Whither Archaeology?

Since the 1980s there has been a post-modernist movement in Western European archaeology where a strong influence from lit-crit, sociology and Continental philosophy has been felt. This has led, among other things, to radical relativism in some scholars, and to a tendency for archaeology departments to harbour and publish work that a) does not treat the archaeological record, b) does not aim at finding out what it was like living in the past.

I have criticised these tendencies at several occasions, as in this piece: “Archaeology is good fun but unimportant to most people“. Not long ago, the Gothenburg-published journal Arkeologen appeared with an exchange between myself and Claes Theliander on these issues. We have now put our pieces on-line (in Swedish).

Update 4 May: Claes has kindly permitted me to put the prologue of his thesis on-line with the rest of the writings. Now the whole debate can be read on-line.

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Saxophone Detector

i-3259ba88af5df07b4e46b1fd9d282efa-Saxophone Player.jpgJust a note about yesterday’s metal detecting at the Baggensstäket battlefield. We worked for less than four hours, but I got lucky and ran into the burnt remains of wooden fortifications on a seaward slope. Loads of nails and spikes in one place, and thanks to the fire, some were in pristine shape. Beautiful smithwork: octagonal cross-sections, square heads with bevelled edges — all clearly taken from army stores (or the royal shipwharfs in town?) when news of the Russian approach arrived. Also charcoal and fire-cracked stone. I’d like to see an excavation there.

Bo Knarrström had modded his White detector with a smaller antenna coil and programmed it for hyper-sensitivity. Also, he wore no head phones. As a result, wherever he went he gave off sounds like a really tortured, unstructured, pilled-up free-jazz saxophone solo. I had brought my C-scope, and it served me well, though my headphones didn’t work and the others said I sounded like an irate wasp.

The fieldwork at Baggensstäket is part of research performed by the Battlefield Team at the National Heritage Board of Sweden.


Yay, Aard‘s finally got a Google PageRank! Instead of rising gradually over the past four months, it’s been zero until it suddenly jumped to six out of ten.

The hapless porn surfers are already arriving in droves. Welcome guys! “Teeny teeny porn porn sex sex big booty”, everyone!

Roger Blidmo 1951-2007

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Dr. Roger Blidmo died of a heart attack yesterday. I just talked to a long-time employee of his who confirmed the rumour. The guy was only 56. My heart goes out to his family.

Roger was one of Swedish archaeology’s most famous/notorious participants, known since two decades for his uncompromising fight for private-sector contract archaeology. The whole business will take years to adjust to him not being there anymore. County archaeologists will suddenly have only half the tender-process paperwork to deal with.
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Four Stone Hearth Co-Admin

As you may have noticed, founding father Kambiz has been very busy lately, and his brainchild the Four Stone Hearth blog carnival has not quite received the attention it needs. Now, I’m not as good as Kambiz at web design, but I’m OK at long-running repetitive administrative tasks. So I’ve joined the K as co-admin of the carnival.

Before I start mucking around with the carnival’s site, I need some volunteer carnival hosts. Anybody with a blog and an interest in archaeology and anthropology (in the various senses of this word) is very welcome to host. Remember: submitting entries to a popular blog carnival will give you a number of new readers — but hosting one will give you a huge number. Just drop me a line.

Update 28 April: The carnival’s home page is now updated, the future hosts on the list have confirmed that they’re on, and a lot of people are volunteering to host. The next 4SH will be up on 9 May at Anthropology 2.0. Make sure to submit your stuff!

Battle of Baggensstäket

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Long-time Dear Readers may remember the visit I paid last May to the wooded Skogsö hills where the Battle of Baggensstäket was fought in 1719. Bo Knarrström, Tomas Englund and the others on their project team are now back on the site with their metal detectors, finding more and more objects from the battle. This time, I’m joining the team for two days. Tuesday, they were visited by celebrated military historian Peter Englund.
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Wiley InterScience Needs Schoolin’

OMG, how stupid! And I ain’t foolin’.

The other day my SciBling Shelley at Retrospectacle got nastygrammed by Wiley InterScience for reproducing part of a figure from a paper in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture! Shelley had provided due reference to where she had found the figure and used it to discuss the contents of that paper. Fair use.

Wiley InterScience describe themselves as “a leading international resource for quality content promoting discovery across the spectrum of scientific, technical, medical and professional endeavors”. Yeah, sure, and they apparently want to be the only such resource on the net. Good luck guys. I think you’d better read up on Fair Use.

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Viking Town Seminar

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i-6452dfd076b7070e17807f9dbd26e343-haihabu bild.jpgI made one of my infrequent visits to the University of Stockholm campus today. After getting my PhD in 2003 I was really tired of the place, and I’ve pretty much stayed away since apart from a few vivas (Sw. disputationer). But today there was an international seminar on Viking Period towns, so I went. Weird to think it’s been almost 17 years since I enrolled.

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I’ve just sheepishly realised that I did something wrong four months ago when I installed the script code for the hit counters I use for this site. Forget anything I may have said about this blog’s readership. It’s way, way higher than I thought. In fact, it pretty much doubled the moment I moved to Scienceblogs.

My old site had an average daily readership of 235 uniques in December. Aard currently has about 520. And the old site is still attracting about 140 uniques daily. Like, wow!

More Viking Period Amber Gaming Pieces


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As told here before, in 2005 I was lucky enough to take part in unearthing the first set of amber gaming pieces to surface in Sweden for over a century. They were in a boat inhumation burial at Skamby in Östergötland. I believed that only one such set had been found before in Sweden, by Hjalmar Stolpe in the late 19th century when he excavated the cemeteries of Birka. The Birka grave in question (Bj 524) is a weapon inhumation with a silver coin dated tpq AD 909.

Then Pierre of the AHIMKAR blog pointed out that there’s actually a third set of amber gaming pieces.
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