Viking Ghost Crew

i-62cba227fcd54e1213b05027a6e761cc-_47457244_oxfordarchaeology_1870.jpgLast June a well-preserved mass grave was found near Weymouth in Dorset, southern England. It contained the skeletons of 51 decapitated young men and later-teen boys. At first the burial was dated through the inclusion of Roman-era potsherds. The pit itself had originally been a Roman quarry. But now some of the skeletons have been radiocarbon-dated and ten have been analysed for stable isotopes. As it turns out, the date is most likely 10th century and the men came from Scandinavia. Looks like a Viking raiding party that had bad luck. An interesting and very unusual find! It sort of lets us board a Viking ship and have a rare look at its crew. The ship from the Gokstad barrow has 32 oar holes and it’s always good to take on some replacement oarsmen.

Thanks to Tim of the Walking the Berkshires blog and Roger Wikell for the tip-off.

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The Gangs of Ã…storp


Sunday “… five men were indicted, some of them members of the Black Cobra criminal gang. They are suspected of involvement in cake theft from the Godbiten bakery in Åstorp [pop. 8500] earlier this week. The cake was stolen from a truck on an industrial estate.

120 boxes containing among other things mazarines, brownies and apple pie were taken from the site.”

Via Swedish Radio.

Is Peer Review 100%?

Here’s a question for all of you journal editors and editorial board members out there. Does every single manuscript that your journal receives get the same peer-review treatment? Is there no pre-screening before stuff gets sent to reviewers, where patently kooky or ignorant contributions are killed on arrival?

Is peer review 100%? Should it be? Would that be a wise way to use a journal’s resources? Discuss.

Weekend Fun

  • Had brunch and a walk in the sunshine with wife and sans kids, a rare pleasure. Strange to think that in just a few years’ time they won’t need us much anymore. I guess it’s one tiny step at a time, setting us down gently. Anyway, it’s only 15 years to the first grand-child if Junior repeats my life schedule.
  • Played Drakar och Demoner, Drakborgen/Dungeonquest and a card game with Jr and his buddy. The latter game has a naughty name that involves bodily discipline of a rambunctious simian who is disrupting the recycling trade.

And you, Dear Reader?

Hernia Brand Glue


Scandinavians generally speak pretty good English. But every now and then you come across reminders that they are still very far from being native speakers. Witness this pail of wall-paper glue that I bought earlier today.

Dear Swedish glue-maker, “hernia” means brock and is defined as “the protrusion of an organ or the fascia of an organ through the wall of the cavity that normally contains it”. Wikipedia continues, “By far the most common herniae develop in the abdomen, when a weakness in the abdominal wall evolves into a localized hole, or ‘defect’, through which adipose tissue, or abdominal organs covered with peritoneum, may protrude. Another common hernia involves the spinal discs and causes sciatica [ischias].”

I carried the pail with great care to avoid rupturing myself.

Baby Christened, Dad Unhappy and Surprised to Learn

Here’s an interesting case. A woman took her baby to Danderyd church (where I once took first communion) and had the child baptised — against the father’s wishes, as it turned out. He isn’t happy. And the priest admits that he should have checked with the dad but that he didn’t.

Bo Larsson, provost of the see of Stockholm, comments (and I translate):

“When I became a priest in the mid-70s, the nuclear family was the unquestioned standard, but today’s relationship patterns are infinitely more varied than they were 20 or 30 years ago and I feel that it has become even more important that the priest is both painstaking and wise and really makes sure that he understands the situation.”

To me, christening a baby is a pretty harmless thing to do, certainly not like circumcision. It’s a superstitious ritual, but not a dangerous one, and not one that has any significance to me. Of course, I wouldn’t want to help expand the membership roster of a church. But I imagine that if my wife had really, really wanted to have Juniorette baptised then I would have allowed it, just like I let her dose Juniorette with Chinese herbal cough syrup. In the abovementioned case, though, I don’t know if the parents are a cohabiting couple, and if you’re not, then I suppose you’re far less willing to humour your co-parent.

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Whale Bones Trawled Up From Bottom of Baltic Sea


I’ve written before about a recent whale vertebra that someone had dropped into a lake far from the sea in northern Sweden. This past summer, fishermen trawling off the country’s southern coast caught two old whale bones, and they’ve turned out to belong to a grey whale, a species that’s been extinct in the Atlantic since the 17th century. An unidentified whale beached itself and died in the area in 1709. Radiocarbon will tell if the newly found bones are likely to belong to that animal.

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University Degrees that Lead to Jobs in Sweden

A recurring theme here on Aard is my complaints about how useless certain kinds of higher education are if you want a job. For a change, let’s take a look at what kind of degree is most likely to get you a job in Sweden over the coming decade. The Swedish National Agency for Higher Education has just published a study that offers data on this very issue. Here are the degrees where there will be a labour shortage in Sweden for the foreseeable future!

  • Medical laboratory scientist, Sw. biomedicinsk analytiker
  • High-school teacher of manual skills for craftspeople such as carpenters and plumbers, Sw. yrkeslärare
  • Youth centre leader, Sw. fritidspedagog
  • Pharmacy clerk, Sw. receptarie (but getting an actual pharmacist’s degree is career suicide)
  • 3-4 year engineering degree, Sw. högskoleingenjör
  • Teacher for children with special needs, Sw. speciallärare
  • Day care teacher, Sw. förskollärare
  • Dentist, Sw. tandläkare

Need I point out that most of these jobs are relatively poorly paid compared to others that presuppose a university degree, and that most are not perceived as high-status? The only real exception, to my knowledge, is dentistry. But all of them will support you and your kids quite handsomely. And most of them look to me like they’d be quite fun.

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French Soft Drink Promises to Change Your Sexual Orientation

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Christian fundamentalists like to believe that homosexuality is an illness that can — and should — be cured. The factual belief is contradicted by a solid scientific consensus, and the value judgement is widely considered to be a repressive holdover from the Bronze Age.

The makers of the French orange-based soft drink Orangina seem to agree with the fundies’ unscientific belief that homosexuality can be induced post-natally in a fully formed individual. They, however, are certainly not homophobes. On the contrary, in a recent major ad campaign they invite consumers to use Orangina to “Wake the Fruit Inside!”. They go on to emphasise how gay the drink can make you regardless of geography: “Orangina’s original recipe is a well-guarded secret that offers joie de vivre to people around the world”.

I’ve had lots of Orangina over the years and I still don’t feel any stirrings of my inner fruit. This may be a case of fraudulent marketing. Or they may just have hired a really bad copywriter.

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