Cub Scout Archaeology


Two weeks ago when I worked for Thomas Englund and Bo Knarrström at the 1719 battlefield on Skogsö, I came across a variant on a type of archaeological site that I’ve blogged about before. A site where children have built and abandoned something, but this time it wasn’t a tree house ruin: to me it looks more like the remains of an outdoor gym built by the cub scouts who periodically camp in a nearby house. You know, chin-ups and stuff.


To this end, the kids nailed and tied horizontal spires to trees, clumsily and with very little regard for the trees’ well-being. While they were at it, they had loads of chocolate and strew aluminium foil wrappers around the site, much to the chagrin of this metal detectorist. A 1983 coin may date from the same episode. They used it a number of times, left, and the site was allowed to slowly return to nature.



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Google Definitions

I was musing about how haphazardly I learned about certain indispensable software and information sources. Then it struck me — maybe there are people who don’t know about Google Definitions? OMG! I’ve got to tell them!

I use Google Definitions daily. It’s an on-line meta-dictionary, collecting definitions from all over the web. To use it, just type “DEFINE:” into Google’s search box and then whatever it is you need defined. And it knows everything, not just the sort of straight-laced stuff you find in printed dictionaries.

define: myrmecology
Myrmecology is the branch of entomology dealing with ants.

define: mmorpg
Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game

define: safeword
Das Safeword ist ein bei den sexuellen Praktiken im Bereich des BDSM verwendetes Signalwort, mit dem der empfangende Partner zeigen kann, dass er die Handlung nicht fortsetzen möchte.

define: dendrite
A branch of a nerve cell that receives incoming messages from other nerve cells.

And I assume you all have the Google Toolbar installed, so you always have a search box in your browser. Anything else would just be silly.

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Welcome Bergh’s Students

Here’s a link page that I used during a talk about internet culture to advertising students at Bergh’s on 28 September. This blog entry will move down the page as I write new ones, but I’ll leave the link page on-line. Bookmark it in your browser!

If you, Dear Reader, weren’t at the talk and still want to hear my comments on the links, I’d be very happy to give more talks on the subject at the venue of your choice.

Doctoring My Spin

i-ce0b30e4a48e00c5a374fd6ed6bb5e13-mr-metro-070927.jpgFrom today’s issue of free subway paper Metro, I translate:

Hey there…

… Martin Rundkvist, 35, the archaeologist who has found a unique 16th century sword in the woods.

How did you make the find — through cutting-edge methods?

— I sat down in the lotus position and took in the vibrations with my astral antennae.

Astral antennae?

— You’ve got to have long hair to take in the vibes. All hair dressers are paid by the government to cut off the astral antennae. They’ve got a hidden agenda, them hair dressers.

Really? So, how many lives do you think the sword has taken?

— Well, it really depends on what level you’re on and how many bonuses you’ve collected. We’ll see, maybe the guy who had it before has carved a notch in it for every victim.

Are you going to use it for private purposes?

— Yes. I see it as a tool for self-defence. I’m going to use it to practice Oriental combat techniques. I have a very exciting job.

Let’s see who can name the movie I’m quoting!

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Tangled Bank 89


Welcome everyone to Aardvarchaeology and the 89th Tangled Bank blog carnival. Aard is strictly focused on whatever strikes the fancy of its archaeologist proprietor. The Tangled Bank provides a leafy warren for all little furry bloggers with an interest in the life sciences. We have good stuff here, so dive in!





Not half bad if you ask me! The 90th Tangled Bank will come up on 10 October at The Other 95%. Until then, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair and a hibernating stoat in your undies.

Djurhamn Sword


Found an early-16th century officer’s sword at the Harbour of the Sheaf Kings. I tried to keep it quiet, but now the mainstream media want my ass. I’m seeing the County Archaeologist about an excavation permit this afternoon. More anon.

Media coverage: Metro, Radio Skaraborg, SVT, ABC-nytt, Radio Stockholm, Svenska Dagbladet, Dagens Nyheter, Östgöta Correspondenten, Jönköpingsposten, you tell me what else please.

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Anthro Blog Carnival with Heavy Brow Ridges Grunt Growl


The twenty-fourth Four Stone Hearth blog carnival is on-line at Paddy K’s Swedish Extravaganza. It’s a particularly populous and witty edition. Check it out! Archaeology and anthropology to scratch your pubic lice and soothe your fear of the cave bear.

The next open hosting slot is on 24 October 7 November. All bloggers with an interest in the subject are welcome to volunteer to me. You don’t have to be an anthropologist, but bipedalism is encouraged.

Felicia Likes Bees

A guest entry, graciously granted by Secular Humanist warrior queen Felicia of Life Before Death, with her own photograph.


As I start writing this post*, the air has an autumn tang to it, it is windy, and definitely not as warm as it could be in August. And yet, the bees are working. There’s something comforting about how their lives go on irrespective of what happens in the world of humans. All they care about is the turning of seasons, the treachery of weather, the health of their queen.

Around Stockholm, where we live, the bees usually don’t have anything to show for their labour at this time of the year. Most of the sources of nectar have already passed from flower to seed. Now, there is only heather, and a chance of honeydew — the sugary secretions of millions of aphids. Yes, bees can make honey out of that, too. This year, it seems as though the hives are actually still slowly filling up with honey. I hope the source is some poor tree somewhere, sucked dry of it’s life’s … sap. Harsh, but preferable to heather. Heather honey is Hell to extract; sticky and lumpy, it clings to the wax. The only really effective way to extract heather honey is to crush the combs.

But, all of this is really an aside. I have been a beekeeper for eleven years now, having sort of tagged along when my father first bought two hives and ever since helped** him tend the apiary. Although I like the taste of honey and am always ready to speak for its wondrous qualities as a spice and sweetener, it is really the bees themselves I am drawn to. There is something about eusocial insects that fascinates me, and honeybees, being so extraordinarily easy to get close to, have gained a special place in my heart. (I have on occasion captured an ant queen after swarming and tried to make her start a colony in a makeshift terrarium. It never worked.)

The latin name, Apis mellifera, means honey-carrying bee. This isn’t actually correct, as the bees gather nectar, from which they produce honey. An individual bee normally carries about 20-40 microlitres of nectar, which weighs a bit more than water, on its way home to the hive. During one season, a hive of bees can produce as much as 100 kilos of honey, or even more — how many foraging flights this requires I leave to the esteemed reader to calculate. And yet this isn’t all that bees collect. Apart from honey, they carry home pollen, the protein source for their larvae; propolis, a waxy tree-bud resin with which they close up cracks in the hive; and water, which they may sprinkle over the combs on a hot day, cooling the colony as the water evaporates. Young bees who have yet to leave the hive on these missions stay home and tend the young, feed the queen, build combs, fan the nectar (to evaporate the water, preventing fermentation), tidy up, defend the colony from predators…

It is an astoundingly intricate world of small individual units who all seem autonomous and independent and yet implacably dependent on each other. While ants often have morphologically defined caste systems, bees utilise a plastic division of labour, enabling them to react and adapt to changes in their environment. For example, a sudden increase in honey flow requires more combs, spurring more bees to enter the construction trade. The only individuals whose roles are fixed are the queens and the drones, who exist simply to procreate. At least that’s what the queens do — if the drones have a further role to play, we have yet to figure it out.

How the workers know what to do, I don’t think anyone knows, but it is bound to be a fascinating area of research. It would be nice if it turned out to be possible to condition bees not to gather certain kinds of honey, while we’re at it. Such as heather.

* Which took more than a month to complete, due to various circumstances.

** “Helping” in this case includes arguing a lot, as is bound to happen when father and daughter try to work together towards some elusive common goal of “good beekeeping”.

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Swedish 1909 Cannabis Enthusiasm

i-fb875d597f1b7c4ec14c28626df4cbd7-victorianteadrinker.jpgThe excruciatingly witty and multi-talented David Nessle has been alerted by his erudite father to a long enthusiastic article about cannabis in the classic Swedish 1909 dictionary Nordisk Familjebok (uggleupplagan). This dictionary was in every home with any pretentions to literacy and social respectability. A stoner among the dictionary’s contributors, pharmacology professor Oskar Teodor Sandahl (1829-1894), has clearly done a lot of pot to be able to report the way he does (note that he mentions the munchies), and the editorial board has then felt it proper to devote an entire page to the subject. I translate:

Hashish. 1. H a s h i s h (Arab. herb, especially hemp, being the foremost of all herbs, due to its pleasurable, anaesthetic and calming properties, and finally preparations made of this herb), pharm. […]

[Description of how to make cannabis extract using butter and rose-petal oil] 3-4 g of such extract is ingested, usually in a small cup of black coffee, when one wishes to attain a pleasurable intoxication.

[…] Truly wonderful are in many cases the effects of hashish, but they vary according to individual and dosage. After the ingestion one’s head always becomes heavy, sometimes with headache, a sensation of warmth is felt and vertigo and a ringing in the ears. One’s pupils dilate, and long-sightedness ensues. During hashish intoxication, many report that objects appear enormously elongated, as if they had no end: a road you wander seems endless, and your goal constantly slips away into the distance. Painted pictures appear stereoscopic or seem to take corporeal form and begin to move, so that they appear to free themselves living from the canvas. Sensoric acuity is dulled, while the poisoned person’s impressions appear exceptionally vivid. Usually a subjective sense of heightened intensity and power in one’s mental faculties is felt, along with a highly cheerful air, a considerable impulse to laughter, and indeed irrepressable eruptions of loud laughter, without apparent reason, but usually inspired by bizarre visions or more correctly illusions. Under the influence of a strongly heightened imagination, the shapes and colours of these illusions often become exceptionally sumptuous and engrossing. (Even more glorious colours are summoned by a poison in certain cacti, see C a c t a c a e). One’s consciousness is sometimes entirely intact, at other times more or less fogged, so that no memory of events during intoxication remains afterwards. One’s sense of time becomes highly skewed: everything appears hasty and fleeting, but minutes nevertheless feel like hours. The ground disappears under your feet, you experience a not unpleasant sense of floating in the air, and you fly through wide expanses of space. In many is seen, however, a great inertia in their movements, an uncertain gait and trembling hands, while others display an impetuous tendency to noisemaking, raving and destruction, everything under at least partial consciousness.

With time, a tendency to calm and sleepiness makes itself felt. Usually, however, the hashish intoxication does not cause sleep directly, but only makes the following night’s sleep uncommonly deep, with or without remarkable dreams. In everyone does hashish stimulate a considerable heightening of the appetite afterwards; otherwise there are no or no notable side effects. Hashish does not cause constipation.

[Stuff about fakirs and assassins, speculation about how the drug’s effects arise.]

People who use hashish often and in large doses can of course damage themselves seriously with it. Particularly, some are said to become insane, while death from hashish poisoning is very rare. Compared to opium, hashish is far less dangerous; in particular, it lacks opium’s damaging effects on the digestive tract and general state of nourishment.

Professor Sandahl’s article appears to have been re-printed with some revisions from the late-19th century edition of the dictionary. Sandahl was into altie treatments and ran a “Medico-Pneumatic Clinic” in Stockholm from 1860 to 1882, where patients sat in sheet-iron cupboards and breathed “condensed air” to cure their ailments. I wonder if the stoner professor sent medical marijuana smoke into those curative cupboards.

Funnily, I find that O.T. Sandahl owned a property on Baggensstäket’s Skogsö shore, not far from the battlefield of 1719 where I have helped with metal detecting. “Despite being for many years one of the capital’s most sought-after practicioners, the prominent and exceptionally friendly physician found time to write many dissertations, travel books etc. His beautiful plantations at Stäket were famous.”

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Seizure City

i-3f4eccd73c90e4d4252a03a73eaa13e8-Seizure city.jpg

Swedish young skankers Seizure City are a new outfit with the Clash and the Skatalites looming large in their pedigree. Reedy kickass singer Tanja knows her glottal stops and is an archaeologist’s daughter. Let’s hope the band takes off so she can have a proper career in the music business instead of sliding back into the seedy gloom of the contract excavations!