Excavation Report from Birgittas udde 2016

Birgittas udde

Birgittas udde with our 2016 trenches. Plan by Ethan Aines.

Two years ago myself and Ethan Aines headed the first professional excavation at Birgittas udde, a small Medieval stronghold. It’s on a promontory into Lake Boren near the town of Motala, on land belonging to Ulvåsa manor. One of Ulvåsa’s first known inhabitants was a young strong-willed 14th century noblewoman who would one day become Saint Bridget of Sweden.

Our main results were these.

  • The stronghold was built c. 1250-75, long before Bridget’s day.
  • It was never used much, being kept in shape as a refuge but rarely inhabited.
  • It sits on a Mesolithic settlement site coeval with the famous Motala sites nearby.

Get the report from Archive.org!


June Pieces Of My Mind #1


Found an enigmatic fragment of an artefact from a bygone age.

  • Dad bragging: my kids are both fully fluent in Swedish and English. Jr speaks serviceable Japanese and Jrette speaks Mandarin. Both also have a smattering of French. Dudes, marry smart ladies!
  • When you have a really bad cold, your nasal mucus membranes are open wounds. And you keep blowing the scabs out of your nose to be able to breathe. You’d never do this to your knee.
  • There’s a housing area nearby named Talliden. Probably named for the thallid fungal creatures in Magic the Gathering.
  • Each Kindle has an email address. You can send PDF and EPUB files to it and have them show up on the device. Convenient! But if you buy an ebook for someone at Amazon, do not use this address. Use the person’s address or it won’t work.
  • Received a used washing machine. Gave it a trial run in the yard. Realised that the transmission belt had jumped. It turned out to be too short to put back on the wheels. I had an idea and put it in hot water, then dried it off, and it slid into place just fine. But then I found that the hub was damaged and immobilised.
  • A memory. In the Swedish Outdoor Association’s youth group, we were often told to bring a stick of wood from home so collectively we would have enough firewood without having to collect it in the forest.
  • Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May” was a B side and he was surprised when it became a hit.
  • It’s obvious, but still I’m surprised. In 2002 Sweden’s current Minister of Culture (Greens) published an interview book about the country’s crown princess.
  • Planning a night out for our 19th anniversary. Thanks to Sweden’s recently much more intense contact with Afghanistan, I was able to buy tickets for an Afghan trio playing traditional music in the venerable Finnish Church as part of the Early Music Festival, and then dinner at Little Kabul.
  • YES!!! I got funding to design & print my Medieval castles book, and to cover the last finds conservation bill!
  • OK ladies, I know you wonder where all the sexy alpha males are tonight. Let me tell you, they are playing boardgames at my place. And they are gorgeous. Mmm-hmm.
  • Why does “Japanese Boy” by Aneka suddenly and unpromptedly start playing in my head over a quarter-century later?
  • Love boating on lakes and rivers whose shores I’m familiar with only from dry land.
  • Yay summer, a walk in the woods and immediately a tick on my Balzac.

May Pieces Of My Mind #3


First race of the year. Sunshine and a high wind!

  • I want a hoodie with the word HODIE across the back.
  • Cycling home last night at 11 I interrupted two young roebucks fighting in a suburban parking lot. Long, wickedly sharp antlers. They weren’t particularly afraid of me, but watched me with interest, then went back to trying to gore the shit out of each other. Scraping the ground with a front hoof.
  • Started my new job today. I’m coordinating the Labour / Social Democrat Party’s vote canvassing efforts in Nacka in the lead-up to the September 9 election. Nacka is an affluent and populous municipality adjacent to urban Stockholm where Labour hasn’t held power in almost half a century. Let’s see what we can do!
  • For two decades academia kept telling me that my presence didn’t matter and my opinions were of no account. An important motivation for me getting involved in politics is that here people say “We can really use someone like you, and we’d like you to take part in shaping policy”.
  • Cremated remains of Clyde Tombaugh who discovered Pluto are on the New Horizons probe that mapped the planet.
  • Love a scifi con at cycling distance! I’m doing a talk on Medieval castles and a panel on fictional empires. Also moderating a panel on Ursula LeGuin.
  • Florence (of The Machine) writes “So I like to keep my issues strong / But it’s always darkest before the dawn”. I’ve fixed the rhyme for her: “But it’s always darkest before the dong”.
  • The Men Who Stare At Goats by Jon Ronson is shelved under “War and Conflict” at Sickla public library in suburban Stockholm. In English and Swedish.
  • This summer I want to: ride a steam train and study the engine, and go kayaking, hiking and skinnydipping.
  • Sent my 7th book off to the graphic designer! Do you want all the gritty details about life at Swedish Medieval strongholds? Then I’m your Huckleberry.
  • Given the popularity of cheese burgers, I suggest that Hamburg’s inhabitants rename their city Käseburg.
  • Ishmael and Samuel have the same etymology, “hear” + “god”.
  • Why is the list of languages in LibreOffice’s spellchecker so damn long? Has the software suite even got dictionaries for Teke-Eboo and Nganasanic?
  • Sabbat’s 1987 single “Blood for the Blood God” mentions 10 million orc & goblin feet, that is, only 5 million orcs & goblins. So relax everyone.
  • The Latin word for nightingale, luscinia, is applied as a species surname to the thrush nightingale common in Linnaeus’s native Sweden. Not to the common nightingale that the Romans knew.
  • Why is wifi disconnection on a cell phone such a slow process?
  • The 8th century is known as the time of the Blue Ladies, because the Scandinavian bead market was dominated by blue and a few green bead types. Now the Danes are excavating yet another one of the workshops in Ribe that created these beautiful wares.
  • My grandparents were born in the 1910s. Cling film must have been completely futuristic to them.
  • Listened to a Coldplay song just to check if I still liked it. I did not. Then it got stuck in my head.
  • Reached the point in a really bad cold when you suddenly realise, hey, it’s been quite a while since I had to blow my nose!
  • My Chinese wife instructed me to make chlodnik, a cold Polish soup based on beetroot and kefir that was previously unknown to me. Yet I do not feel culturally threatened. What is wrong with me?!


May Pieces Of My Mind #2


The boats came with the summer. Goodbye, Stocksund!

  • Summer thunder woke me this morning. Deliciously unfamiliar.
  • Two herons flew past our house last night as I came home from Linköping, both headed towards the lake.
  • I love this time of year and I strongly oppose all other times!
  • The Sabbathy metal band Black Label Society have released an album named Grimmest Hits.
  • Whenever I meet Stockholm’s talkative, businessminded, frank and outgoing hijabi ladies, I think to myself that the people who read the hijab as a sign of patriarchal repression simply cannot know any of these women.
  • I think it was in 2001 that I made the acquaintance of a Swedish antiques smuggler who often travelled to China to buy looted finds. He was quite open about this and told me about his trade the first time I met him, despite knowing that I’m an archaeologist. We had a falling-out after I gave his contact info to a scholar who studies illicit trade in antiquities. The guy then broke up with his partner, with whom I’m still friendly, and I haven’t heard of him since. Until I received a link today to this blog entry from November 2016. Though he was apparently a respected expert by that time, he got convicted of fraud for faking a provenance to make a looted piece sellable. I get the impression that he may also have dealt in modern fakes.
  • Love being able to get all the old episodes of the H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast straight into my podcatcher now! Going to start listening back before I came on board.
  • If “Incels” think sex is a common resource that should be shared equitably, shouldn’t they all be ready to comfort lonely gay men?
  • Desirée means “the wanted one”, “the wanted child”. A loving name to give your kid.
  • Finished my high school teaching gig today, neatly tying up all loose administrative ends. It’s been fun! Next week I’m starting a new interesting job in a sector where I’ve never been paid to work before.
  • Waved at some guy from my car in the parking lot. Thought he was a neighbour. Dude walks up, opens passenger door, takes a seat. Smiles uncertainly at me. “Are you the guy?” “Nope, sorry!” We laugh, I slap his shoulder, he leaves.
  • Observant Swedish Muslims are in for a rough Ramadan. Extremely long daylight this time of year. No food from 01:30 am to 09:30 pm.
  • Things have been pretty precarious for me since my adjunct teaching gig in Umeå ended in January 2016. It’s been a time of financial shakiness and repeated kicks in the groin from academia. It would have been really bad if I hadn’t had my wife and kids to hold on to, not to mention if my health hadn’t been so strong. I still feel like a steel ball bouncing around in a pinball machine, and I don’t know where I’m going to settle, eventually. But my money situation is finally solid again, and I’ve secured jobs in three separate extramural sectors in less than seven months. So I’m optimistic.
  • Went to bed early, got up at 03:30. Watching the sunrise, enjoying the quiet.

LinCon 2018 Gaming Convention

steampunk rallyAs has become my habit, I spent two days at LinCon, a big four-day gaming event in Linköping. This is two hours’ drive from my home, and my nearest big gaming con. For some reason Sweden’s capital where I live has nothing on a similar scale. I played eight games, seven of which are favourites of mine that I actually own but didn’t bring. There are several free lending libraries of games at the con.

  • Gaia Project (2017). A re-skinned Terra Mystica, i.e. another highly replayable and varied Euro cube-pusher.
  • RoboRally (1994). Program a robot using a random set of instruction cards and then see your plans unravel as another player’s robot bumps you off track and laser-zaps your rear.
  • Tigris & Euphrates (1997). Tactics and resource management in Bronze Age Mesopotamia.
  • No Thanks (2004). Short abstract push-your-luck.
  • Steampunk Rally (2015). Build and drive your own brass-encrusted early 1900s scifi vehicle along a bumpy race track. Hadn’t heard of this one before, but I’d be happy to play it again.
  • Qwirkle (2006). Abstract: illiterate Scrabble.
  • Innovation (2010). Intricate card game about advancing civilization.
  • Stone Age (2008). Worker placement game centred on a Neolithic village with surrounding natural resources.

At the con auction I bought Hanabi and Sid Meier’s Civilization – the good 2010 game, not the crappy 2002 one that I bought by mistake at last year’s con. I sold Death Angel, Hand of the King, Codenames Deep Undercover and Castles of Mad King Ludwig.

2018 was my sixth LinCon. Here are my impressions of last year’s con.

mr på lincon

LinCon, a gaming convention famous for its free tea, finally has an official tea mug!

May Pieces Of My Mind #1


Magnolia, Boat Hill, Fisksätra

  • Why is it so hard for Swedes to learn that there’s an S on the verb when he-she-it does stuff?
  • Now is the month of maying / When merry lads are playing / Each with his bonny lass / Upon the greeny grass
  • Wonder if Robert E. Howard would have enjoyed heavy metal.
  • Marking these national tests is like counting up the final score in Agricola or 7 Wonders. 50 times. Without getting to play the games.
  • Dad lunch: unattractive contents of four plastic boxes from fridge combined.
  • A hangover is just acetaldehyde poisoning after the ethanol has been processed. Wonder if you can get an instant hangover by drinking acetaldehyde.
  • Archaeologists, quit writing that you “recovered” stuff that you’ve found. You never saw it before, let alone owned it. You can recover your lost cell phone.
  • Refugee settlement should be distributed across the EU by GDP, not by the member countries’ population size.
  • Cure fans! Listen to Josh Rouse’s “Feeling No Pain”!
  • I seem to be employable. I keep getting employed!
  • Swedish universities are rigging their recruitment to make sure favoured internal candidates get jobs, according to Sweden’s leading university union. Over half of all job ads are published less than 21 days before the application deadline. Over a third of advertised positions meet with only a single application.
  • Over-designed rules: the national tests in English have a mechanism to dock points from students with excellent vocab and very poor spelling. Such students are extremely rare. Brings me back to reading 80s role-playing game rules.

Cherry blossom, Stocksund


April Pieces Of My Mind #3


Nanjing brocade at Millesgården Museum.


A Nanjing brocade loom, operated by two master weavers at the Millesgården Museum.

  • Wut? Raymond Chandler wrote a story named “The King in Yellow” in 1938!
  • There’s currently a major unsatisfied demand for field archaeologists in London. A friend of mine explained to me why there are so few people on this job market. She has an MA in archaeology and is working on a big contract excavation in Cambridgeshire. Her monthly salary is £1640 = $2300 = €1870 = SEK 19400. That is, after the great unsatisfied demand has already pushed the salaries up a lot.
  • In Sweden the County Archaeologist chooses which contract archaology bid a land developer has to accept. In the UK the developer chooses. No wonder UK archaeologist salaries are ridiculously low.
  • In 2017, 97,000 Swedes actively left the former state church. Most were young affluent urban men.
  • I didn’t like Crackerjack when I was 5. Haven’t tried it since.
  • Just saw spring’s first bumblebee!
  • Yay, Deezer has a new music discovery mode that plays tailored stuff but nothing you’ve heard before!
  • When a political party sends public messages, they are usually distasteful to its members. Because they are designed to draw in non-members, to flip people who support other parties.
  • A funny thing about teaching English in Swedish high school: along with gym and pretty much no other subject, spoken English is actually highly valued by the cool kids.
  • Have lost 0.45 litres of blood. Shall replace it with meal at recommended Persian restaurant.
  • You hear stories of PhDs who never manage to have a research and uni teaching career and instead end up teaching high school. I never expected to first have a voluminously productive research and uni teaching career, then end up teaching high school. For a higher salary.
  • Ceylon tea is a little weak. The trick is to use lots of leaves. And never remove them from the pot or cup. So good.
  • New Friendly Local Game Store in central Stockholm! Dragon’s Lair II, Sveavägen 118.
  • Why is the 1997 film In & Out so similar to Michael Chabon’s 1995 novel Wonder Boys, which was made into an eponymous movie in 2000? I asked this two years ago and I still don’t know.
  • Gaia Project: left the box and solo-play gear at home, went to gaming event. Discovered I’d also left the round-pass boosters & purple advanced tech tiles. Game perfectly enjoyable without them.

April Pieces Of My Mind #2


Stained-glass decoration at the Gröna Lund amusement park. Armand Rossander 1942.

  • The common Arabic name Abdul(lah) has the same sense as German Gottschalk: “Servant of God”.
  • Heard a really annoying Q&A on Quirks and Quarks. This older guy asked why ear & nose hair becomes way coarser and more plentiful as a man ages. Dermatologist replies by describing the hormonal mechanism that causes this to happen. No you fuck, he didn’t ask HOW it happens, he asked WHY!!!
  • Boss tells me he’s going to advertise a steady position similar to my current temp job and hints that perhaps I might want to apply for it.
  • Me: numismatics. Autocorrect: miniskirts.
  • I’m recording a covers album: pop tunes where I sing “inedible” for “incredible” and “spare tyre” for “desire”.
  • Today’s my 19th anniversary as co-editor of the archaeology journal Fornvännen!
  • Nils-Axel Mörner and Bob G. Lind publish another crank paper in a predatory Open Access journal from SCIRP. Now with Göran Henriksson as co-author! Supergroup!
  • Discovered that I can get a 25-minute scenic bike ride partway to work and only leave home 5 mins earlier. Out of shape after the winter.
  • Been reading about the big Beaker DNA study. Itching to learn what the two similar Swedish projects are coming up with! Actually, itching to be on those projects myself.
  • Realised why this person I help with their writing places the space before the comma or full stop, not after them. They’re used to reading Arabic from the right to the left.
  • Cycling to work this morning I interrupted a fight between two frenzied March hares. They fled along the road in the direction I was already moving, then turned off it and continued fighting.
  • In the movie The Graduate, the actress playing Mrs. Robinson is only 6 years older than the actor playing the titular graduate whom she seduces.
  • Junior texts me: “OMG my worldview just got shattered. GNOCCHI IS KNÖDEL”
  • Bought Tanith Lee’s highest-rated story collection Dreams of Dark and Light for $2.40 on my Kindle.
  • My solitary professional life has rarely involved any stressful tasks where others rely on me. When I do run into them, like today, it’s actually pretty invigorating.
  • Seems almost impossible to make a living from knowing archaeological small finds in Sweden. Not even the museums hire us. We have no Portable Antiquities Scheme.
  • I’m a member of three Swedish associations with paper newsletters. All three are eerily similar and depressingly redolent of 75-year-old contributors.

April Pieces Of My Mind #1


Ice gone. Soon there will be boats.

  • Movie: Visages, villages. Artist travelogue and buddy movie strongly reminiscent of cheap Swedish 1980s kids’ TV. Grade: fail.
  • Bought myself two presents. 1) Expensive boardgame: Gaia Project. 2) Genealogical DNA analysis of my mom’s cousin to help sort my DNA relatives into tribes.
  • The human character in the hit scifi boardgame Gaia Project is an androgynous brown person with corn rows.
  • Birthday: Drink lots of tea. Log four geocaches. Lunch with wife. Art exhibition including lots of brother-in-law’s work with wife and her buddy. Cake. Pakistani dinner with wife, Jrette and Cousin E. Blackbird song. Reading.
  • At one time I listened to albums I didn’t like much simply because I had them as mp3s on my early iPod. No broadband connection. Ripping CDs was slow.
  • Made up the semanticore, a monster that’s friends with the thesaurus. Found that the word already had 2,430 google hits. /-:
  • The new Dungen album is mainly instrumental groove pieces without much melody. /-:
  • Movie: Ready Player One. A race to find the ultimate Easter egg in the ultimate MMORPG. Grade: OK.
  • Bought frozen Polish dumplings. Don’t know the language. Can’t read the fine print anymore. Found out that they’re dessert dumplings with strawberry filling.

First coltsfoot!


March Pieces Of My Mind #3


The white two-storey structure is a barge in whose classrooms I often teach.

  • The rise of right-wing populism and the election of so many complete crooks and morons worldwide to public office really rams home the point that there is no good system of governance. Just a less bad one.
  • A new version of Facebook Messenger just asked me if I wanted to continue as Martin Rundkvist. The sun is shining. I’ve had a nice lunch. I have a loving family, and I need to drive Jrette early to school tomorrow for a skiing trip. I clicked yes.
  • Facebook’s Android app keeps reading my phone book, identifying my contacts and suggesting them as Fb friends. Creepy.
  • Been offered an extension of my temp teacher contract, which in effect probably means the rest of the spring semester with the same classes, and a small raise. Got enthusiastic responses from students when I told them they’re stuck with me. Paid off my half of the renovation costs for Jrette’s teen boudoir after half a year of instalments. Won a bottle of prosecco at the staff raffle, which my wife will enjoy.
  • Did a vote canvassing roleplaying exercise the other night. Dude, they did not know who they were asking to role-play.
  • Free of debt and on a generous full-time salary for the first time since 2002. Largely voluntary hardship, but hey, woo-hoo anyway!
  • I’ve got a new thing going and I’d like to have some quick responses to test the waters. Here’s my pitch. I’m the son of an ancient storm god who created the universe and forced out all other gods. I’m here on Earth to tell you all about a new agreement between humankind and the Supreme Being that will give everyone an escape from death into everlasting bliss. Pretty cool, huh? How do you like it? Are you in?