Teaching the Late Iron Age in Visby


I type these words in a seafood restaurant at the main square of Visby on the island of Gotland. I haven’t been here for almost a decade. Today I had the rare pleasure of teaching undergrads. My old grad-school buddy Gunilla Runesson at Visby University College gave me four hours to talk about the Late Iron Age elite, which is what occupied most of my working hours from 1994 until last fall. So I got up at 06:15 this morning, rode a tiny propeller plane across the sea and did three hours on settlements and one hour on graves. Very nice students!


Afterwards I walked through the Medieval city and out to the former artillery regiment’s area where, for reasons of regional jobs policy, much of the National Heritage Board is based these days in a shiny new building. Johan Carlström showed me around the place as the sun set, I met my friend Lars Lundqvist and I chatted to a bunch of other colleagues. This is, for instance, where the country’s excellent on-line sites & monuments register is kept.


Then I walked back into town and made my usual round: the Eastern City Gate, Horse St., Cramér Sq., Beach St., St. Olaf’s ruin, the Botanical Garden, where I said hi to the Empress tree, Main Square with St. Catherine’s ruin. Everything a little ghostly and melancholy in the dark and snow, trees denuded. And here I am now, belly full of fish soup, bread and aïoli.

On the way there I rode a Handley Page Jetstream 32 (production start 1968), and on the way back a Focker 50 (production start 1987) with cool six-bladed propellers.

Here are the presentations I used: the intro and the Östergötland elite settlement one.


15 thoughts on “Teaching the Late Iron Age in Visby

  1. Good to see that the level of enthusiasm of archaeology student matches that of engineering students… 🙂 Interesting that you think of your stroll as the “usual round” when it’s the first time in a decade you visit town. Or was it the seafood restaurant?


  2. I did my doctorate on Gotland’s biggest prehistoric cemetery (google “Barshalder”), so I had reason to go to Gotland quite a lot. But since graduating, I’ve been working in other areas.


  3. Ah, yes. Good to see that the tradition of sleeping through the visiting lecturer’s presentation continues! 🙂 What a fabulous name and heritage for a tree! Is it an invasive species in your corner as well?


  4. I’ve only ever managed to put half a class to sleep at any one time, so that must have been a most impressive lecture.

    How cool that you got to ride a Jetstream, thanks for the info!


  5. Krys, the Empress tree is not procreating spontaneously in Sweden, probably for reasons of climate. I am only aware of the one in the Visby Botanical Garden, which is an unusually warm and sunny spot for Sweden.

    Kai, the Jetstream is the coolest thing, like a little school bus with wings! And the instrumentation looked mighty analog. I believe they use them because Bromma airport has a noise level limit.


  6. Hello Martin, could you please put your presentation on your blog. While I was sleeping, as oviously most of us did, I forgot to make me some notes. Thank you for the lecture & see you next time in visby. Till då.

    Kind regards
    Christian Schewe


  7. “Martin Rundkvist, Re-animator” – it doesn’t have quite the same quality to it.

    Did anyone notice a difference when their re-animated corpses shambled out into the hallways?


  8. I came in the door and said “Hey everyone, my name is –“, and then there was this massive THUNK SNOOORE when everybody’s head hit their desk.

    …at which point you wandered off to the nearest pub and enjoyed your lecturing. 😉


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