I’m on a guest blogger roll. Here’s something about 11th and 12th century metalworking finds from Sigtuna near Stockholm by my friendly colleague Anders Söderberg. He and our mutual friend Ny Björn Gustafsson are making sense of stuff that usually ends up with burnt daub in large anonymous sacks that nobody ever opens. Impressive work!
The excavation of the Trädgårdsmästaren block in Sigtuna 1988-90 hasn’t yet been published, but the dig is of tremendous archaeological value since it covered 1100 square meters and spans about 270 years, from the founding of the town in the late 10th centiry until the mid 13th. Together with my colleague Ny Björn Gustafsson, I’ve had access to the finds of fired clay, slag and technical ceramics — such as like moulds and crucibles — from the excavation. They have turned out to contain loads of information.
The finds tell rather concrete stories about the development of metal crafts in the town, from discreet and vague production of luxury goods in the early 11th century to commercial production of larger volumes in the 12th. Also, the site probably hosted a mint under King Knut Eriksson in the 1180s. Signs of this activity were secured already during the excavations, but now it can be verified by traces from extensive precious-metal refining work in the area. Thereby we can also spot the remains of what may have been the mint’s assaying office, where silver bullion was refined and tested before being struck into coins.
2) A cupel, a small vessel made from bone ash used for silver analysis, probably connected to the minting in the late 12th century. Width c. 35 mm.
In the mid-11th century a permanent jewellery workshop was set up on one of the town plots. This seems to have been an important workshop, under command of an important owner, as it appears to have housed a goldsmith from Kiev judging from the find of a crucible of Russian type. An identical crucible has been found in Kiev, connected to royal or aristocratic contexts, and so far this is the only one of this type found in Sweden. Early Sigtuna had close connections to Kiev by marriage between the royal families. Obviously at some point a delegation brought a goldsmith over, who worked in the workshop for some time.
The crucible from Sigtuna (left) compared to the almost identical crucible from Kiev (right; after Karger 1958).
A famous retinue, contemporary with the crucible, landed in Sigtuna about 1045, when Harald Hardrada stopped on his voyage from Constantinople to Norway where he was later crowned. He brought with him great wealth as well as his new wife, Princess Ellisiv of Kiev, granddaughter of Olof Eriksson, King in Sigtuna, and daughter of Grand Prince Yaroslav of Kiev. It’s certainly tempting to connect the crucible to that very delegation, but speculative, as it is something we won’t ever be able to prove. Despite this, the crucible is strong evidence for the connections between Sigtuna and Kiev in the 11th century.
The finds from Trädgårdsmästaren are voluminous, and by this investigation we’ve merely scratched the surface of the information contained in them. A long paper on our investigations, “Från prestigevarugjutning till myntning, tidigmedeltida metallurgi i Kv Trädgårdsmästaren, Sigtuna” has recently been published in Situne Dei 2007, the annual of Sigtuna Museum.