A Touch of Pitted Ware


So I spent the day on GÃ¥lö, happily digging & sieving a square meter on a Middle Neolithic shore site 25 meters above current sea level that my friend Roger found two years ago. I haven’t dug that period since 1993 when I spent almost the entire fieldwork season on the classic Bollbacken site outside VästerÃ¥s. (I did however write a paper about another site of the era in the early 00s.) Today I found knapped quartz and basalt and granite (!) and a lot of small potsherds, one of which has the Pitted Ware culture’s signature pits and comb-stamp decoration. Mattias found the best pottery: three decorated rim sherds that fit together, shown above. And there were burnt seal phalanges that will allow radiocarbon dating.

It was kind of fun to hear these guys, hardcore Mesolithic scholars who are used to digging potteryless sites at 70 m a.s.l., talk with wonderment about how much fun potsherds can be.

On our way back to the cars through the woods we heard a crossbill. Or so I was told.
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Stockholm Blogmeet 2 September


The 6th Aardvarchaeology blogmeet was a friendly three-hour affair with good food, good drink and good company. ‘Twas me, Kai, MÃ¥rten, Per G, Sigmund, Thinker and Tor, and an excellent time was had at Akkurat.

Here’s the historical record of blogmeets past. The archaeological record is, due to modern waste-disposal habits, sadly lost.

  1. Wirström’s, March ’07.
  2. Wirström’s, September ’07.
  3. Wirström’s, January ’08.
  4. Akkurat, September ’08.
  5. Akkurat, March ’09.
  6. Akkurat, September ’09.

In the interest of consistency — three blogmeets at each tavern — we must find a new venue for the seventh blogmeet come spring. Suggestions?

Fresh New Site, 5000 Years Old


People in the Lake Mälaren area were on to Neolithisation immediately, with agriculture and stock breeding and pottery and sedentary life, when the package became available around 4000 cal BC. But then they said “oh, screw it” and spent most of the the Middle Neolithic as seal hunters and fishers again. My Stone Age bros Roger Wikell and Mattias Pettersson have descended from their Mesolithic heights (post-glacial land uplift and shore displacement, remember) and are now looking at Middle Neolithic sites in locations that were quite extreme at the time — way, way out in the Baltic. And you had to travel by canoe to get there. The above finds are from a new site M&P discovered on just north of the GÃ¥lö peninsula earlier today! 5000 years old, pottery-making seal hunters of the Pitted Ware culture, you saw them here first. And tomorrow I’m joining the guys out there for some digging.

Geekdom Mainstreamed

On the commuter train the other day I suddenly realised that I was seeing three rather prim middle-aged middle-class people reading novels, and that all three were genre fiction.

  • The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. Douglas Adams 1980. (science fiction)
  • The Man in the High Castle. Philip K. Dick 1962. (alternate history)
  • Människohamn. John Ajvide Lindqvist 2008. (contemporary fantasy)

It feels like my geek ghetto has been turned inside out and encompasses the entire universe except its own original tiny volume.

About the creationist text ads that show up in the rightmost column. I find them highly embarrassing, I did not choose them, I do not endorse them, but I can’t remove them myself.

An Account of the Lund University Creationism Debate

This past Sunday the Department of Archaeology at the University of Lund organised a public debate about creationism and archaeology. One of the invited speakers was Young Earth creationist Mats Molén, who should not in my opinion have been lent academic credibility in that manner. Universities should teach students about pseudoscience and why it is not science, but they should not let pseudoscientists teach.

Lund is far from my home and I didn’t attend the event. But I wrote the non-creationist participants beforehand and suggested that they familiarise themselves with creationist debate tactics such as the Gish Gallop, of which at least one of them had never heard before. And yesterday I asked the moderator of the debate, my colleague Dr. Björn Magnusson Staaf, how it went. Here’s his reply, which I reproduce with his permission (and I translate):

It went OK. Molén didn’t hijack the debate. The issues discussed were largely about a scientific basis for knowledge and spiritual belief and the boundaries between them. In my opinion Björn Petersson (practical philosophy) and K.G. [Hammar, ex-arch-bishop and professor of theology) laid things out well, while Mats [Molén] skidded around quite a bit. Hardly surprising perhaps that those issues aren’t his forte. His main point was that the scientific establishment is excluding him and that the reason is that evolutionists and atheists won’t let him in. When I asked him if this doesn’t sound a lot like a conspiracy theory he replied that it isn’t. His reasoning is thus quite similar to Bob Lind’s regarding Ales stenar, that is, the guys are collecting a lot of strength from portraying themselves as persecution victims who are kept from speaking the “truth”.

What I find constructive about the debate was that it showed quite clearly that science needs to be footed on a solid positivist basis and that the logical foundations for how we construct interpretations and arguments need to be stringent, where a clear distinction is made between hypothesis and empirical observation. Hypotheses might be impossible to prove, but the reader must be able to decide if they make sense or not (as you can see, I’m influenced by C.S. Peirce and pragmatism). In scientific arguments like that God definitely has no place, as was emphasised by K.G. Hammar.

To those lucky enough not to have experienced the Science Wars in Scandy archaeology, I should point out that Magnusson Staaf’s self-identification as a “positivist” is quite provocative. The term has come a long way since Comte‘s day, and I believe that what Magnusson Staaf means here is that he supports rational scientific inquiry and the Enlightenment project, as opposed to post-modernism and epistemological relativism (“constructivism”). His nod to pragmatism is difficult for me to understand in this context as that philosophical movement is explicitly anti-realistic, denies the distinction between facts and values, and says basically “We can’t know what’s real, let’s just find out what works”.

As for “evolutionists” banding together to keep creationists out of the universities, I’m sure that it’s completely true. Universities have quality control systems in place that act to keep all kinds of pseudoscientists out (except in the Humanities and Social sciences faculties, where standards are lax and thinking often fuzzy).

Anybody here attend the debate? I’d like to hear what you thought of it.

Update same evening: Dear Reader Z reports:

Dr Björn: I was there and was impressed with the biblical scholars who explained to the creationist Molén and to the audience, that the Bible contains three different Genesis stories. (One in the book of Songs)
I didn’t hear much of the important stuff though, the philosopher in the panel almost whispered and was told to speak up a couple of times, but he seemed to forget immediately afterwards.
Not inviting a geologist and a biologist was a big mistake I think, even though i understand that you wanted to keep this debate afternoon in a quite scholarly neighborhood.
There seemed to be no time for discussing isotope dating, and reminding Molén that there are other ones/elements than C-14

The guy who saved most of the day was Ola Wikander. He posed the litterature and philosophical questions to the creationist, in a quite polite way, although not letting him get away.

As KG Hammar ones pointed out “Should Mats Molen do all the talking here? This almost feels like a wasted afternoon” (Molen really seems to enjoy his own voice (-; )

Good thing you interrupted him a couple of times.

In other news, I have taken down another snippet of ABBA lyrics routed through a group of non-Anglophone Swedish six-year-olds. You already know that “Voulez-vous” is “Oo nay boo”. Turns out that “Don’t go sharing your emotions” is “Hose dough hairy carry motion”.