In today’s paper issue of main Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter is a news item headlined “Hobby Researcher Gives New Signs to Stones” (currently not available on-line, but here’s another relevant piece). It relays a few statements from museologist Ewa Bergdahl of the Swedish National Heritage Board regarding the Ales stenar visitor’s sign debacle. Bergdahl is head of the Heritage Tourism unit.

–There isn’t just one single truth. This place is so incredibly more complex than previously believed, says Ewa Bergdahl, unit director at the National Heritage Board.

[...]

The Heritage Board has long stood on the side of the academics. But now the organisation takes a more neutral stance.

–You have no privileged position with us just because you do research at a university, says Ewa Bergdahl.

To the dismay of professional scholars, both theories are now represented on the signs.

–Amateur researchers may feel that they have been vindicated somewhat. But that doesn’t mean that they are right.

—–

–Det finns inte bara en enda sanning. Den här platsen är så otroligt mycket mera komplex än man tidigare trott, säger Ewa Bergdahl, enhetschef på Riksantikvarieämbetet.

[...]

Riksantikvarieämbetet har länge stått på akademikernas sida. Men nu intar myndigheten en mer neutral inställning.

–Man har inget företräde bara för att man forskar på ett universitet, säger Ewa Bergdahl.

Till de professionella forskarnas förtret finns nu alltså båda teorierna representerade på skyltarna.

–Det är möjligt att amatörforskarna känner att de fått en viss upprättelse. Men de har inte fått rätt för det.

Now, by far the most of the Board’s employees are university-trained archaeologists, and I’m sure they don’t share Ewa Bergdahl’s and the other top bureaucrats’ stale 80s post-modernist and anti-science ideas on this matter. There has long been a discussion about separating the Board’s regional contract archaeology units from the central administration and making them standalone organisations. The new evidence for anti-scientific hyper-relativism among the Board’s central directors shows that this separation is urgent indeed. And when it is completed, I hope the Ministry of Culture sends the Heritage Board through a radical pro-science personnel purge. It’s either that or close the outfit down. The Swedish Heritage Board clearly suffers from Mad Cow Disease.

Update same evening: In a short new piece in Dagens Nyheter, the head of the Heritage Board Inger Liliequist is quoted as saying “We pay attention to local historians and amateur researchers. But we don’t place them on a level with tested research. If that is how our message has been received, then we will have to adjust the signs.” Archaeology professors Herschend and Burström are quoted voicing severe criticism against the new signs, and I must say that both names come as a pleasant surprise to me.

Update 25 July: According to Aftonbladet, another bright star and non-archaeologist at the Heritage Board, comptroller and temporary press liaison Ulrika Salander, says “Regarding Ales stenar, there is not and may never be any absolute truth or any unambiguous ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.” And here’s a piece from today’s Sydsvenska Dagbladet where Ewa Bergdahl repeats her views. These people know absolutely nothing about the philosophy of science, nor about archaeology’s place in the larger landscape of science. Can’t Inger Liliequist put a muzzle on the clowns she employs?

Update 31 July: Touchingly, Ewa Bergdahl informs me that she is well within her rights to make public pronouncements about archaeology because she studied the subject for three terms 30 years ago.

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Comments

  1. #1 JG
    July 24, 2007

    Is this the result of that pomo is accepted within archaeology in universities? It might maybe be a reason for that university archaeology is not seen as trustworthy as it once was? And then perhaps other alternatives are considered to be worth to also support?

  2. #2 Martin R
    July 24, 2007

    It’s actually the other way around. Po-mo reached academic archaeology and museology in the mid-80s. Many of the current directors at the heritage Board studied archaeology and museology at that time. They then brought this brain virus with them to their jobs. Po-mo is much stronger at the Heritage Board than it is in current academic archaeology.

  3. #3 JG
    July 24, 2007

    Thank you Martin! This topic seems more clear now.

  4. #4 Mary E.
    July 24, 2007

    Looks like it’s worse than I thought!

  5. #5 JG
    July 24, 2007

    Sad, sad sad. Yes, we seem to be closer to Orwell’s 1984 than I thought. Big Brother has found that there is no use to stick to truth and science. No, strength is obviously weakness and war is peace.

  6. #6 Magnus Reuterdahl
    July 24, 2007

    Thanks for the photo of the info-sign. The sign as well as the article in DN are a base for a lot of questions and thoughts. Some you have summarized, others you have illuminated or answered.

    As I read the contents of the sign a few questions popped up in my head. One regards the sign; Is this the complete sign or is it just the Swedish part of the sign (or are there several signs in different languishes)? It seems strange to make a sign in only Swedish, nowadays they are almost always translated into at least English and German. Other questions regard the content of the sign. I made a post of it at Testimony of the spade.

    Magnus Reuterdahl

  7. #7 Martin R
    July 24, 2007

    There are currently no English-language signs, just four different Swedish ones. Number two is the one with Lind’s model on it.

  8. #8 JG
    July 25, 2007

    It is a pleasure to find out that the head of the NHB has much more quality than some of its limbs. It now seems so that it was not quite as bad as we thought for a while.

  9. #9 Martin R
    July 25, 2007

    The current head of the Heritage Board leaves her sub-chiefs a lot of freedom to formulate the Board’s policy.

  10. #10 Savon
    July 25, 2007

    Martin, I must confess something embarrasing. What are you aganst? The guy? Or that it could be something else that has been on the place before the shipmonument? That the stones might have been moved, or not have been moved?

    Christian churches are very often buildt on old places for other religions. Christianity has picked up beliefs from other religions. The big Godess from Catal Huyuk reigned over humans and animals (represented by her lover/son) death and rebirth (8th thousand BChr). Maria with her lover God and God her son Jesus…
    I think its nice that things happens, and I think it will create more interest in archaeology and also bring more jobs and money…

  11. #11 Savon
    July 25, 2007

    I mean that I don’t understand…

  12. #12 Martin R
    July 25, 2007

    Savon: My complaint is that the Heritage Board has mislead the public and shown a complete lack of respect for professional scholarship. They have presented amateur interpretations that were refuted years ago as equally worthy of belief as solid science.

  13. #13 David Nessle
    July 25, 2007

    Bob G Hund med den nya monsterhiten “Förvirring istället för arkeologi” …

  14. #14 Martin R
    July 26, 2007

    Haha! “Det skulle vara lätt för mig att säga att jag inte vet vad fan Ales stenar är, men det gör jag, tror jag”

  15. #15 Savon
    July 26, 2007

    Martin, det gläder mig dessa små ord, “tror jag”!
    Vet du varför stället heter ‘Ales’ stenar?

  16. #16 Martin R
    July 26, 2007

    Why the place is named “Ale’s stones”? No, I don’t recall why. Wasn’t the name documented fairly early, in the 17th century perhaps? Probably having to do with folklore.

  17. #17 Inget att s�ga
    July 26, 2007

    I went to check what The Swedish National encyclopedias homepage (http://www.ne.se pay site) have to say about Ales stenar.
    Basically this is what I found. It says that it�s the biggest extant stone ship in Sweden, placed north of K�seberga, and that it consists of 59 stones. It also talks about the color contrast of the stones, it says that the bow stones are pale, and the stones in the beams are darker. It also talks about how it can have been some kind of solar watch, and that it probably have had some ritual importance, I quote:
    �Den �r orienterad syd�st�nordv�st, vilket har tolkats som att den anlagts f�r att peka mot solens uppg�ng vid vintersolst�ndet respektive dess nedg�ng vid sommarsolst�ndet.�
    I also quote:
    � Ales stenar. Den stora, vackert bel�gna skeppss�ttningen b�r ha spelat en viktig roll f�r riter vid �rstidsv�xlingar, begravningar och m�ten mellan m�nniskor fram till kristen tid.�
    (http://www.ne.se, 2007-07-26 kl 14.06 search word Ales stenar)
    I try to translate the quotes�
    Translation quote 1: It�s placed southeast-northwest, which have been interpreted as it have been erected to point towards the sunset at winter solstice and respectively the sundown at summer solstice.
    Translation quote 2: Ales stenar. Big stone ship, beautiful located, which seems to have played an important role for the rituals made during season changing�s, funerals and in encountering between people all the way to Christianity.
    The article also says that it have been restored in 1916 and 1956. Further it talks about that Ales stenar was mentioned already in sixteen century A.D, and about the researches made with geo-radar on the site in 2006.
    I wonder is there any plausible explanation what this stone ships have been used for? Except for being a burial site, which is what I always heard, and have been thought. Some years ago my father died, I chose a nice tombstone for his grave, nothing that have any thing to do with religious beliefs, its just nice and something you recognize right away, what I mean is, must their be a religious purpose to everything?

  18. #18 Martin R
    July 26, 2007

    Good archaeology searches for general patterns in as large datasets as practically possible. No professional scholar thus looks at Ales stenar in isolation: we ask questions about the class of large stone ships found throughout southern Scandinavia.

    The current consensus is that late 1st Millennium stone ships were generally built as grave markers or memorials to dead people, and that some of them were then used as assembly sites. In all cases I am aware of, the ships share their sites with other prehistoric graves of unmistakable type.

  19. #19 Inget att säga
    July 26, 2007

    The site is also called
    “…Hesten, Urbans grav och Hedestenar.”
    according to Fmis

  20. #20 Inget att säga
    July 26, 2007

    Thanks Martin, it makes sense.

  21. #21 Amenhotep
    July 31, 2007

    This is not an isolated phenomenon of course. The Egyptian Pyramids have been under assault by lunatics for years – Hancock and co are simply the latest in a long and ignominious series of frauds and charlatans who try to strip-mine the everlasting seam of human ignorance and gullibility.

    Incidentally, there is no reason why more modern monuments shouldn’t be aligned to observable astronomical features, such as solstice positions, etc. As far as I am aware the sun still shone in the 1st millennium CE, and even the other day, I was out in the garden, trying to locate the sunniest spot for growing my veggies. Maybe next year I’ll conclude that this spot was ordained and sanctified millennia ago, and I’ll have a hard time refuting myself.

  22. #22 Martin R
    July 31, 2007

    Baseless amateur speculation is fine as long as real scholars and heritage management officials don’t lend it credibility or suggest that no truth is available in archaeology.

  23. #23 Magnus Reuterdahl
    August 10, 2007

    In today’s Dagens Nyheter there are more critique towards the National Heritage Board (NHB). This time regarding the diminishing section within NHB’s; National Rune agency. The article I signed by several professors, lecturers and authors.

    Magnus Reuterdahl

  24. #24 Martin R
    August 10, 2007

    Cool! Most everybody in the business feels that the Board has methodically stripped away all activities that anybody actually cares about from its agenda, leaving only jargon and ideology production.

  25. #25 Savon
    September 8, 2007

    Look at this, it is us…the Suitones, Sitones…
    Klangstenar med skålgropar… Singing stones, just as one of Ales stones…
    And now I will go out to my fire, bake bread, fry some meat and I will sing a song after the meal…have a nice ongoing evening!!!

  26. #26 Savon
    September 8, 2007

    Now it was as if the computer was in a haurry, so it did´nt take the adress. Here it comes:
    http://www.svd.se/dynamiskt/kultur/did_16583358.asp

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