Digging Starts at Sättuna


I’ve just sat down in a comfy chair on the top floor of our luxurious excavation headquarters at Tolefors. Phew! I am very happy after a first day of excavations at Sättuna where every little bit has fallen into place as planned. (Hope I don’t hit a frickin’ elk when I go to pick up stragglers an hour from now. [I didn’t.])

After an uneventful two-hour drive this morning I came to Linköping and met up with my buddy and co-manager Petter. We loaded the County Museum‘s digging gear into his car, picked up our first British recruit Karen and drove to the site, where landowner Christer greeted us and showed us where to store our stuff. On to the State Board’s excavation unit, where friendly colleagues lent me a few extra bits of gear. Lunch, pick up local recruit Behnaz, go to site, fiddle around with GPS and metal detector, and then excavator driver Niklas found his way to us and the digging could start shortly after one.

We’re dealing with a field where numerous metal detector finds of ours document an aristocratic presence particularly in the 6th century. The site continues on at least into the 10th century. For agricultural reasons, we have access only to part of the finds swarm that happens to be under stubble at present, but that part includes two of the best finds: a rare Style I relief brooch and a semi-finished small-equal-armed brooch that documents copper-alloy casting on site.

Niklas skilfully shaved off the ploughsoil 15 centimeters at a time while we metal-detected the surface of the deepening trench. And just minutes into the stripping of the ploughsoil, we hit our first sunken feature: big, sooty black, full of fire-cracked stone, clearly delineated against the reddish sandy natural. This was exactly what the magnetometry had led me to expect — my geophysics buddy Immo’s map is full of anomalies indicating burnt features — but it was a big relief for me to know that we actually have preserved features (and thus something for my 14-person crew to do for three weeks). As the trench lengthened and widened, big meaty burnt features kept popping up in great numbers. Are we in a metalworking precinct of the site?


We made no interesting detector finds today, which is hardly surprising as we covered very little ground and could hardly hear our detectors over the growl of the excavator. But lying around on the surface of the field next to my boot was suddenly a Middle Neolithic Late Mesolithic greenstone adze, lovely little beast, adding a previously unknown chronological component to the site. Not having dug much Stone Age, I haven’t found a stone axe since 1993 when I dug up a preform on a Pitted Ware site. Beautiful things, and an auspicious start!

During the afternoon we were joined by my old brother in arms Peter and further British team members Karen, Bill, Phil, Pete and Connor, all students of my friend Howard Williams‘s at Chester. Two more will soon be with us. After work we had burgers at the meat clown’s and went grocery shopping before driving at sundown to our accommodation.

Tolefors is an amazing place. We’ve got one wing of the manor to ourselves, an 18th century structure, recently refurbished into a high-end country hostel. It’s off season now, and I imagine our host family is as happy to let the place for three solid weeks as I am to rent such an unbelievably nice HQ 10 minutes’ drive from site. Highly recommended.

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11 thoughts on “Digging Starts at Sättuna

  1. I just knew archaeologists enjoyed the lap of luxury on digs!

    Seriously, fancy accomodations aside, I enjoy vicariously sharing expeditions with you and your colleagues. Thanks for sharing.


  2. Wow I thought that archeologists were supposed to be on their hands and knees with small trowels. Preferably in drizzling rain or painful dessert heat. No comforts and no heavy machinery! But at least I maybe solved a small puzzle – could these pits be from an archeological excavation?

    strange pits


  3. Thanks, Bee!

    Mathias, yeah, those are definitely archaeological search trenches. A colleague of mine was looking for sunken features under the plough layer. The show up as dark (or more rarely light) blobs against the natural subsoil.


  4. Great to read that the dig is successful! Am looking forward to see the excavation results in relation to the magnetic anomalies. Good luck with your work and the weather!
    Best wishes to Saettuna from sunny and warm Naxos!


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