Great Spotted Woodpecker At My Window

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Take Cover, Yacht Cover Aloft

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The Dear Reader may remember that I recently reported from the hibernation grounds of the local yachting club. Here’s a photograph from the same site, taken by my dad. It demonstrates why you might want to weigh the winter cover for your boat down with water tanks like everybody except this one member has.

The Winged Man of UppÃ¥kra

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UppÃ¥kra near Lund is Scandinavia’s largest 1st millennium settlement site and may (for some definitions of “town”) have been the first town north of Germany. Its finds are absolute top-quality and occur in vast numbers. For many object types, there are now more specimens from UppÃ¥kra only than we used to have from all of Sweden. I’ve had the pleasure of working with some 7th/8th century brooch types from the site, and I always read news about the ongoing investigations at UppÃ¥kra with great interest.

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Now they’ve found something unique again. Rolf Petré calls it a mount, possibly for a small exclusive box. The style is in my opinion definitely 8th century (not late-10th as Petré suggests). The piece is unlikely to depict a Judaeo-Christian angel as Christianisation hadn’t come very far in Scandinavia at the time. But as the UppÃ¥kra team notes, Norse mythology offers two immediate interpretations: either a god wearing Freya’s magic falcon cloak, or Wayland the Smith wearing the feathered cloak he made to escape from his captivity with King Niðhad. The second option is attractive, I’d like to add, as we actually have a small exclusive 8th century box bearing Wayland’s image: the Franks Casket.

Congratulations (and huge envy) to the colleagues who get to dig at Uppåkra for a living! Note that thanks to them, this find has an exact, undisturbed stratigraphical context.

Hot Troll/Cow Action in Big One Magazine

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Bamse magazine is one of Sweden’s most beloved childrens’ publications, with a readership mainly about age 10. Its title character’s name does mean “The Big One”. But still, I must say that I was as surprised as Bamse himself and the squirrel when I saw what that troll is doing with such glee to the cow on the cover. Also, I wonder if those are silicone udders.

Sun Horses

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Scandinavian Bronze Age art features a number of motifs having to do with the movement of the sun through the heavens during the day and the underworld during the night. Here on Aard, we’ve previously seen a recently found sun-chariot rock carving, which most likely depicts a wheeled bronze model. But more commonly, there’s a horse pulling the sun’s disc across the sky without the benefit of wheels. This motif is known from several rock art sites on Sweden’s west coast.

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Awesome rock art surveying team Roger Wikell, Sven Gunnar Broström and Kenneth Ihrestam have recently found the first two sun horses on the east coast. One is at Gärstad near Linköping in Östergötland (above), the other at Uggelbo in SmÃ¥land where Joakim Goldhahn’s project is active (below). The three have a paper about the Gärstad find in Fornvännen’s upcoming autumn issue!

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I’m not one of those knowledge relativists who claim that the archaeological source material is constructed by the preconceptions of archaeologists. But I think these horses are clear examples of how important it is to have Roger & Co’s deep and wide knowledge of the iconography in order to find and identify the rarer motifs. A successful rock art surveyor does not just go around looking for scratches in the rock and filling them in mechanically with chalk. S/he needs to know what to look for. Several scholars had documented the Gärstad horse before without apparently reflecting on what the strange “antler” groove sticking out of the horse’s head might be, nor noting that the groove extends all the way to the large cupmark representing the sun. It pays to return to the archaeological record with new knowledge.

Joe’s Aard T-shirt Design

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Joseph Hewitt of Ataraxia Theatre is the artist who rendered almost the entire ScienceBlogs stable as zombies last summer. He has submitted the third t-shirt design, and when I saw it I thought, “Screw the reader’s poll, this is the one I want!”. So although I’d very proudly wear shirts with the designs by Stacy Mason and Jim Allen/Sweeney too, I’ve decided to go with Joe’s image. Keep your eyes open for a future sweepstakes.

Stacy’s Aard T-shirt Design

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Here’s the second t-shirt design suggestion, from Stacy Mason! Compare the first one from Jim Allen/Sweeney.

And Barn Owl has volunteered to distribute the shirts! So unless a third design comes my way soon, I’ll set up an on-line poll to decide which image goes onto the Aardvarchaeology t-shirts, and then place the order.