Ruin On An Islet

Christian Loven's plan of Landsjö Islet with letters marking on-going fieldwork.

Christian Loven’s plan of Landsjö Islet with letters marking on-going fieldwork.

Landsjö castle is on a high islet in the lake next to the modern manor house. Nobody ever goes there. The ruins are covered by vegetation and they’re in bad shape: only along the western side of the islet do they rise even a metre above the rubble and accumulated forest mulch. Visible is a 59-metre N-S stretch of perimeter wall with a preserved corner at either end, and a shorter W-E stretch of perimeter wall from the south-western corner. Along the inside of the visible wall are vague suggestions of two buildings including a corner tower and a cellar. The high walled northern part of the islet is divided from the southern part by a transversal dry moat. South of the moat on the lower part of the islet is a great pile of rubble. Before this week nobody knew what was under the rubble anywhere on the castle islet. Now we have borrowed a rowboat from Kimstad Parish Historical Society, opened four trenches in the ruins and started to get some answers.

Trench A seeks the north-east corner of the perimeter wall. I placed it here to investigate mortar and dressed stone pushed to the surface by a young oak. Katarina and Erik have found much brick and other rubble in the trench but no surviving masonry yet. Oddly, in addition to the recent animal bones commonly found in the topsoil, there are quite a lot of cremated bones here, species unknown, and a piece of vitrified brick. The topography suggests that the rubble we see may have fallen from masonry on a higher rock outcrop to the west of the trench.

In trench B, Andreas and Pikne are seeking the eastern stretch of the perimeter wall. Much brick rubble, animal bones and limestone slabs, a material we never encountered at Stensjö. We may have the wall in the trench but we do not know yet.

Ethan Aines and Ola Lindgren at work in trench C. Note that the wall they've found is the entire blocky chunk in front of them, not just the neat facing stones.

Ethan Aines and Ola Lindgren at work in trench C. Note that the wall they’ve found is the entire blocky chunk in front of them, not just the neat facing stones.

Trench C investigates a W-E terrace forming the south edge of the high level northern part of the bailey. Ethan and Ola immediately came upon a thick and well-preserved W-E wall, apparently dividing a high inner bailey from a low outer one. And protruding from this wall north into the inner bailey, another equally thick wall planned and built in the same construction phase, and with façade plaster still adhering to its western face. Much wall plaster was also found in the surrounding rubble. We seem to be dealing with a major building built as part of the dividing wall and with a plastered façade. Ola is screening the two square metres of culture layer accessible inside the building and our trench, and has found abundant bones including well-preserved fish bones.

Ethan and I opened trench D on Wednesday afternoon and we haven’t gone beneath the abundant topsoil yet. The trench is placed to investigate why the visible W-E stretch of perimeter wall ends right there. Is this a gate? The slope inside the wall is so steep that we have trouble climbing it. Having cleared the vegetation and mulch from the outer face of the W-E wall, I discovered something that might offer another explanation for how people entered the castle. Part of what looked like the exposed core of the W-E wall is in fact the core of a 2.2 metre wall or other structure extending south from it into the dry moat. Are we dealing with a drawbridge across the moat? Does the great rubble pile south of the moat represent a gate house that you had to pass through in order to cross the drawbridge and enter the castle’s outer bailey? Landsjö castle is looking as a stronger and stronger fortification every day.

E on the plan marks the pit left by a fallen tree at the western end of the dry moat. If time permits we will remove and examine the disturbed rubble in the tree pit as a sort of instant test pit, a trick commonly used in Stone Age fieldwork.


Brooch and Ruin Dwellers

With two days of digging and one day of backfilling left at Stensö Castle, trenches A and B have already given a rich harvest of new information.

The northern tower was a green ruin mound when we came to site. We now know that the tower was built entirely of greystone, it was round with a diameter of about 5.5 m, and it was planned and built together with the perimeter wall. The lost western half of the latter did not join the tower on a radial line. Instead more than half of the tower’s circumference was outside of the perimeter wall, allowing flanking, where bowmen in the tower could strafe along the perimeter wall and keep attackers from scaling or undermining it.

The western perimeter wall between the castle’s two towers was curved or angled, not straight, consisted mainly of greystone, and was 2.3 m thick. It has been very determinedly torn down, probably because someone decided to make Stensö Castle indefensible – effectively removing it from the war game’s board.

As to the lifestyle at the castle, the many animal bones from trench B have the potential to tell us a lot about meals eaten there. Until today we haven’t known at what time the layer with stones and bones was laid down, but today Malin found an eminently datable object in it, answering that question with a high degree of certainty. It’s a small silver annular brooch shaped like an inverted droplet and studded with six small blue glass domes, most of which are crizzled (Sw. glaspest). According to Pia Melin and Göran Tegnér, it dates from 1250-1350, more probably the earlier and middle part of that interval. This gives us a good chronological foothold between c. 1200, when the first part of the castle was built, and 1369, when Lord Holmger and Lady Sigrid celebrated their wedding and Stensö entered the historical record.

Trench C. Digital photogrammetry by Ethan Aines. That technique is feckin magic.

Trench C. Digital photogrammetry by Ethan Aines. That technique is feckin magic.

Trench C has the most interesting and complicated stratigraphy of the three. We’re now pretty sure that the rectangular stone house foundation partly visible above turf, and on which I orientated the trench, post-dates the end of the castle’s lifetime as a defensible structure. The foundation overlays a stone block that’s most likely fallen from the perimeter wall’s inner face, it consists of similar blocks, and it supports a particularly huge example of the same blocks. Also there is much eroded brick both under and on top of the foundation stones. So the foundation represents a house built among the castle’s ruins. Judging from the amount of animal bones in it, it was a dwelling. But we have only one tiny piece of pottery from it (glazed in yellowish brown on both sides, a post-Medieval trait) and we know nothing about its internal organisation. The castle was eroding before the house was built and it continued to erode after the house was abandoned, covering part of its remains.

I found the marleka concretion disc right next to one of the house’s foundation stones. This has been seen in Medieval house foundations at Åkroken in nearby Nyköping, and probably speaks of a custom of propitious building inauguration deposits. The custom survived into the 20th century though later usually involving steel implements and other magical charms.

All in all we haven’t yet reached the castle’s active use period in trench C. We’re putting the rest of our work there into the lowest-lying part of the trench, farthest from the perimeter wall. With luck we may still extract Medieval material here before we have to close the trench.

Update same day: I’m on regional radio’s streaming site, giving an interview on site in Swedish.

Found Two Walls And A Strange Disc

After four days of rubble removal in trench A, we found the south wall of Stensö Castle's northern tower. Note how the wall facing (left) ends, and a pale mass of wall core (lower right) emerges out of the tower. This is the castle's previously unseen western perimeter wall.

After four days of rubble removal in trench A, we found the south wall of Stensö Castle’s northern tower. Note how the wall facing (left) ends, and a pale mass of wall core (lower right) emerges out of the tower. This is the castle’s previously unseen western perimeter wall.

Our first week of two at Stensö is over, and already Chris, Fanny and Simon have made trench A answer the question we’ve asked of it. Way back in line with the trench’s top edge on the flank of the northern tower’s ruin mound, they’ve uncovered a neat wall face of dressed ashlar, and out of this tower wall projects an at least 2 m thick piece of perimeter wall. It retains only one facing stone in the bit we can see, but the perimeter wall’s core is of a piece with the tower’s, and the tower’s facing stones pause where the perimeter wall’s core links up. So now we know where the lost western part of the perimeter wall starts and we know that it was laid out in the same building campaign as the northern tower. Since the perimeter wall is secondary to the southern tower, as seen where the eastern part of it joins the tower, we thereby know that the northern tower is later than the southern one. In the 1.5 meter or so that is visible of the northern tower’s wall face, I can’t really tell if it had a circular or rectangular plan.

Christian Lovén's plan of Stensö Castle with our 2014 trenches marked ABC.

Christian Lovén’s plan of Stensö Castle with our 2014 trenches marked ABC.

Trench B is probably not quite on the line of the western perimeter wall, but Andreas and Malin are getting loads of varied animal bones out of it, and thus contributing to answering questions of the lifestyle at the castle.

Trench C. Note the lines of stone blocks forming a right angle, possibly for a house foundation, and the pale remains of a mortar layer.

Trench C. Note the lines of stone blocks forming a right angle, possibly for a house foundation, and the pale remains of a mortar layer.

In trench C we are now rid of the rubble, and so Ethan, Nora and Ola have switched from quick removal digging to painstaking stratigraphical excavation. A line of stone blocks reminiscent of a house-foundation crosses the trench at right angles to the similar line that was visible already before we broke turf. Between the new stone line and the perimeter wall is a layer of caked mortar, similar to one excavated by my colleague Lars Norberg at Nyköpingshus castle, and interpreted by him as traces of a construction or refurbishment event. Lars visited us the other day with a big bag of cookies and gave the students a great impromptu lecture about contract archaeology and the upcoming Cheese Link, Ostlänken, a major railway construction project that I hope will give my students employment opportunities in years to come.

And I have to brag about those students. I was pleased that so many signed up. But I was even more amazed when they told me that every one of my Umeå students from last autumn semester who is still on the programme has signed up. Fanny even came along on the dig despite leaving the archaeology programme for other subjects after the autumn semester. And they all work efficiently and intelligently, they shop for food and cook and do the dishes according to our equitable schedule, and they’re friendly and cheerful all around.

Sculpted limestone or stoneware disc, 65 by 5-6 mm, from trench C at Stensö Castle. What was it for?

Sculpted limestone or stoneware disc, 65 by 5-6 mm, from trench C at Stensö Castle. What was it for?

Anyway, trench C: under the mortar layer is grey clay with bones, and working at it yesterday I flipped up this funny little sculpted brown disc. The material is either limestone or a very fine stoneware. One face is flat and featureless. The abstract relief on the other face forms two concentric volutes around a skewed almond shape. The pattern can’t have been mirrored in the missing part as the bits that are visible reach across the symmetry/diameter line. I have no idea what it is. My friend and Fornvännen colleague Göran Tegnér says it might have been lid for a hypocaust flue only those are usually metal. Project advisor Lotta Feldt of the County Museum suggests that it may be a modified markleka, a calcium concretion common in the post-glacial clays of Östergötland. Any ideas, Dear Reader?

Finally, note the measuring rod in the fieldwork photographs and the scale bar in the find photograph. Both were 2007 gifts from Aard reader Twoflower! Been years since I saw him around the blog. Hope he returns.

Update next day: I’ve written about the Stensö excavations in Swedish for the County Museum’s blog.

Principles Of Wall Erosion, And Our Pulley

Medieval walls are usually shell walls, where you construct an inner and outer shell of finely fitted masonry while filling the space between them with a jumble of smaller stones and mortar. Usually the facing stones don’t project much into the core. When the wall is allowed to erode, once the cap stones have fallen off, the facing starts to peel from the core one ashlar or brick at a time from the top down. Before the resulting rubble layer’s top (rising) reaches the level of the wall’s eroding top (descending), halting erosion, you’ll see a ruinous wall that is thick and smooth-faced in its lower parts and thin and random-looking at the top, because up there only the wall core survives. And at the bottom of the thinner part, there’s a shelf on the topmost surviving facing stones.

In trench A we’re trying to find the northern tower’s outer wall face. The wall seems to be in really poor shape though. All the facing ashlar we find are in an inclined secondary position in the rubble scree, and we haven’t even found any solid wall core, just stones with the mortar still sticking to them in great clumps. We currently believe that any surviving wall facing is likely to be very far down the wall under a lot of rubble, possibly making it uneconomical and chancy to seek it with only seven fieldwork days left. I’m optimistic though that we may still find solid uneroded wall core in there before we give up the attempt. We’ve found no brick here.

Trench B, on flat ground, has given us a surprise. Instead of a rubble cover on and around the base of the torn-down perimeter wall, the trench is a deep solid mass of large ice-ground rounded stones with a lot of air pockets between them, and soil with a lot of bones: cow, sheep/goat, pig and fish. Few stones are dressed, none have the characteristic white coating of stones that have eroded out of a wall, and there is very little mortar or brick fragments in the trench. I really don’t know what to make of this. It’s not rubble. And if the material was put there to level the ground, why use big stones? Is it surplus building material, transported to site and never used? We’ll go down through it until either the stone layer gives out or the trench becomes too cramped for us to be able to go on. It’s only 1.5 m wide at turf level.

Our landlord Niclas has kindly lent us a pulley. We spent the afternoon learning to use it, dragging a great big gneiss block out of trench C and onto the nearby turf. It’s magic!

Starting Up At Stensö

Stensö castle, trench C, the part along the perimeter wall. Note the ashlar.

Stensö castle, trench C, the part along the perimeter wall. Note the ashlar.

Drove down to Vikbolandet on Sunday night with my excellent colleague Ethan Aines from Stanford, and we were met at expedition HQ by seven of my Umeå students from last autumn semester. Very pleased to see them again! They’ve just finished their second term and several are scheduled to go on to the third. So I’ll be seeing them in the halls in September when I take on my second batch of Umeå freshmen, and if I’m lucky I’ll get to supervise a few of them for their BA theses. Everyone’s being charming and nobody complains about dorm life. Last night I taught the team Qwirkle. This morning there was a big mouse in one of our traps in the kitchen.

We started work at Stensö castle on Monday morning, clearing the walking path of a few storm-felled trees and laying out three trenches. We’re the first archaeologists to break turf here, true to my modus operandi. I don’t have contract archaeology’s resources, but I have the freedom to go where I will for fieldwork (except so far the peripheral innards of the Sättuna barrow, the only time I’ve had a permit application turned down, which still irks me), so I select sites that will never be touched by highway projects and which are not already well explored and understood.

Trench A is on the flank of the mound that marks the castle’s assumed northern tower. No masonry shows through the turfed-over rubble here. The trench aims to answer the question whether the northern tower was planned and built along with the perimeter wall when it was added to the site. If so, we can expect to find stones projecting out of the tower wall’s face to anchor the perimeter wall – which has been demolished along this stretch and is not currently visible.

Trench B is between the two towers and aims to answer the question where the perimeter wall was on this stretch.

Trench C is in the south-east part of the bailey against the perimeter wall and aims to answer the questions what sort of buildings stood there and what they were used for.

So far we’re just moving rubble. It contains a few humongous gneiss ashlar (Sw. gråstenskvader) which we cannot lift and don’t want to get crushed by. I’m thinking we can probably drag the ashlar out of trench C with a pulley anchored to a tree. Getting a mechanical excavator to this hilltop site in the woods would cost too much. This is only a problem in trench C where the goal is to get beneath the rubble and into a Medieval culture layer.

We’ve already made an interesting find. Trenches B and C have yielded a small amount of deformed vitrified brick that attests to a fire on site. These secondarily burnt bricks may come from the top part of the perimeter wall. Perhaps there was a wooden walkway along the inside of the wall, it got torched and some of the brickwork got messed up. There is no written evidence for any attack on the castle, but rebellion leader Engelbrekt’s forces took nearby Rönö castle in the 1430s and Stensö was not far out of their way.

Signing off, Tuesday lunch. Two students are making pancakes!

Stensö castle, trench C, the part along the perimeter wall. Note the ashlar.

Stensö castle, trench C, section through the rubble.

Heading For My Dig

It’s Sunday morning and I’m getting ready for four weeks of excavations. I haven’t done any digging since the Pukberget cave dig in 2011, and my last multi-week dig with a big team was at Sättuna in 2008. So it’s high time, and I’m excited. Getting stuff from my study, packing stuff at home, buying some extra tools and a lot of food.

My crew of ten will be assembling at a farm-labourers’ dorm in Östra Husby starting tonight, and tomorrow we break turf at Stensö castle ruin as the first archaeologists to dig there. Most team members are first-year students from Umeå whom I taught during the autumn term. Other participants are friends and colleagues. It’s going to be an archaeological hippie commune – I’m cooking lentil soup for dinner tomorrow! And I’m bringing Medieval-themed geeky boardgames. Stay tuned for updates!

Viking Farmer’s Rest Disturbed by Badgers and Potatoes

Spent the day digging with my friends Mattias Pettersson and Roger Wikell like so many times before. I like to join them on their sites for a day every now and then (2007, 2008, 2010). The two are mainly known as Mesolithic scholars, but I have been with them on a Neolithic and a Bronze Age site as well on previous occasions. And this time they’re straight up my own alley of research: they’re digging the largest of the Viking Period burial mounds in Tyresta hamlet’s southern cemetery. Measuring eleven meters in diameter and about one-and-a-half in height, it’s a pretty imposing structure placed on the apex of the cemetery hill within view of the hamlet.

Viking Period burial mound with collapsed badger set

The Tyresta Foundation funds the excavation because they want to enhance the cultural attraction of this well-preserved rural milieu on the edge of a forest preserve. And the County Archaeologist gave them permission because the mound has been badly damaged by a potato cellar dug into it centuries ago. Using my new metal detector I soon found that the entire mound is strewn thickly with nails or similar small iron objects. Some may be from the disturbed eleven centuries old cremation layer at its heart, but most are probably from the superstructure of the cellar and later trash accumulation.

Sieving for cremains

When the guys de-turfed the mound they found the remains of a long-abandoned badger set on the side opposite to the cellar. The badgers’ spoil dump forms a wide fan of charcoal-darkened earth down the slope of the mound. And after I gave up on the metal detecting I spent the afternoon digging and sieving this fan. We found a lot of cremated human bones, a clench nail, a tiny bit of pottery and (as spotted by osteologist Sara Gummesson) a fragment of an antler comb. This is clearly stuff that the badgers have excavated from the mound’s core and deposited outside their set. In order to date the burial all one would have to do were to send one of the bone frags to a radiocarbon lab. But the Foundation wants something to exhibit on site, and they want the mound reconstructed. So on the dig goes. I hope for some fun surprises in what remains of the burial. But it’s most likely a male one as no beads or molten copper alloy from jewellery have shown up yet. Male cremation burials of this period are rarely rich in the area.

Antler comb fragment with incised dot-circle decoration

Has the Home Guard been playing with their guns here? Dimensions 37 x 7 mm and 23 x 12 mm

Apart from nails, my only detector finds were two bullets from a hunting rifle, one in the turf strip left on the section baulk across the mound under excavation, another in the spoil dump of an active badger set in a nearby smaller mound. Funnily they don’t show the damage you’d expect if they’d been fired into the ground, and I found no cartridges. The larger third bullet that the guys found looks like somebody with a Dirty Harry fantasy has been target practising here. Maybe a member of the Home Guard who used to meet nearby. Can somebody identify the ammo?

Update next evening: Comments Dear Reader Franz J, “The smaller bullets are both full-jacketed military rather than hunting projectiles. These long blunt bullets date 1890s to perhaps 1930s – later bullets were shorter and sharp-pointed. They could have been fired when new or 50 years later. … 6.5mm was the Swedish military caliber from 1890′s to 1960s. The fatter bullet appears unjacketed (solid lead alloy) and may be 12.17mm caliber from the Remington rifles the Swedish Army used 1867-1890s, but military ammo differed little from hunting ammo for black powder rifles.”

Three Days Digging in a Cave


Few Swedish caves contain any known archaeology, and those that do mainly feature Mesolithic and Neolithic habitation layers. The Pukberget (“Devil’s Mountain”) cave near Enköping is a rare exception. In the mid-20th century a fox hunter crawled into the cave and felt his way around. His questing hands encountered something on a ledge which he put in his coat pocket. When he came out into the open air, he saw that he’d found a bronze spearhead and a horse tooth. Both are now in the Museum of National Antiquities. The spearhead dates from the Late Bronze Age, about 700 BC.

I’ve spent the past three days at Pukberget in a joint bid with the Stockholm County Museum to find further archaeology there. With my hard-working colleagues Magdalena Forsgren and Margareta Boije, I dragged a lot of equipment up the hill and into the cave, which is a beautiful maze of cracks between huge gneiss blocks formed when the hill shattered in some ancient post-glacial earthquake. We opened two square-meter pits in the floor layer, dug them down to rock (c. 35 cm) and screened the layers in lamplight. Sadly we found no sign of any human presence beneath the late-20th century hiker’s fireplaces with their tea-candle cups, broken bottles and pieces of smashed flashlights. Instead there was just a layer of clean beige sediment deposited before the ceiling rock started to flake. A half-metre square in the toss zone below the fine overhang outside one of the cave entrances proved similarly unenlightening. It was fun and exotic to dig in a cave, though.

As my fieldwork habits go, 2011 has been a good year from a variety perspective, with work at six different sites within one project. My luck has not been great though: hardly any relevant finds at all. This is not unexpected since I’m playing a much higher-risk game this time around. You can’t miss the 1st millennium graves I wrote my thesis about. The coeval settlements that I’ve worked with in recent years are also pretty easy to pick up. Not so with the sacrificial sites of the Bronze Age.

Boggy Test Pit


In the Lake Mälaren area of Sweden, you rarely find any large pieces of Bronze Age metalwork in graves or at settlement sites. When the beautiful larger objects occur – axe heads, spear heads, swords, neck rings, belt ornaments – they almost exclusively come from odd find contexts that I for one feel comfortable with terming sacrificial deposits. My current main project aims to find out the rules that decided where people made sacrificial deposits. This entails looking at the finds we already know of and trying to trace the find spots, which is difficult as most finds were made about 1900 by members of the public. This strange time framing has to do with the fact that most of the sacrifices were made in wetlands, and the wetlands of the Lake Mälaren area were mainly messed with by the public during the decades to either side of 1900.

I want to be able to predict where these sites are and dig them in their untouched state, thus helping to reinvigorate a field of study that has languished for lack of new data for half a century.

This far into my studies, I’m not very optimistic about finding any useful regularities regarding the dry land sacrifices. They are a minority of the finds, and dry land occupies a great majority of the area involved. I’m afraid that any rules I may be able to propose will be too vague to tell me where to dig. But with wetlands, it may be another thing. Far more finds and a far smaller percentage of the area.

In the past weeks I have finished primary data collection on the known finds and run some simple numbers. Looking at finds that are at least potentially from wetlands by parish, Skogs-Tibble near Uppsala leads the field. And a closer look showed me that the numbers represent a belt of finds scattered through three parishes, from Österunda through Skogs-Tibble to Vänge, with some peripheral occurrences in parishes to the sides. So at this point in the evolution of my model, it’s basically like this:

Look in the Skogs-Tibble scatter. In wetlands. About 1.5 km from burnt mounds and rock-art sites.

And that’s what I did Friday. Near the site scatter’s centre of mass is an oblong lake basin in Skogs-Tibble that has steadily been silting up since getting cut off from the Baltic some time in the Neolithic (current surface 37 m a.s.l.). Only at the centre is there still a small area of open water, while the rest is all bog. In 1891, someone found a bronze flanged-axe head of c. 1400 BC while digging at an unspecified point in the eastern half of the basin. Most likely the digging had something to do with drainage, that is, reclaiming strips of dry land along the basin’s edges to improve forestry. I fought through the undergrowth at the basin’s edge, had a look around, and then settled for a spot to sink a test pit.

You’ll have to understand that I’m pretty new to wetland archaeology, which has never been a big pastime among my colleagues in the region. We don’t really have a tradition. Opening that test pit was a first step for me in learning about how these places really look under the spongy ground surface. And I made a stupid mistake that I could have saved myself if I had remembered what I learned while digging at Djurhamn and Finnestorp in recent years. Maybe you’ll laugh at me, but anyway:

A lake basin is usually deepest at the centre. And my pit was almost as near the centre of this basin as I could get without diving into the lake. I had to remove 1.5 metres of finely layered Phragmites australis reed-root peat before I reached open-water sediment. When I was finished, that pit was deeper than my wife is tall, and it was surrounded by an embankment of turves. And I was grimy from head to toe.

So, what did I learn? Well, in the reed peat were a few well-preserved (though very soft) sticks and other pieces of wood that showed no sign of human modification. They suggest drier woodland episodes. I only went beneath the peat on a 0.5 sqm surface, stooping in the shaft. There was no identifiable organic lake sediment, just a thin layer of coarse sand and sharp-edged gravel, then clean grey glacial clay that was laid down long before the Bronze Age. No artefacts. The spot has been a reed belt for thousands of years, probably since before the basin became landlocked.

Next time I’ll spend comparable labour digging several shallower pits instead, closer to the respective basin’s edge where the sediment pillar above the Bronze Age level is lower. Live & learn.

Lead Seal and Engine Spec Plate, 20th Century


Today I did four hours of metal-detecting at a site in VÃ¥rdinge where a Wendelring bronze torque from about 600 BC has been found. Reiner Knizia’s popular card game Lost Cities has a thinly applied archaeological theme, and on the board is actually an image of a Wendelring torque just like the one from VÃ¥rdinge. (A Lost Cities deck can easily be made from two packs of normal playing cards using a marker pen on a few cards.)

The torques often come in twos and threes, so I was hoping to find another one today. In early April when my team was there, the site was still largely covered with snow and melt water, but today was a beautiful summer day. No Late Bronze Age torque though: only a lot of 20th century stuff, mainly rifle cartridges, bullets and bottle tops.

Two of the finds are inscribed and kind of fun.


The older one is a lead seal used to seal something tied up with string. It bears the legends “SALVSJÖ- QVARN” and “STOCKHOLM”. This is funny because a) it’s a typo for Saltsjöqvarn, and b) the place is in my home municipality Nacka. It was a major industrial flour mill that operated from 1890 to 1988.



To someone with my background, Baldor is a prince of the Rohirrim in Tolkien’s Middle-earth (Anglo-Saxon Cossacks, to use the recently deceased Diana Wynne Jones’s term) who makes a drunken vow and enters the Paths of the Dead, never to be seen again. To a 20th century Swedish farmer or an inhabitant of Fort Smith, Arkansas, however, Baldor is a maker of electrical motors. The company is still around and was bought last year by ABB, an industrial multinational with some Swedish roots.


The VM3542 motor whose spec plate I found is still made and retails for about $275. Don’t know if a date of manufacture can be inferred from the punched info on the plate.