Ladies of the Barrow


I’m writing this on the train home from Lidköping on Lake Vänern in Västergötland province. I’ve spent a pleasant day discussing an interesting fieldwork project with colleagues. Gothenburg PhD student dynamic duo Anneli Nitenberg and Anna Nyqvist Thorsson have been working for years on the island of Kållandsö, famous mainly for Läckö Castle, and now they’re doing something really audacious: they’re digging a major barrow on the island’s southern shore, diameter ~20 meters. Badgers have threatened to destroy it, and so the ladies got an excavation permit and ample funding from the local bank’s benevolent fund. The barrow has a large central cairn curiously built of quarried stone, a cremation layer peeps out from under it, several pieces of bone (intrinsic age = 0) from the layer have given radiocarbon dates in the 7th century, and there are multicolour glass sherds in it. So it’s a Vendel Period petty king’s grave.



I was honoured to be asked down to look at the thing together with some senior colleagues. The main reason that I was asked on board was because there are weird rust flecks in the cremation layer. They look a lot like they might be really poorly preserved clench nails from a boat, like some of the ones me & Howard Williams found in the unburnt Skamby boat burial. The jury’s still out on the issue, as the best-preserved clench nails are still at the conservation studio. But we got to see some of the poorest candidates, and the consensus was that they are probably not clench nails or artefacts at all. But still, it’s a great project, and one I am proud to take some small part in.



  1. #1 Mike Olson
    August 27, 2009

    Thanx for posting this Martin. I enjoy reading about this sort of thing.

  2. #2 Maulwurf
    August 27, 2009

    apparently they are advertising it as some kind of “swedish Sutton Hoo”:

  3. #3 Martin S
    August 27, 2009

    Just some kilometers away is the much bigger Skalunda mound, dated to the same time period. It would be quite interesting to see if this also is a ship burial..

  4. #4 Jocke
    August 28, 2009

    Very interesting and fun it is….

  5. #5 Sigmund
    August 28, 2009

    “Badgers have threatened to destroy it, and so the ladies got an excavation permit and ample funding from the local bank’s benevolent fund.”
    In Sweden even the local wildlife respect bureaucracy!

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