Yesterday me and my buddy Per Vikstrand visited the third site in our little exploration program for fields with highly suggestive names on 18th century maps. We’ve already covered the Field of St. Olaf and the Hall of Odin. This time we went to the Field of Ullr near Gävle, an hour and a half’s drive from Uppsala along the new shiny E4 motorway. (On the way we zipped across sites such as Sommaränge skog, excavated for the roadworks and previously covered in my blogging.)
Ullr is one of the old gods that were semi-forgotten in Snorri’s day, and so doesn’t figure prominently in extant mythological texts. His name probably means “the Shining One”, suggesting that he was a sky god, but Snorri associates him with war, archery and skiing. A very early runic inscription from about AD 200 mentions a man named Wolthuthewaz, which means “Servant of Ullr” (cf. Abdul and Gottschalk, two other names that mean “Servant of God”). The cult of Ullr was a big deal in mid-1st Millennium Scandinavia, as attested by a large number of Ullevi and Ulleråker place names.
Shiny Ullr’s Field turned out to be covered by succulent and rather tall grass, so conditions weren’t ideal. But metal detecting is fun even if all you find is a coin from 1963. (I did find one of those, and I look forward to returning it into circulation.) Otherwise, nine man-hours garnered us only one keeper, but it’s a good one: a piece of a gilded openwork copper-alloy ornament with interlace decoration. It’s certainly from AD 500-1000 and probably from the 10th century, the Middle Viking Period.
We’re done with fieldwork for a while now, and hope to have a joint paper out about our findings in the not-too-distant future. All three sites have given material from the period AD 300-1100. The next time I report from fieldwork, I’ll be back at the Harbour of the Sheaf Kings or the Battlefield of Baggensstäket or a Neolithic site under Botkyrka golf club or a Mesolithic seal hunter’s camp.
Update 21 May: Explains Per; given the find context, Wolthuthewaz is more likely to mean “Servant of Glory” than “Servant of The God Whose Name’s Root Means ‘Glory’”.