New Book on the Early History of the Stockholm Archipelago

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In addition to the archive reports on my two seasons of fieldwork at the Late Medieval and Early Modern harbour of Djurhamn, I have now published a paper that discusses and interprets the results. It’s in a symposium volume from the Royal Academy of Letters, edited by my friend Katarina Schoerner and bearing the name SkärgÃ¥rd och Örlog. Nedslag i Stockholms skärgÃ¥rds tidiga historia. (“Archipelago and naval warfare. Case studies in the early history of the Stockholm archipelago”). Other contributors are Jonathan Adams, Kajsa Althén, Jan Glete, Sven Lilja, Peter Norman, Mary Pousette, Johan Rönnby and Bengt Windelhed.

Order the book here if you read Scandy!

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Archaeological Namesakes

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I’ve been publishing stuff in Fornvännen since 1994. But making a vanity search in the journal’s on-line version, I found that I am not the first Rund??ist in Fornvännen’s history. My family name was mentioned once in those pages before I showed up.

In 1935, Bengt Hildebrand published a bibliographical essay in Fornvännen titled (and I translate), “Notes on the bibliography of Swedish numismatics and archaeological historiography”. It covers writings about coins and the history of archaeology. And on page 285 we find mention of one G.H. Rundquist who had published a “Catalogue of the coin and medal collection in Växjö high school as well as similar collections united with it though belonging to the Museum of SmÃ¥land in Växjö”. The man’s full name was Gustaf Hilding Rundquist, and he was custodian of that collection from 1916 to 1965, almost 50 years.

Says Lars Thor (and I translate),

“Hilding Rundquist had an unbelievable working capacity. It is also told that during his many years as a teacher he did not take a single day of sick leave, and that he and his wife were known to entertain a considerable number of friends in their home. Taking into account that Rundquist, apart from all this, was also an active lodge member and enthusiastic choir singer, the picture of him of course becomes even more impressive.”

And other Rund??ists in Swedish archaeology? Apparently none who have written very much. There’s Sten Rundkvist and Harry Rundqvist and Bengt & Maj Rundquist and Lisa Rundqvist Nilsson who have all made unpretentious contributions to the literature. And then there’s me. No relation of the others, to my knowledge.

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Swedish Research Council Releases Funding Lists

The Swedish Research Council just released the list of researchers who are getting funding this year. The following archaeological projects are on the list.

  • Ingela Bergman: Trade, trade routes and Sami settlements — socio-economic networks in northern Sweden AD 1000-1500.
  • Gunilla Eriksson: Individual relationships — cultural diversity and interaction in Neolithic Poland.
  • Henrik Gerding: Lateres coctiles — the early use of fired brick in Europe.
  • Ulf Hansson: “The Linnaeus of Archaeology” — Adolf Furtwängler and the great systematisation of Classical Antiquity.
  • Ragnar Hedlund: Propaganda and dialogue — visual media and societies in the Roman empire.
  • Kristian Kristiansen: National data base for rock-carving documentation and research.
  • Johan Ling: Was copper ore mined in Sweden during the Bronze Age? Reality, mode of thought or myth? A comparative study of lead isotopes between bronze objects and copper ore in Dalsland, Värmland and north-east SmÃ¥land provinces.

Congratulations, guys! There is almost always somebody on the list that makes me whince and grind my teeth, but not this time. Eriksson and Ling are awesome, they really deserve some dough.

Anti-Monarchist

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Last night somebody googled the phrase “martin rundqvist republikan” and ended up here on my blog. Note the K: this person probably didn’t wonder if I’d vote for Sarah Palin. They wondered what I think about the Swedish constitution, which provides the country with a decorative king. Outside the US, “republican” means “anti-monarchist”. And yes, I am an anti-monarchist. I think it’s a disgrace that the Scandy countries, which are among the world’s strongest democracies, are still symbolic monarchies. And I think it’s deeply wrong that the hapless royals are born into their golden cage.

But there’s a paradoxical twist to this issue. When polled, most Swedes voice strong support for the current constitution and the royal house. So although monarchy is by its very nature undemocratic, it would be undemocratic to take monarchy away from the Swedish voters. Republikanism (with a K) is in fact a minority position of the intellectual elite in Scandinavia. And if we’d decide that anybody who supports monarchy is too stupid to be allowed to vote, then bang goes our strong democracy. So I tend not to think too much about the issue.

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Marzipan Gold Hoard

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In 1995 a gold hoard was found at Vittene in Norra Björke parish, Västergötland. Its contents had been amassed over two centuries, and it was committed to the earth in the 3rd century AD. A fine book on the find and subsequent settlement excavations has recently been published and is available in full on-line.

Below is a picture of the Vittene hoard. Above is a picture of a replica of the hoard made of marzipan and gold leaf by Sören Elmqvist for the 1995 Christmas market at the county museum.

Thanks to Niklas Ytterberg for the tipoff.

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5th Century Regional Brooch Design

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Here’s a piece of fragmentology. In the 19th century a brooch (inset) was found at Vistena in Allhelgona parish, Östergötland. It’s a copper-alloy piece decorated with embossed silver sheet panels in the Nydam style, approx. AD 375-450. In 2008 a member of my metal detector team found part of a similar brooch at Sättuna in Kaga parish, a few tens of kilometers east of Vistena. Apparently we’re dealing with a regional metalworking tradition. The complete brooch measures 57 mm across the head plate, the fragment 42 mm.

Velvet Bolete Orgy

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My wife and I made a short mushrooming excursion to Lake Lundsjön after lunch. Little more than half an hour in the woods garnered us only four species, but huge amounts of one: velvet bolete. We went home early simply because we didn’t need more mushrooms. I’m stewing them with cream. Never had shingled hedgehog before.

  • Velvet bolete, Sandsopp, Suillus variegatus
  • King bolete, Stensopp/Karl Johan, Boletus edulis
  • Red russula, Tegelkremla, Russula decolorans
  • Shingled hedgehog, Fjällig taggsvamp, Sarcodon imbricatus

Archaeological Fatherhood

Back in April of 2008 I mused that strictly chronologically speaking, at 36 I was already a mid-career academic since I started working at 20 and retirement age is currently 65. I’m still years from the age when people get academic jobs in my discipline, 41, but anyway.

Yesterday I had two experiences that opened my eyes to the fact that I am now an archaeological dad. By that I mean that there are at least two fields where work I once did is no longer the Stand der Forschung, but where vigorous new studies refer to and build upon my old stuff. I am a member of the parental generation in Swedish archaeology.

In 1992, about the time I turned 20, I finished an MA thesis about burnt mounds, weird Bronze Age structures consisting of fire-cracked stone mixed with apparent household garbage and often burials. It was published in Fornvännen two years later (and that contact with the journal’s editors became a life-changer for me). The title was “Burnt mounds with burials in the easternmost part of the Lake Mälaren area”.

Now I’m the journal’s managing editor. Yesterday I started copy-editing Anna-Sara Noge’s contribution to the up-coming winter issue. Her paper (based on this MA thesis of hers) is titled “Burnt mounds containing human bones in the region north of Lake Mälaren”. Where I had only anonymous bone concentrations in burnt mounds, she has complete osteological evaluations of all bones from a large number of mounds. She brings new data to the question why on Earth those Bronze Age weirdos were burying people in garbage heaps. And she agrees with what my friend Lars Lundqvist wrote in 1991 and I wrote after him: the modern category of “garbage” probably isn’t relevant when studying the society of Bronze Age Sweden.

In 1993 I spent most of the fieldwork season working on Magnus Artursson’s excavation of Bollbacken, a Middle Neolithic seal hunting site of the Pitted Ware culture near Västerås. As these sites go, it had an uncommonly landward location inside the great Baltic bay formed by the Lake Mälaren basin at the time. We found lots of post-supported trapezoid hut foundations, and I’m proud to say that as I digitised all the field plans over the following winter, I actually identified most of those huts myself since nobody had been able to see the big picture while we were digging. We also found a mortuary building which I dug together with Claes Hadevik, a number of Pitted Ware cremation graves (which were almost unheard of before Bollbacken), a Pre-Roman Iron Age cremation urn cemetery, and a single 7th century grave which was the sort of thing we had originally expected to dig. (We were actually called the “grave group” at the start of the season.)

At the time I had already decided to write my PhD thesis about Late Iron Age matters, so I didn’t ask to be given any writing duties on the Bollbacken archive report. In fact, I didn’t trust anyone else on the team to organise and register all the finds to a sufficient level of Ordnung, so I spent that winter as our finds and digitising man. Umm, kid, I guess.

And yesterday I received Åsa M. Larsson’s PhD thesis. She wasn’t on the Bollbacken dig, but a big chunk of her book is an in-depth study of the cremation burials and associated structures from Bollbacken! I can’t wait to read it!

Neither Noge nor Larsson is anywhere near young enough to be my daughter, and I certainly don’t claim any paternal authority in those two fields that I’ve been away from for so long. (I’m actually preparing to return to Bronze Age studies as a humble student.) But I’m very proud to see that my brain babies are having babies of their own now. That proves to me that the work I put in back in the day was worthwhile.

Fresh New Site, 5000 Years Old

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People in the Lake Mälaren area were on to Neolithisation immediately, with agriculture and stock breeding and pottery and sedentary life, when the package became available around 4000 cal BC. But then they said “oh, screw it” and spent most of the the Middle Neolithic as seal hunters and fishers again. My Stone Age bros Roger Wikell and Mattias Pettersson have descended from their Mesolithic heights (post-glacial land uplift and shore displacement, remember) and are now looking at Middle Neolithic sites in locations that were quite extreme at the time — way, way out in the Baltic. And you had to travel by canoe to get there. The above finds are from a new site M&P discovered on just north of the GÃ¥lö peninsula earlier today! 5000 years old, pottery-making seal hunters of the Pitted Ware culture, you saw them here first. And tomorrow I’m joining the guys out there for some digging.

Phobos-bound Tardigrades Portrayed

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Stacy L. Mason is an Aard regular and a talented artist. Check out his awesome interpretation of the Swedish tardigrades that are going to Phobos!


In other news, I have issues with the lyrics of the Kick-Ass Mystic Ninjas podcast‘s theme song, a fine ska tune by 7 Seconds of Love.

I’m gonna flip out like a ninja
‘Cause that’s what ninjas do
I’m gonna flip out like a ninja
And you should flip out too

The thing that throws me here is the word “because”. When deciding on important matters such as whether or not to flip out, Dear Reader, I feel that a person should have a stronger justification than just referring to the habits of ninjas.