In front, a boulder upon which I found cupmarks. Behind, a Bronze Age burnt mound consisting of fire-cracked stones.
In order to study the landscape situation of something you need to know precisely where it is. This poses a problem when it comes to Bronze Age sacrificial finds, because they are almost never made by someone who can document the find spot. They used to be found by farmers and workers before anybody owned a map and before there was a national grid, and they are no longer found much at all.
Sacrificial finds, or “deposits”, are defined by two negatives: they are not in graves and not at settlements. Typically they are in a bog or river, or rarely by the side of a large boulder, or even more rarely just sitting on a dry ridge somewhere. In order to find them you need to dredge, ditch, reclaim, plough and dig enormous amounts of random earth and sediment. Do that in temperate Europe, and sooner or later you will find a Bronze Age deposit – provided you’re using a spade, not a mechanical excavator, or walking behind a horse-drawn plough, not riding a tractor in front. And archaeologists have never had the inclination or resources to dig randomly.
Nobody reclaims land in Sweden any more, no rivers are dredged for transportation purposes, nobody digs with a spade (unless they’re archaeologists) and nobody walks behind the plough. And so we don’t find these deposits any more. For most of the ones in the museum collections, we know only which hamlet in which parish produced each of them, but not which part of the hamlet’s land. And that sort of information is difficult to use on a landscape scale.
I had a great time today checking up on five finds in SÃ¶dermanland where we’re lucky enough to know pretty well where they came from. Three are in the upper reaches of River NykÃ¶pingsÃ¥n between Lake LÃ¥nghalsen and Christineholm manor. Two are on ridge tops east of Lake Sillen in VÃ¥rdinge parish. I’ve walked around, looked at sites, gotten to know the lay of the land, searched in the plough soil (“fieldwalking”) and taken a lot of photographs. I found some knapped quartz, a grindstone and a piece of slate whetstone (as usual). But I left them where they were since they didn’t really tell me anything useful and I didn’t feel like contributing to the collective amassing of humdrum data today. I did make one really nice find though: checking a boulder on a known Bronze Age settlement site with burnt mounds I discovered eight cupmarks, and that was without removing any moss. Strange that the surveyor didn’t find them back in the day. Judging from the dearth of known cupmarks in VÃ¥rdinge, I guess s/he was probably not very aware of them.
I encountered an elk, a lizard or slow worm, a flock of deer, sundry birds and a disgruntled gentleman farmer who didn’t like my walking on his sprouting wheat. I found a tree-house ruin, a satanic graffiti mural, many beaver-gnawed trees and a morel. It was a good day!
[More blog entries about archaeology, landscape, bronzeage, Sweden; arkeologi, landskap, bronsÃ¥ldern, SÃ¶dermanland.]