New Guide Book on Medieval Uppland

Sweden’s traditionally divided into 25 landskap provinces. They live on in people’s minds despite having been superseded by a new län division in 1634. The boundaries of the landskap go way back into prehistory, and so they don’t respect the country’s cities much, these generally being much later in origin.

Stockholm is a case in point. Today’s urban area is neatly bisected by the boundary between Uppland and Södermanland provinces. Two years ago myself and other Stockholmers got half of our High Medieval itches scratched by a fine archaeological guide book covering Södermanland. Now Johan Anund and Linda Qviström have returned with a book that sees to our Uppland needs as well.

Det medeltida Uppland is just as jam-packed with goodies as the previous book, full of interesting information and lovely pictures. As I wished for in 2010, the new book has GPS coordinates. But it still does not have a table of contents that covers subheadings, nor individual page headers. These things might be worth thinking about for the volume on the Medieval city of Stockholm that is also forthcoming. (I have written on that subject here before upon reading Nils Ahnlund.)

Here are some tidbits that caught my interest especially.

  • A 14th century legal code for Trögd hundred regarding forestry survives, Trögdbolagen.
  • The Alsnöhus runestone sits on Viking Period culture layers and may have been relocated there as part of the 13th century palace project.
  • In 1937 the Medieval ruins of Svartsjö castle were excavated and the small finds were placed in the nearby Early Modern castle. In 1963 the finds were found dumped on the ground nearby.
  • Häverö church had Late Medieval murals depicting i.a. a nude woman biting on the Devil’s fishing hook (cf. the nude sinners in Bosch’s Last Judgement). In 1825 the murals were destroyed because they were seen as indecent.
  • Svinnegarn church, a regional pilgrimage site, had 12 kg of silverware confiscated by the Crown after the Reformation.
  • There’s a Medieval miracle story about warlike zombies, illustrated by a well-preserved mural in Biskopskulla church. (More on this in a future blog entry.)

I do find, however, that the copy editing and proof reading is sub-par. One thing that grates particularly on my sensibilities is the many comma splices where independent clauses are breathlessly stacked on top of each other with commas between them, not conjunctions or periods. On p. 170, for instance, we find this monster (and I translate):

The purpose of the church porches is controversial, they probably acted both as chapels and assembly halls, sometimes ecclesiastical courts may have convened there.

All in all, though, the book is a fine addition to the popular literature on the Scandy Middle Ages for people who like to visit sites, not just read about wars and royalty.

Author: Martin R

Dr. Martin Rundkvist is a Swedish archaeologist, journal editor, skeptic, atheist, lefty liberal, bookworm, boardgamer, geocacher and father of two.

3 thoughts on “New Guide Book on Medieval Uppland”

  1. Is there an easily discernable difference in dialects between Uppland and Södermanland, mirroring the geography of ancient politys? Yes I realise the growth of Stockholm will have blurred those boudnaries.
    — — — — —
    “warlike zombies”? try “Patient Zero” by wossname. Good overall, even if the ending was predictable.


  2. There’s a dialect map of Uppland and Södermanland on p. 55 in Språken i Sverige (2010), the language volume of the National Atlas. Mapping only a couple of parameters, it suggests that the dialects care neither for landskap nor län boundaries. A single dialect province incorporates Enköping, Stockholm, Södertälje and all of Södertörn.


  3. The book design flaw that I most often notice in academic books is the following combination: no chapter titles at page headers, no chapter or “notes to pp. X-Y” at footnote header, and footnotes numbered by chapters. It forces the serious reader to coordinate three things at three different parts of the book as they try to check a reference (mark the number, look back to the chapter head or table of contents for the chapter number, look forward to the notes to find the note) at which point they have probably forgotten where they came from.


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