Third Week of 2021 Excavations at Aska

Drone photo by the excellent Cheyenne Olander, north to the right
  • Finished the north trench with the high seat & foil figure concentration, started backfilling.
  • Emptied the recent refuse pits in the south trench, uncovered and sectioned the south wall line and four buttress postholes outside it.
  • Opened a third trench over the hall’s north-east gate.
  • Few artefact finds, of which the most interesting is our second 13/1400s crossbow bolt.
  • I’ve had an idea about what happened to the platform after the mead hall was torn down in the later 900s. We have wondered why there is no sign of activity or damage between 1000 and 1800. Aska was probably the härad assembly site in the 1000s and 1100s. Was the platform maintained as a thing mound?

July Pieces OF My Mind #1

Mostly no rain
  • Flashback to the time when I said on TV that the archaeology programme does not lead to a job, and a chaired professor wrote me angrily demanding loyalty – despite not actually employing me. So I told him he was getting exactly the amount of loyalty he paid for.
  • Weird as a Scandinavian to see the US and China compete over world leadership, both from some kind of position of self-righteousness, and we’re like “No thanks, you’re a single party dictatorship and a flawed democracy full of religious gun nuts”.
  • Came up with another pun that proved not to be original: baked in Alaska.
  • Day three and the students are already so well informed about how the excavation works that they just politely ignored me in the morning, drove to site, got the gear out and started digging. Thank you Emelie Jonsson and Ola Lindgren for being such good trench bosses!
  • Here’s one for the Old Testament buffs: a Swedish brand of household waste management gear named MOLOCH.
  • Beginning to think about a road trip next time I go to Łódź, see more of the country. It’s not far between the famous cities.
  • Gotta say, my professional and social situation is kind of mind-blowingly great given my particular set of life priorities.
  • “Youtube wants to make you a Nazi because Nazis watch lots and lots of Youtube videos”. /Kenneth Hite
  • Facebook suggests that I should join the Kensington Runestone International Supporters Club.
  • The landscape of post-Medieval Swedish is littered with the sombre ruins of a case declension system. Springa till skogs. I sinom tid. Komma till rätta.
  • So is everybody playing a lot with Darda cars these days?
  • Had my 2nd covid-19 shot!
  • My son is working as a manga translator!
  • Movie: The Ninth Gate (1999). Rich excentric collectors of occult books! Lena Olin and Frank Langella chewing on the scenery! A perfectly adequate Johnny Depp as viewpoint! This would be a great movie if it weren’t for Emmanuelle Seigner’s one-note permanent mysterious smile.

Second Week of 2021 Excavations at Aska

North wall ditch. Left: outdoors. Right: indoors.
  • Extended trenches from 84 to 112 sqm.
  • The County Museum’s Lotta Feldt and Linnea Hernqvist surveyed our visible features with an RTK GPS.
  • Found more gold foil figures for a maximum total of 33 from Aska. This number may prove lower when fragments are fitted. But we are certainly past Helgö’s number now.
  • Identified many features of the mead hall’s architecture that we had already seen on the geophys. And got a clearer idea of the wide, backfilled mid-19th century ditch that runs obliquely across the mead hall’s east half.
  • Discovered more butchery refuse pits from around 1900. They have primarily damaged the inner of the two south wall lines. This complication offers a fun opportunity for true stratigraphic excavation.

First Week of 2021 Excavations at Aska: Three New Gold Foil Figures

Drone photo by Cheyenne Olander
Foil figure, find no 300
  • At Aska near Vadstena in Östergötland is a massive earth platform on which geophys has revealed an almost 50-metre mead-hall. Six radiocarbon analyses date its lifetime to c. AD 660-950.
  • Last year we opened a few square metres over the mead hall’s northern wall line and one roof-support, just east of the building’s centre, and found 22 gold foil figures. Now we have opened 42 sqm in that same area and found 3 more.
  • We only have to find two more foil figures to beat Helgö. But that is just because my dear old thesis supervisor Jan Peder was forbidden by his boss to wet-screen the spoil heaps there after they became aware of the figures.
  • Other interesting new finds from the north trench are a third whale-bone gaming piece and a heavily worn slate whetstone of possibly identifiable geographic origin.
  • The structures in the north trench are coming out beautifully, particularly the outer wall ditch.
  • We have also opened 42 sqm across the building over the south wall line, with many well-preserved structures and finds of our first two beads, both opaque glass.
  • This is my eighth fieldwork campaign with students. As usual we are getting along beautifully on site and in communal living, a source of great pride to me. Even though our numbers are record high! It’s a big project even compared to typical contract excavations. (I’ve had to say no to more volunteers than I can remember.) Everyone is super nice, and it is particularly fun to have seven Łódź students with us. I’m picking up bits of Polish and they’re feeding us potato dumplings. The villagers at Aska are also extremely kind and supportive.

Read about last year’s fieldwork on the Aska platform mound: week 1, 2, 3, 4.

June Pieces Of My Mind #2

  • Didn’t realise before that computer implementations of D&D are almost as old as the tabletop game itself.
  • Half of Sweden’s adult population has now had at least one shot. One quarter has had both shots.
  • Movie: Minari (2020). Unhappy Korean couple starts a vegetable farm in 1980s Arkansas. Grade: OK.
  • Talked to a Ukrainian about Łódź. He looked confused, then said “Oh right, you mean Vlotz!”
  • Today’s 29 years since I started my first archaeology job. I’ve worked almost exclusively in the discipline since. Made very little money and hardly any pension savings, but I’ve fed & raised two kids and had a lot of fun!
  • Confusingly, Scandinavian Airline Systems plays porn groove on the phone while you wait in line for customer support. When I finally got to talk to a rep he spoke in a slightly braying rural accent and, though quite helpful, did not seem erotically inclined at all!
  • In a radical departure from its previous stance, the National Heritage Board sends a loud and clear signal to anyone who finds an ancient hoard in Sweden: DON’T STOP DIGGING AFTER YOU FIND JUST A FEW OBJECTS, RIP ‘EM ALL OUT! Dude finds 8 objects outside a badger sett, calls in archaeologists who find 42 more, dude gets reward for 8 objects.
  • Some gneisses form from sedimentary rocks. Are there gneisses that have formed from biochemical sedimentary rocks? To me, that would be a mind-blowing illustration of how old life on Earth is.
  • I never understood that all the characters in the 80s text adventure The Hobbit were autonomous, running around the game following their own priorities, nor that you could give them orders.
  • Early-80s computer games like The Hobbit and King’s Quest would draw scenery line by line and then fill it out like a colouring book. This took way less storage space than a big image file for each scene.
  • In the 80s Hobbit game you could pick Elrond up and carry him around as your personal portable elf-bread baker. Useful to beef up before fights.
  • Reading Amos Tutuola and having a blast. He pays no respect to Western narrative conventions and little to those of the Queen’s English. Deadpan, sly, absurd. Constant surprises!
  • Layne Staley, crazy amazing singer! ❤

June Pieces Of My Mind #1

  • Movie: The Hunger (1983). Super stylish movie about sexy urban vampires. The casting is on a level where Willem Dafoe is an extra. Grade: great!
  • Susan Sarandon is not the only Rocky Horror alumnus in The Hunger. Rufus Collins plays a medical researcher in The Hunger and is the tall black Transylvanian in Rocky Horror.
  • The visuals of The Hunger look a lot like Bladerunner (1982). The two directors are brothers.
  • When reading Scandies’ writing in English, look out for the word “even”. Often they will use it as if it meant “also”, creating an unintentional tone of great surprise. “The farmer grew wheat, barley, even oats.”
  • In 2008, Norwegian archaeologist Håkon Glørstad published this really cool image of a Mesolithic diabase axe next to a cell phone sculpted in the same material. But cell phone tech moves so fast that today, the image shows two distinctive objects of the past.
  • Movie: Dave (1993). When the US president has a stroke in the arms of his mistress, the ambitious chief of staff places one of the presidential security doubles in the Oval Office instead. This man proves to have much better values than the real thing had. Grade: great!
  • Soon 1950s diners and cafés will no longer be nostalgic to anyone. Just ancient.
  • I’m really tired of reading tweets from campaigners on various social issues that I agree with.
  • Rain makes unfamiliar noise on our roof. It’s the new solar panels.
  • Translating non-fic must have been such a chore before Wikipedia.
  • Yay! I used the correct preposition when I told the solar cell guy that I work in Woodge! Nooo! That has to be inflected by case! I actually work in Wodgy!
  • Excavation report in Swedish from the Duvnäs platform!
  • Movie: C’eravamo tanto amati / We All Loved Each Other So Much (1974). Brothers in arms drift apart and meet again repeatedly across post-WW2 Italian history. Grade: OK.
  • After like 35 years I suddenly understand one more of Tom Lehrer’s jokes.
    “If you’re looking for adventure of a new and different kind / And you come across a girl scout who is similarly inclined / Don’t be nervous, don’t be flustered, don’t be scared / Be prepared!” This must refer to bringing condoms, not as I thought to just being prepared for bonking in general.
  • Movie: Shadow / Ying (2018). Hyper-stylised Chinese historical fantasy with ridiculous fights and lots of gore. Grade: OK.
  • In 1976-78 when I was 4 and 5 we lived in Connecticut. TV shows that I liked: Happy Days, 60s Batman, 60s Star Trek, all Saturday morning superhero cartoons.
  • Interactive fiction / text adventure games turn 50 this year. Aaron A. Reed is writing an essay about one game for each of these 50 years.
  • The Danish parliament has voted to locate the country’s refugee responsibilities in Africa. You flee to Denmark and then you’re sent to wait overseas. It’s a fucking disgrace. Shame, Denmark!
  • Learning historical research by making stupid mistakes. I want to find out about Olof Svart, a minor nobleman who probably had the Duvnäs platform built. He was awarded tax exemption for his manor around 1529 because of some kind of royal favour. So I spent two hours chasing Olof the goldsmith, son-in-law of the property’s last commoner owner, through the minutes of Stockholm’s town council. Having determined that he’s not likely to be identical to Olof Svart, I turned to the Crown correspondence at the time, you know, where you might find people who have… some kind of royal favour? And found Olof Svart, royal accountant from 1525, in a matter of minutes.
  • Tolkien and Lovecraft both started out as writers of Dunsany fan fiction.
  • Do you think I can stop hoarding pasta and toilet paper yet?

May Pieces Of My Mind #3

Bug love on Mörkö Island near Hörningsholm
  • I’m pretty OK with pushing 50, but it confuses me that the members of my old favourite bands are also around 50 and having reunions and playing oldies events, as if they were feckin’ Deep Purple.
  • Pascal’s wager assumes that you can choose what to believe, which is ridiculous.
  • Middle age: first you’re muddle-headed because you need a nap, then you’re muddle-headed because you’ve had a nap.
  • Unusual end to a Call of Cthulhu investigation tonight. We knew that the villain was the body-jumping spirit of an evil wizard and that he was planning a big scary summoning ritual. So we waited in our Model T Ford and shot him. No body available to jump to this time. The End.
  • The Church of Rome claims papal succession from St Peter, who they claim to be guarding the gates of heaven, and the papal symbol plus St Peter’s iconographic attribute is two keys. Sudden insight: the Church of Rome claims it offers exclusive access to Heaven.
  • Movie: Burn After Reading (2008). An alcoholic CIA agent getting fired, two affluent couples moving towards divorce and a pair of inept blackmailers getting their hands on a CD-ROM. Grade: great!
  • ABBA’s 1977 song “Eagle” owes a lot to the Eagles’ 1975 song “Journey of the Sorcerer” (of Hitch-Hiker radio fame) and was in fact an explicit tribute to them. Both productions owe a lot to Ennio Morricone’s 1966 score for The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
  • Movie: Sorry To Bother You (2018). Surrealist comedy about labour organisation and race. Grade: OK.
  • 33 hours after my first Pfizer shot I feel like usual and not even the injected muscle is sore anymore.
  • Gustave Tiger has a pretty cool album title: Chaste and Mystic Tribadry. It was Hungarian Album of the Year in 2016.
  • I wonder if there’s a classified Security Service report on the BBS conference systems I hung out in c 1988-2006. We did have one guy who was implicated in environmentalist direct action, so the authorities almost certainly looked at least briefly at what we were doing. I bet the report concludes “These are just a bunch of geeks talking about Friends and making silly jokes.”
  • Yay Johan & Jakob Söderberg Foundation! Thank you for funding another month’s excavations on the Aska platform!!!
  • Here’s a new experience. My daughter’s excellent boyfriend has agreed to drive me and my friends an hour off to the head of a hiking trail. Life has its chapters!
  • Movie: Game Night (2018). Game night inside fake kidnapping plot inside real kidnapping plot. Grade: OK action comedy.
  • Somehow I feel that At the Mountains of Madness would not have been as effective a horror story if Lovecraft had written “yoghurt” instead of “shoggoth”.
Excavating on the Duvnäs platform, c. AD 1530. Early Modern archaeology!

May Pieces Of My Mind #2

Re-doing the roof
  • Movie: Ida (2013). A girl who has grown up in a church orphanage learns from her aunt about their family history in a road movie about post-war Polish guilt and accommodation. Grade: great!
  • On the Left, many despise Israel’s nationalist government but are not hostile to Jews in general. On the Brownshirt Right, it’s the other way around.
  • There’s no longer a phone connected to the landline we get for free with our broadband subscription.
  • I’ve signed an agreement with the Royal Academy of Letters today: they are publishing my annotated translation into modern English of Nils Mattsson Kiöping’s African and South Asian travelogue from 1667! To my knowledge it’s the first translation of this colourful and fascinating work into a foreign language, and I hope it will make a splash among 17th century historians worldwide. This will be my second book with the Academy. In 2011 they published my study of Östergötland’s Late Iron Age in the antiquarian series of their Proceedings, and Nils Mattsson will appear in the history series.
  • Wonder if plant geneticists have identified the secret ingredients in Coca-Cola by means of trace DNA.
  • Surprised to find that for the first time in my life, I have a longing to take part in a pub quiz. I guess that’s what 14 months of social distancing will do to you.
  • The battery in the wireless headphones is not running out. It’s the microwave oven that’s interfering with the bluetooth.
  • You know the distance from the earth to the sun? Almost exactly 1 astronomical unit. Makes you think!!!
  • Today’s porn cam operator on Messenger: Burnzee Cokidonk.
  • Reading the current issue of Fornvännen, I learned among other things that bakelite is still made and used. When preparing a sample for sectioning and metallographic study, scientists will encase it in bakelite. It was the first synthetic plastic, discovered in 1907.
  • My new album project is a collection of Julio Iglesias covers that will be marketed primarily towards the Baltic States. Working title: Latvian Lover.
  • For some particularly beautifully written interactive fiction / text adventures, check out Chandler Groover!
  • There’s an urban legend among archaeologists about a tourist in Sweden who asks if the Vikings are all living on reservations these days.
  • Another archaeological urban legend. An awestruck tourist picks a stone out of the spoil heap and asks the archaeologist: “Is this stone Medieval?” “You know what”, replies the archaeologist portentously. “It’s even older than that!”
  • “Broken crockery brings happiness, but only to archaeologists.” /Agatha Christie
  • Two fifths of adult Swedes have had the first shot.
  • Hope Hodgson’s Carnacki stories are silly. But the Electric Pentacle device is fun. (Thank you Birger!)
  • Movie: First Wives Club (1996). Three women get dumped by their husbands for young girls, then band together for revenge. Rich in snappy one-liners and completely unrealistic in style. Grade: OK.
  • Revered fantasy author Erik Granström has a degree in veterinary medicine. He once told me about watching Carpenter’s The Thing and being quite entertained when the autopsied man in the film proved to have calf kidneys.