It’s that time of the year again when little usually happens and Sweden’s loudest and most aggressive amateur archaeologist likes to get in the news. As mentioned here before, Bob G. Lind has managed to get my otherwise respected colleague Wladyslaw Duczko to join him and dowsing-rod geologist N-A. MÃ¶rner for some fieldwork near a lovely standing-stone ship in Scania, the famous Ales stenar, built in the 7th century AD. Duczko’s involvement solved the problem previously alluded to here, that when local bodies give Bob funding for fieldwork, they’re betting on a horse that can’t actually get a fieldwork permit.
The merry three believe, against all dating evidence from this and similar sites, that the monument dates from the Bronze Age. They are digging with Duczko’s Polish students within sight of the stone ship, but not close enough to harm it. Nor, indeed, close enough for their results to have any relevance for the dating and functional interpretation of the monument. They’re on a spot where there’s faint remains of a trackway down the erosion scarp above the seashore. Such an erosion scarp moves inland over the centuries. This means that the stone ship was much farther from the sea when it was built than it is now.
The placement of the track is contingent on where the scarp is currently located, and so the track can’t be very old. But Duczko & Co assume that the track was used to pull the stones to the site of the ship. So they want to date the track. If they can date it to a period before the Late Iron Age, their reasoning goes, then this will date the stone ship. This is really lame. Even if the track were Mesolithic in date, even if it were early post-glacial, then nothing would keep people in the Late Iron Age from plonking a monument down on or near the track. And there is nothing to suggest that the stones of the ship were really brought up the scarp along the track.
So what has the fieldwork shown? Touchingly, Duczko & Co emphasise that they have not found anything to date the track to the 1st millennium AD, as if this were an important result. Have they, then, been able to date it to the Bronze Age? No. The track remains undated and functionally unrelated to the stone ship.
I feel really sorry for the students who waste their time on this project. Scania is an extremely rich archaeological province, and there are so many amazing sites where these young people could contribute to new exciting discoveries, make useful contacts and learn something. Instead they’ve been lured onto a pointless dig devised by a crank with whom not one Scanian archaeologist is willing to collaborate.
The TT news agency called me about this and wrote a nicely understated treatment that made it into various papers: DN, SvD, GP. They got one thing wrong though. I didn’t say that every known large stone ship has been dated with radiocarbon. I said that those that have been dated thus have given consistent late-1st millennium dates.