Upgrading Ubuntu Linux is Risky

Hear me, Ubuntu-using brothers and sisters! Never use the on-line upgrade option to switch to a newer version of the operating system! In little more than two years, it has trashed my setup twice, once killing the machine outright, and the last time (yesterday) making it impossible to boot from the linux partition.

When the time comes to upgrade, copy all your files to somewhere else, re-format the linux partition and install the new Ubuntu version from scratch. Then copy all your stuff back onto the partition. There is no safe way to upgrade an existing installation.

A corollary of this is that you should either use an on-line e-mail service that stores your mail off-site, or local e-mail software that makes it really easy to export all your mail to another disk and then re-import it into the software after the upgrade (if any such e-mail software does in fact exist). In other words, do not run Mozilla Thunderbird like I did.

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Odin from Lejre? No, it’s Freya!

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So you’re a metal detectorist and you find a silver figurine at storied Lejre in Denmark. It depicts a person sitting in a high seat whose posts end in two wolves’ heads. And on either arm rest sits a raven. The style is typical for about AD 900. So when you hand the thing over to the site manager, he of course exclaims, “Holy shit! It’s Odin!”. And that’s what he tells the press.

Until somebody like me comes along and points out that it’s a woman.

She’s wearing a floor-length dress. And a shawl. And four finely sculpted bead strings. This is a standard depiction of an aristocratic lady of the later 1st Millennium. The Lejre figurine is a direct counterpart to the Aska pendant (below), which is universally understood as the effigy of a goddess. The high seat is Odin’s, allright. But the occupant is most likely Frigga or Freya. Or maybe, just maybe, Thor in drag during the hammer reclamation mission. That is so cool! This find will mess with everybody’s mind!

Congratulations to detectorist Tommy Olesen who found the piece two months ago! And thanks to Tobias Bondesson for the heads-up.

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Thanks to a tip-off from Dear Reader Jerrark, here’s a close-up video of the figurine:

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Recent Archaeology Mags

Aard enjoys complimentary subscriptions to a number of popular archaeology magazines from which I learn a lot before passing them on to the Fisksätra public library. Here are my favourite stories from three recent issues that have crossed my current-reading shelf.

Current Archaeology 234, Sept.

Current Archaeology 236, Nov.

  • A huge 7th century gold and silver hoard found recently in Staffordshire. Excellent pix! I haven’t blogged about this since it’s been all over the mainstream news and I had little to add. (10 pp.)
  • A London tide mill, sturdily built in the 1190s and well preserved in the river sediments, its great wheel partly still in place (6 pp.).

Archaeology Nov/Dec.

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Intellectual Aristocrat

One of the best friends I made during my decade in the Tolkien Society is Florence Vilén; poet, novelist, connoisseuse of art and letters. She recently published a volume of poetry, Purpurpränt. Dikter med rim och reson. And earlier tonight when she visited us she threw out one of the aristocratic one-liners she delights in.

Florence once told me off the cuff, “The educated layman became extinct about 1940”. Tonight she happily proclaimed, “I have learned my entire vocabulary of obscene English words from the Times Literary Supplement”.

Sättuna Signpost

We know quite a bit more now about the archaeology of Sättuna in Kaga parish, Östergötland, than we did before me and my homies started fieldwork there in April of 2006. My blog readers have had news of the site as it appeared, pretty much in real time. But now it’s time to put up a new signpost next to Christer’s barn. Today I wrote some new text for the sign and sent it to the County Archaeologist’s office. Here’s the tiny English bit at the end.

The field with the barrow hides a 6500 year old Stone Age camp site and an aristocratic manor site of the 5th-9th centuries AD. Bronze jewellery was cast here and gold-foil miniatures made. Very few such manor sites are known in Östergötland. The barrow has not been excavated but probably dates from the 9th/10th century AD. It may be the last thing the ruling family here built before they moved. Later a 12th century royal dynasty emerged from this area.

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New Book on the Early History of the Stockholm Archipelago

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In addition to the archive reports on my two seasons of fieldwork at the Late Medieval and Early Modern harbour of Djurhamn, I have now published a paper that discusses and interprets the results. It’s in a symposium volume from the Royal Academy of Letters, edited by my friend Katarina Schoerner and bearing the name SkärgÃ¥rd och Örlog. Nedslag i Stockholms skärgÃ¥rds tidiga historia. (“Archipelago and naval warfare. Case studies in the early history of the Stockholm archipelago”). Other contributors are Jonathan Adams, Kajsa Althén, Jan Glete, Sven Lilja, Peter Norman, Mary Pousette, Johan Rönnby and Bengt Windelhed.

Order the book here if you read Scandy!

Anthro Blog Carnival

The seventy-ninth Four Stone Hearth blog carnival is on-line at Anthropology.net. Catch the best recent blogging on archaeology and anthropology!

Submissions for the next carnival will be sent to Colleen at Middle Savagery. All bloggers with an interest in the subject are welcome to volunteer to me for hosting. The next vacant hosting slot is in less than four weeks, on 2 December. It’s a good way to gain readers. No need to be an anthro pro.

And check out the new Skeptics’ Circle!

Archaeological Namesakes

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I’ve been publishing stuff in Fornvännen since 1994. But making a vanity search in the journal’s on-line version, I found that I am not the first Rund??ist in Fornvännen’s history. My family name was mentioned once in those pages before I showed up.

In 1935, Bengt Hildebrand published a bibliographical essay in Fornvännen titled (and I translate), “Notes on the bibliography of Swedish numismatics and archaeological historiography”. It covers writings about coins and the history of archaeology. And on page 285 we find mention of one G.H. Rundquist who had published a “Catalogue of the coin and medal collection in Växjö high school as well as similar collections united with it though belonging to the Museum of SmÃ¥land in Växjö”. The man’s full name was Gustaf Hilding Rundquist, and he was custodian of that collection from 1916 to 1965, almost 50 years.

Says Lars Thor (and I translate),

“Hilding Rundquist had an unbelievable working capacity. It is also told that during his many years as a teacher he did not take a single day of sick leave, and that he and his wife were known to entertain a considerable number of friends in their home. Taking into account that Rundquist, apart from all this, was also an active lodge member and enthusiastic choir singer, the picture of him of course becomes even more impressive.”

And other Rund??ists in Swedish archaeology? Apparently none who have written very much. There’s Sten Rundkvist and Harry Rundqvist and Bengt & Maj Rundquist and Lisa Rundqvist Nilsson who have all made unpretentious contributions to the literature. And then there’s me. No relation of the others, to my knowledge.

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The Rundkvists Have Taken Their Swine Flu Shots

My family and I just came home from our local vÃ¥rdcentral, the public medical centre, where we’ve taken our shots for epidemic H1N1/09 swine flu. It cost us nothing and we waited for only about 15 minutes. We got something called Pandemix, which appears to be Pandemrix mixed with another vaccine. They’re not sure if a second shot will be needed or not, but if so then we will take it at the same time as I get my annual non-swine flu shot. Juniorette cried a little after the jab but calmed down after eating two saffron buns. She then went with her mom to swimming class.

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Dating the Looting of Ancient Tombs

Finland has a lot of cairns, usually sitting on hill tops near the sea. Unlike a mound, the cairn consists only of stones, and so it lets rain water percolate through. This messes up the contents of the cairn. Bones and burial goods are rarely preserved, and it seems that the ancient Finns didn’t stock their cairns with a lot of interesting stuff to begin with anyway. This makes individual cairns difficult to date, though seen as a class their chronology is fairly well understood.

Despite the fact that few Finnish cairns contain anything interesting or valuable to a layperson, a lot of them have central depressions indicating that people have delved into them some time after their construction. There is no evidence to suggest that the depressions are due to the collapse of any internal wooden chambers.

During the excursion last Saturday at the Bronze Age conference in Helsinki, Tapani Tuovinen let us in on an interesting methodological development. How do you know at what date a burial cairn was looted?

The bedrock in southern Finland weathers in a characteristic way visible in a microscope. During the last Ice Age, a lot of nice round pebbles were produced through abrasion, and they’re really good for cairn building. When you retrieve one them from the sea or the glacial till, they show no signs of microweathering at all to begin with. But if you look at pebbles on an undisturbed 3000-y-o cairn, you find heavy microweathering on the upper half of the stones. Their lower halves are far less weathered.

Tapani & Co looked at the stones scattered around the central depressions in looted cairns, and found that many of them were upside down: the undamaged bit was no longer pointing downward. This showed that they had been moved around relatively recently, most likely during the 19th century. The method doesn’t give absolute dates, but it’s still useful information.

Then the team looked at the bedrock beneath cairns they excavated, and found that it was much less weathered than the rock outside the bases of the cairns. This confirmed that they are pretty damn old: the cairns have been sitting there long enough for a slow weathering process to produce a visible difference.

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