I’ve made two archaeological field interventions today. First I seeded a site with finds, then I got some finds out of another site.
Fieldwalking back in March, I found a grindstone and some knapped quartz at a Bronze Age site in Botkyrka parish. Taking their positions with GPS, I’ve filed a brief archive report on the finds to make sure that the data get into the sites-and-monuments register. But it turned out that the museum doesn’t want to actually own that kind of low-end finds unless they’re from a stratigraphic context. And I don’t want to keep the stuff around either. So this morning I went back to the site and put the finds in the field on their original coordinates.
Then I went to a golf course in Grödinge, the neighbouring parish, where my grandparents had a summer house when I was a kid. There’s a ploughed-over Early Neolithic site on a hillside above hole #10, discovered by super-heavy amateur archaeologists Sven-Gunnar Broström and Kenneth Ihrestam who field-walked it systematically from 1969 to 1990. (Then the golf course was completed nearby and tilling ceased.) Their meticulously positioned finds include TRB pottery and burnt flint axes, which hints both at far-reaching contacts with flint-rich areas and at weird ritual behaviour. This has caught the interest of Professor Lars Larsson of the University of Lund, and he’s set out on a two-week expedition.
Lars is my buddy and recently became my boss. Last New Year, he took over from Gustaf Trotzig as Editor-in-Chief of Fornvännen, an academic journal whose daily running is my part-time job. Now, Lars likes to travel, and he likes to dig. So what he did was he borrowed a horse trailer from a relative, crammed the entire Skateholm fieldwork equipment into it and drove up to Stockholm from Scania: a trip of 475 km as the crow flies.
Skateholm is a famous Late Mesolithic settlement and inhumation burial site in Scania, excavated in the early 80s. And the gear is a sight to see: it includes an orange and very grimy inflatable rubber tent, originally intended as a mobile military hospital, and a number of unusually sturdy sieve holders of the chain-pendant type. Each sieve has two separate mesh boxes in it, allowing two people to work on separate buckets of soil at the same time — until one of them decides she wants to shake hers when the other guy does not, and a brawl breaks out. This unique design was conceived by the local blacksmith at Skateholm, who equally uniquely made huge collapsible set-squares (SW. vinkelhakar), a metre at a side, very good for test pits.
Lars’s second-in-command at the golf course is stable-isotope PhD student Elin Fornander, who got lucky and found some really neat TRB pottery today. Sven-Gunnar and Kenneth are also there when their day jobs permit. Other members of the crew come from the Stockholm County union of local historical societies’ excavation section. One lady found a piece of a finely polished hollow-edged basalt adze this morning before I arrived. I also had the pleasure of meeting my Mesolithic mountaintop friends Mattias & Roger, and TV journalist Christoffer Barnekow.
My own test pit wasn’t very fertile, though I did bag some quartz and basalt débitage. Still, I enjoyed my first few hours of digging the Early Neolithic, using venerable gear. I did bring a trowel of my own though, given to me by Howard Williams when we dug the Skamby boat grave.
It’s a bit like in 1994 when the surviving Beatles made overdubs on some late 70s Lennon demo tapes, using vintage instruments including a double bass from old Elvis sessions. Only I’m not Paul McCartney. The Neolithic people who used the site are as dead as Elvis and Lennon, though.