparts on the wall. The wall is a Unesco World Heritage since 1996.

This picture was taken as I visited Xi’an in 2006 together with Johan Klange on one our travels with the Yangshao project. I’ll add a few more pictures when I return to Stockholm by the end of the week.

Magnus Reuterdahl

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