Fornvännen’s Spring Issue On-Line

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Fornvännen 2011:1 is half a year old, and so has been published as an open-access full-text journal. Six months is the Berlin Declaration’s limit for what qualifies as Open Access. Check it out!

  • Joakim Goldhahn on early Swedish rock art documentation
  • Frans-Arne Stylegar et al. on two bronze masks from Avaldsnes in western Norway that look Celtic and may thus either be pre-Roman or Viking in date
  • Jonas Monié Nordin on rural Medieval social/religious guilds
  • Sonja Hukantaival on Finnish folk magic as seen in archaeology and early folklore documentation
  • Sven-Gunnar Broström et al. on new rock art finds in SmÃ¥land
  • Book reviews

Aard Mugs In Australia

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Dear Reader Jim Allen of Bellingen, New South Wales, Australia, kindly volunteered to design some Aardvarchaeology merchandise, for which I am very grateful. Here’s Jim at his local museum along with fellow volunteer Charlotte Rogers, in the first picture of readers using their Aard merch! You too can enjoy caffeinated beverages in as stylish a manner as Jim & Charlotte: just head over to the Aard shop for mugs and t-shirts.

Herbert Jankuhn Reads Selections From Mao

i-288f5b0670846ce7e63df46d92aff990-jankhe90.JPGGerman archaeologist Herbert Jankuhn (1905-90) is a contentious figure. A passionate Nazi soldier and SS archaeologist up until 1945, he became one of the country’s most influential post-war archaeologists from the late 50s onward. Fornvännen 2011:3 has just come out containing a contribution on the younger Jankuhn’s heartfelt Nazi enthusiasm, as documented by recent archive finds.

I’m reading Wolf-Dieter Tempel’s charming professional memoir, Am Rande der Archaäologie. Here’s a wonderful snippet from his recollections regarding Jankuhn, who was his teacher (and I translate).

The Göttingen archaeology seminar shared a beautiful Rococo building, the university’s erstwhile women’s clinic, with the musicologists and art historians. In February of every year the art historians would organise a carnival party to which the other two seminars were also invited. In 1969 the art historians could not organise the party. So we had the idea that we might do it. Preliminary plans were made. But everyone thought that Professor Jankuhn would not allow such an event in his seminar. Nobody dared ask. Time running short, I took a deep breath and spoke to Jankuhn as we left the building at lunch time one day. I told him that everyone thought he would not give his permission. His answer was, “Now, that was a fine way of presenting it. I heard about your plans from Mrs. Nolte (the secretary) long ago and was waiting for you to ask.” He told me he had never so far been against partying, and would give his permission as a matter of course. That first statement was of course not true. Because all my older colleagues said that there had never been any social gatherings among the co-workers at the seminar, nor previously at the museum or during the excavations at Haithabu. Be that as it may: we arranged a carnival party, and it turned out to be the only one in the history of the Institute, as I learned later.

I designed the invitation to the “Paleo-carnival”, which purposely suggested prehistoric fancy dress. But any costume would do. After I sent the invitations, Mrs. Jankuhn called me. The mandatory costume rule could not possible apply to her husband, who had never so far in his life dressed up. I told her that everyone would understand it if the Head of Department did not dress up. We would however appreciate it greatly if he were willing to greet the guests. As Mrs. Jankuhn told us later, the professor did indeed not make any preparations to adapt to the otherwise entirely costumed gathering. Mrs. Jankuhn sewed herself a Chinese costume. On the day before the party, he told his wife that if she would give him her Chinese outfit, he would go dressed up as Mao. His wife could easily improvise something for herself. And so Professor Jankuhn arrived wearing the coat-like Chinese wrapping and carrying Mao’s Little Red Book under his arm. He then read selections from it during his welcoming speech and at intervals throughout the evening, which absolutely did not please Mao’s many admirers among the students at the time.

Boat Carriers

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Yesterday my dad had his boat lifted out of the water like he does every autumn to keep the ice from damaging it. I hadn’t seen the lift they used before: it’s a remote-controlled motorised thing, fast and nifty. Note the yellow control box.

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This reminded me of a fairly common motif in Bronze Age rock art, the boat carrier. Boats are extremely common, and sometimes you’ll find a guy lifting the boat, crew and all. I think this is probably a depiction of the Sea God. But it may also be a human lifting a wooden ship model. We have a few bronze figurines that look like they may have adorned such models. Or it may be both: people perhaps played the role of the Sea God in cult drama, brandishing ship models.


One of the most elaborate boat carrier images is the Brandskog ship near Enköping.

I Don’t Fear For The Swedish Language

Year after year, the Swedish language is spoken by a smaller percentage of the world’s population. And year after year, the geographical area where Swedish is spoken shrinks a little. But year after year, Swedish is spoken by an increasing number of people. How does this work?

Although Swedish speakers in Sweden and SW Finland have low nativity figures, and thus lose relative ground locally to Finnish speakers, and globally to the fecund masses of e.g. India, Sweden also receives immigrants who cause the country’s population to grow slowly but steadily. And they all learn Swedish. In my area, which is home to people of 70 different nationalities, you’ll hear Chilean grandmothers talk to Bosnian grandmothers in broken Swedish in the street, while their grandchildren speak fluent native Swedish. In fact, looking at the statistics, I find that about 10 million people speak Swedish daily, and the number is growing. Swedish is thus not a small language, nor one threatened with extinction.

But Föreningen SprÃ¥kförsvaret (“Language Defence Association”) fears for the future of Swedish. They have kindly sent me a review copy of their new anthology Svenskan – ett sprÃ¥k att äga, älska och ärva, “Swedish, a language to own, love and inherit”, which collects opinion pieces about language issues from the past decade. Specifically, SprÃ¥kförsvaret fears that Swedish is being replaced or heavily influenced by English.

Swedish is my mother tongue and the language I know best. But I learned English at age four in a Connecticut Kindergarten. I am bilingual, and so are my children. My wife is fluent in three languages. In our house, Swedish, English and Mandarin are spoken and written daily, and with some flair I’m proud to say. I write this blog though, as well as books and papers about my research, in English in order to reach a global audience. I could write them a bit better and faster in Swedish, but few who share my interests would be able to read them.

I’ll just disregard the clearly unfounded fear that Swedish might be going extinct. As for Swedish changing, I’d like to point out that before AD 800, linguists see no reason to differentiate between the Scandinavian languages. That is, the Swedish language originated 1200 years ago as an effect of language change. It has since been heavily influenced by Low German in the High Middle Ages, by French in the Enlightenment period, by High German up until the Second World War, and by English after that war ended. In Forskning och Framsteg 2011:8 (p. 51) Henrik Höjer recounts the exact same fears as SprÃ¥kförsvaret voices, only regarding the threat from High German, and published in a 1906 book by one O.C. Kjellberg.

Studying SprÃ¥kförsvaret’s writings, you will find that they are driven by a mainly inclusive, non-xenophobic Swedish nationalism. They want EU parliamentarians to speak Swedish in Brussels. They keep referring to the competitive edge of Swedish industry, which they unsuccessfully try to make hinge upon the qualities of Swedish engineering terminology! (And I must admit that as a rhetoric device, the fortunes of that said industry packs no visceral punch whatsoever with me.)

SprÃ¥kförsvaret’s rhetoric sometimes brings to mind paranoid extreme right sloganeering, with “high treason, a kind of national suicide initiated on society’s highest levels” (p. 13), “voluntary colonisation” (p. 30), and “… we have many leaders in this country, that is politicians, corporate leaders and others, who completely seem to have lost loyalty with their country when it comes to the language” (p. 30). Also, SprÃ¥kförsvaret is to some extent motivated by their personal interests as language teachers and interpreters – non-English languages, that is. Not very selfless when you think about it, though many of the members appear to be of retirement age.

No, I don’t fear for the Swedish language. And to tell the truth, I wouldn’t actually care much if it were indeed threatened. Because as an archaeologist and a multilingual citizen of the world, I see the issue in a long-term cultural relativist light. People in my part of the world didn’t speak Swedish 1200 years ago and possibly they won’t 1200 years from now. Swedes didn’t know much English 100 years ago, and possibly they won’t 100 years from now. But they will continue to speak. And that’s what matters.

Lindblom, Per-Åke & Rubensson, Arne (eds). 2011. Svenskan – ett sprÃ¥k att äga, älska och ärva. Stockholm. 152 pp. ISBN 978-91-633-9292-4.

Update 8 November: And Språkförsvaret replies.