July Pieces Of My Mind #1


  • Two additional Viking Period boat inhumation graves are being excavated at the known Old Uppsala cemetery. One is a weapon burial with a horse and a dog.
  • It’s odd how often neo-Nazis deny the Holocaust at the same time as they threaten to kill Jews. What’s their position? “We haven’t mass-murdered any Jews … so far! It’s all lies! But we’d sure like to.”
  • I am upset that people vote for xenophobic parties and politicians. But I am in fact even more upset that they keep voting repeatedly for stupid and ignorant petty criminals who have no ability to get anything useful done.
  • Very pleased to have identified the Persian ruin site of Tsiel Monar that Nils Mattsson Kiöping mentions with Čehel Menār, “Forty Minarets”, the Early Modern name for the ruins of Persepolis.
  • The Swedish monthly for employees of local and regional government, Dagens Samhälle, has asked all the country’s municipal chairpersons about their role models. Most representatives of the Moderate (Conservative) party replied “Thatcher”. This includes the head of my home municipality, Nacka.
  • Some notes on Def Leppard’s 1992 hit “Let’s Get Rocked “. 1. The production is strikingly reminiscent of Roxette. 2. There are so many funny sound effects that it’s almost a Spike Jones novelty tune. 3. The lyrics suggest incorrectly that driving a woman around in a car will make her erotically enthusiastic. My wife assures me that it would have no effect either way.
  • Boo Vintage Books. You can’t publish a collection of Rushdie’s essays and criticism without an appendix detailing when and where they were originally published.
  • 30 years later I realise why the patois-speaking man in the Zingo soft-drink commercial sounded mentally challenged. He wasn’t saying “Can – aaah-nuh-aaah – have another one?” He said “Can I-and-I have another one?”.
  • Went to the library to borrow a P.F. Hamilton paperback novel. Discovered that it weighs a kilo. Decided to pay $9.5 for the Kindle version instead.
  • Fell down a Wikipedia rabbit hole, reading about the German Wandervogel movement’s afterlife in California and its influence on 60s US counterculture. It’s the link between Rudolph Steiner and Nat King Cole!
  • … and more summer reading: Edith Unnerstad, Ted Chiang, Peter F. Hamilton.

Nils Mattsson Kiöping at Suakin, Egypt

Here’s another two chapters of my ongoing translation of Nils Mattsson Kiöping’s 1667 travelogue. These chapters end the book’s section on the Red Sea region.


Chapter 25: Egypt, Suakin
…where we arrived on the 25th September. When we came there we were severely questioned over whether we were pirates. We bought water from them and loaded the ships with the finest available mummy (or dead human bodies). We bought this mummy from the Jews. We were not allowed to enter the town, so the Jews came to us. Many Christians visited us, and as I understood it, there would be great numbers of Christians there, and the Catholics would have three monasteries in there. They get this mummy from the Arabian desert or Sea of Sand, out of the sand, who has been smothered in it, and shrivelled up from the sun’s heat like a dried fish.

Chapter 26: Writing in the Near East
The Arabs, Armenians, Medes and Persians all use the same letters for writing, also paper made from cotton which is as smooth as if it had been gone over with a whetstone. Instead of a quill they use a straw or a reed. When their children begin to learn to write they are given (instead of paper, quill and ink) a little thin board, about an ell long, and a little sack or bag of fine sand which they sprinkle thinly on the board. And so they learn to draw the letters with their finger in the sand, until they can make them correctly. Then they get pen and ink.

June Pieces Of My Mind #3



  • Botulf of Gottröra, one of Sweden’s best-documented Medieval heretics, was burnt at the stake in 1311 or 1312 after a lengthy investigation for refusing to believe in the Transsubstantiation of the Host.
  • Fassbinder means Cooper.
  • The best scifi conventions are the ones that you can cycle to from your home.
  • The Visby Medieval Week encourages you to dress up in historic costume. I certainly will. I’m going as a 1980s fantasy LARPer, wearing my own original 1980s outfit!
  • Mid-summer hiking pix from Vålådalen in Jämtland.
  • In his youth, Houdini worked as a spirit medium. He liked to prepare each seance by going to the local cemetery and try to find a knowledgeable old drunk to talk to about the dead. Among Lovecraftians, this is known as the Zadok Allen method of investigation.
  • My summer reading: Bernard Cornwell, Magnus Västerbro, Åke Holmberg, Salman Rushdie, Stephen Jay Gould. (I read lots of female writers in the winter and spring.)

Eskilstuna Knife Renovation

20190624_112025Somebody gave my dad a knife when he was maybe 11, in about 1954. It’s from the Pontus Holmberg factory in Eskilstuna, Sweden’s one-time knife-smith capital. When they made my dad’s knife they had less than ten years left in the business. Eskilstuna once had about 200 knife factories, but only EKA-knivar (est. 1882) and Knivsmedjan survive.

My dad used his knife to whittle pine-bark boats and gut fish. Eventually he had sons of his own and gave the knife to me, the older, in the early 80s. My first knife! Sadly, by this time the leather of the sheath was brittle and something soon went wrong with the grip. A repair attempt ended up bending the grip, and the sheath could no longer be hung from my belt. So my parents gave me a new knife for my hiking-club activities, from Frost in Mora. I kept the old messed-up knife though, out of respect for its age and association with my dad.

Recently I started to think about the old Holmberg knife when I was planning a mountain hike. 1st Millennium AD swords were often taken apart, their grips re-used, the parts juggled and recombined. This was important to elite masculinity and patrilineal ideology. Maybe I could get my dad’s knife renovated and start using it again?

Some googling and correspondence with Torbjörn Eriksson of the web site Eskilstunaknivar.se led me to the aforementioned Knivsmedjan in Eskilstuna, Jan Hammar’s business. He has renovated countless Eskilstuna knives, and readily took on my dad’s. Now, just look at that work! Every single piece is original except for the little brass nut at the butt end and one of the thin red vulcanised fiber slices in the grip. I am so very pleased, and I look forward to bringing the Holmberg knife on many future hikes!


Nils Mattsson Kiöping Still On Mount Sinai

Here’s another chapter of my ongoing translation of Nils Mattsson Kiöping’s 1667 travelogue. I’ve introduced a paragraph division for legibility.

Chapter 24: Sinai part 3
There is nothing on Horeb except for some guard houses for Arab soldiers. Having enjoyed four days and nights there, we said farewell to the Fathers, Catholics and Romans as well as Greeks, who accompanied us with a great entourage off the mountain, as follows. First the Litany was sung and then they read a blessing over us. When the Greek priests learned that we were leaving, their Prelate came to us with his entire retinue in the Carmelite monastery, where we had stayed, and coaxed us to dine with him. First Mass was celebrated, and then the food was set out. After we had eaten there was another Mass, and then we said farewell to them. But both the Greek and the Latin priests followed us off the mountain, singing all the way. All of them were dressed in Mass vestments, some carrying candles, some crosses, books or holy water.

Having thus descended from the mountain in such company, we found a number of mules and water at the ready for our trek to the ship. We reclaimed our weaponry, and again they read a blessing over us and sprinkled us with holy water. We then mounted and left. Two of these monks came with us and showed us many famous sites along the way. In particular, half a mile from the mountain, a completely dry place where they said that Aaron’s children Nadab and Abihu were consumed by fire. From there to another place where they said that the Children of Israel would have raised the golden calf, and worshipped it. A mile further on was a large Turkish church, into which no Christian was admitted on pain of death. There, they said, Moses would have stayed or slept when God spoke to him in a pillar of cloud. And in another Turkish temple which they called Beziel they said that the bush would have stood that Moses saw burn, yet not be consumed. And the monks said that this would be the same bush as they had in their monastery. Muslims venerate these churches greatly.

On the second day we came back to the ship. The crew had caught such an abundance of fish that they could not salt it all. That night so much red sand came flying on a west-southwesterly wind, and with a great storm, that no human could be on deck, so that we had to close all our hatches and pull tarred cloth over the lattice hatches. When this was over (it lasted for an hour) we could see neither deck nor water for all the sand. This gave us a certain indication that the wind had turned, and so we decided to set course for Swaquem, a town in Egypt on the Red Sea coast …

June Pieces Of My Mind #2


Archipelago Ship Day: passenger steamers built in 1868-1910, and Waxholm’s Fortress in the background.

  • First roses of the year. The plebeian rose that I’ve trained onto the back wall of the neighbour’s garden shed is thanking me by blooming for the first time in years. The New Dawn also has a lot of buds opening but suffers from bugs.
  • Ringo Starr’s naïvist song “Don’t Pass Me By” on the White Album was released as a single in Scandinavia and peaked at number one in Denmark.
  • Cousin E is getting wise: “When I was a little kid they asked us in school what we wanted to be. I said ‘President of the United States, because that must be the wisest, most highly qualified man in the world.’ Now I know better.”
  • We like to donate books and magazines to our local library. Sadly the Conservative municipal majority has privatised all our libraries, so continued donations of ours would go straight to the shareholders.
  • After three high school years in Sweden, Cousin E is spending summer in China and then moving to Bristol to read maths. Jrette is entering the nat-sci programme at our local high school, whose admittance requirements are pretty serious.
  • Moa, the giant birds of New Zealand, had no wings. Not even vestigial bones remained of their front extremities.
  • Really good audience at my talk at the RepliCon scifi convention in Västerås. Interested and cheerful. Place almost packed. Though I make no money from archaeology now, it’s always good to find that people are interested in what I can contribute.
  • Because of the inland ice, the ecosystem of the Stockholm area is only 10,000 years old. People were part of it from the start. Domestic animals have been for 6,000 years.

At Fisksätra’s International Festival


Nils Mattsson Kiöping On Mount Sinai

Here’s another two chapters of my ongoing translation of Nils Mattsson Kiöping’s 1667 travelogue. I’ve introduced a paragraph division for legibility.

Chapter 22: Sinai part 1

On the afternoon of the 31st we mounted the mules, ten of us except the monks, and travelled through sand and little thorn bushes. Along the way there was no water: we would have suffered great thirst if we had not brought water in leather bottles. On the 2nd of September we came to Mount Sinai. We sat there beneath the mountain while the monks went up to tell their brethren about our arrival.

When they returned they had with them six other Carmelite Fathers who brought warm water with which they washed our feet, kissed us and thanked us for the great charitable deed we had done their brothers. Before we could go up onto the mountain, however, we had to put down our guns in a guard house where about 300 Turkish soldiers kept watch over said mountain. All are supported by these monks who live on the mountain, and they have to keep keen watch there, fearing the Jews greatly, who seek with the greatest zeal to take this mountain from the Christians, as Moses has received the Law in that same place from God Almighty.

On the 3rd of September the Envoy went to confession, and then to the Lord’s Communion in the Carmelite monastery, since he was a Catholic. In the evening he asked the Carmelites to arrange for us to see some famous remains that might deserve to be told of to the Christians. This was also promised. The next morning we went out with two Carmelites and eight Greeks who showed us the whole environs, as follows.

Chapter 23: Sinai part 2
You must first note that these two mountains stand on a single foot. Horeb is called Chu Orel by the Christians who live in Asia as well as by Muslims. It means a desert, as Stony Arabia or the Sea of Sand, where the Children of Israel wandered for 40 years, begins there when you travel from the sea to Horeb. It is not very high in itself. But Mount Sinai is very high and pointed, indeed, more than four times as high as Horeb. It is still called Saint Catherine’s Mountain by the Christians, because the Catholics claim that Saint Catherine’s body, after she was tormented in Alexandria in Egypt, was taken there by six angels and found wrapped in a bloody sheet by some hermits who lived there. And though this mountain was once very difficult to get onto, the Christians have now with their own money and at great cost had 142 large and wide steps cut into the hard cliffs before you reach the gates themselves, so that now both camels and donkeys can get up and down.

Here on the mountain only two creeds have a permanent presence: the Carmelites here have five and the Greeks two congregations, and the Muslims three churches, which are all listed below. Once you have gone up the stairs you come to two tall gates which stand next to each other. In one hangs a carved stone cross, through which all Christians must go, and in the other a crescent, where all Muslims are to pass through. Immediately on the left hand when you enter the gate you come to a monastery named Santa Maria de la Cinnatura.* Next to it was a beautiful spice garden with all kinds of spices and roses, and fruit, such as in particular apples of Paradise, which they called muses, which is as large as a man’s two fists, and has leaves that are 1½ fathom long and a foot wide, and taste delicious. There are also apples, pears, myrtle berries, Indian figs or pisang, dates and other unfamiliar fruits. There we were served salt and fresh bread as well as all kinds of fruits and myrtle wine. All of the soil in which these trees are planted has been collected at the foot of the mountain and dragged up onto it. They also had another kind of wine which they called liatico,** a very expensive and delicious wine. Here are also lovely fountains from which flow excellent drinking water.

Higher up on the left hand is a monastery named Saint Anne. It is a beautiful monastery that we visited. There was a lovely garden, which they said was planted by John the Evangelist. These Carmelites never eat meat, but only spices, herbs, roots and fruit. Higher up is a chapel that has a triangular tower with some ponds around it. Here is shown a hole in which Elijah is supposed to have stayed when he fled from Jezebel, being fed water and bread by the angel. At the upper end near the mountaintop is a cleft rock where God let himself shine on Moses when he walked past and could not see his face, for which reason Moses went back, and still there is impressed into the rock, as I have seen with my own eyes, like a hole from a fat and short man, with the rear part of the head, back, feet and extended arms. Finally, high up on the top is shown the place where Moses received the Ten Commandments from God Almighty.

Below on the left is a monastery named Saint Catherine. Here the monks have Saint Catherine’s body in a white alabaster coffin, which the priest shows to pilgrims and wandering Christians, with a tool made from silver. Out of these dead bones comes fat similar to oil, but it is neither oil nor balsam. Then he shows them her head and the bloody sheet that she was found in. Behind the altar they had a dry bush which they said was the very one that Moses saw burning yet not being consumed by the fire. We all had to take our shoes off before being allowed to come near it. I saw it quite well but I will hardly believe that it is the same one.

Below this on the left hand is another monastery named Saint John the Baptist, which also has a beautiful garden, with lovely ponds or cisterns. Here the Greeks had their congregations, one named Koloizisi, which do not keep themselves as clean as the Catholic ones. There are great differences between them, in their church services as well as in customs and food, insomuch as they eat meat and pork. They have some houses there that they call Basilopoli, as they claim that two sons of kings would lie buried there.

All the way at the bottom below (but still inside the gate) are four Turkish churches. One they have allowed the Greeks and pilgrims to celebrate Mass in. The second one is locked: inside (they said) would be a pit or hole in the rock, where Moses would have lived and fasted for 40 days (after having crushed the first set of stone tablets), and now asking for new ones. In the event that he did not now dare to scale as high as before. But in the other two, the Muslims hold their divine services. And their priests who live in their churches on the mountain and at its foot (in Arabic a church is called mossea or messgita) call themselves Nantonoss, that is, the protectors of the holy tombs. Of which saints these are the most important: Omar, Osman, Hussein and Abubakr. The Muslims pray to them. They also greatly venerate Mohammad’s daughter, named Fatimah.

* Cincture, girdle, belt. Cf. the Cincture of the Theotokos on Mount Athos in Greece.

** Liatiko is a Cretan grape variety once used to make Malvasia wine.

June Pieces Of My Mind #1

car door

Found an old car door next to the Sörmlandsleden hiking trail.

  • Given Michael Jackson’s unsavoury reputation, it is encouraging that the song is called “Pretty Young Thing” and not “Extremely Young Thing”.
  • Had a French friend over for game night. She had never seen a tea cosy before. Now I begin to understand the wrong-headed logic of Brexit.
  • What did it signify when Tom Waits and Mercury Rev’s Jonathan Donahue wore lots of wrist watches in album photos?
  • For the past two years I’ve been in the part of your life when you help teens move house.
  • Love Avram Davidson. In his Adventures in Unhistory he has footnotes asking people to please return books that he needs.
  • It would be wrong to say that US has a random number generator for a president, because he is quite consistently pro-rich, anti-environment and anti-immigrant. But outside of those fields, all bets are off.
  • Naval Observatory: a short shirt that leaves a person’s midriff bare.
  • Companionably helping Cousin E sort through his stuff and decide what goes along with him to Bristol for the autumn semester. Notable sign of long-distance motherly care over the past three years: he has nine pairs of long-johns.

First yacht race of the year!


Samples of Roger Wikell’s Work

kvarts juli 2016

We were lucky enough to be visited by three renowned Mesolithic specialists at Birgittas udde in July 2016: Lars Larsson, Fredrik Molin and Roger Wikell. Lucky, because the little Medieval stronghold we excavated had turned out to sit on a Late Mesolithic settlement site.

Roger Wikell (1965-2019) was particularly interested in three fields of research. Here is one paper for each field, all from Fornvännen because most of Roger’s Open Access work is found there. All are in Swedish with abstract and summary in English. Plus an obit written by Roger.

And below are some blog entries of mine reporting on Roger’s and Mattias’s et al. work. Apologies for the missing pictures: they were lost in a blog migration.