Today I did four hours of metal-detecting at a site in Vårdinge where a Wendelring bronze torque from about 600 BC has been found. Reiner Knizia’s popular card game Lost Cities has a thinly applied archaeological theme, and on the board is actually an image of a Wendelring torque just like the one from Vårdinge. (A Lost Cities deck can easily be made from two packs of normal playing cards using a marker pen on a few cards.)

The torques often come in twos and threes, so I was hoping to find another one today. In early April when my team was there, the site was still largely covered with snow and melt water, but today was a beautiful summer day. No Late Bronze Age torque though: only a lot of 20th century stuff, mainly rifle cartridges, bullets and bottle tops.

Two of the finds are inscribed and kind of fun.


The older one is a lead seal used to seal something tied up with string. It bears the legends “SALVSJÖ- QVARN” and “STOCKHOLM”. This is funny because a) it’s a typo for Saltsjöqvarn, and b) the place is in my home municipality Nacka. It was a major industrial flour mill that operated from 1890 to 1988.



To someone with my background, Baldor is a prince of the Rohirrim in Tolkien’s Middle-earth (Anglo-Saxon Cossacks, to use the recently deceased Diana Wynne Jones’s term) who makes a drunken vow and enters the Paths of the Dead, never to be seen again. To a 20th century Swedish farmer or an inhabitant of Fort Smith, Arkansas, however, Baldor is a maker of electrical motors. The company is still around and was bought last year by ABB, an industrial multinational with some Swedish roots.


The VM3542 motor whose spec plate I found is still made and retails for about $275. Don’t know if a date of manufacture can be inferred from the punched info on the plate.


  1. #1 Birger Johansson
    May 10, 2011

    The different cartridges seem to indicate non-military shooters. Hunter target practice?
    -Re-posting a link about tech that might be useful for visualizing the objects detected by their magnetism.


    I realise that most objects an archaeologist find with a metal detector may be too small for even this method to work. Maybe it would work with an IR/terahertz image overlaying the (reconstructed) image of the magnetic object? The hardware would have to be derived from off-the-shelf components to be affordable, which puts the idea firmly into the future. I might as well wish for a tricorder. 🙁
    -Insurance evaluators carry around little gadgets to detect the chemical signature of mould. Maybe something similar can be used to pick out buried objects of non-magnetic materials, objects whose processed nature make them stand out chemically from non-processed bone/wood items.

  2. #2 Robert S.
    May 10, 2011

    I called up the local Baldor location and they were unable to quickly figure out the date of manufacture. Perhaps they have changed the way the serial number is assigned, or have a different coding outside the US. Give them a call, took me 3 minutes to get that much perhaps a local distributor will be able to get you the info.

  3. #3 Martin R
    May 11, 2011

    Birger, definitely hunters. It’s a boggy field surrounded by woods. There’s an elk tower at one side. I saw lots of herbivore tracks & spoor and heard stags barking.

    Good idea, thanks Robert!

  4. #4 Bo Ohlson
    May 11, 2011

    The mill in (current) Nacka was called Sal*t*sjök/qvarn, not Sal*v*sjö… as in the seal. Does this deserve some further research into the history of industrial milling?

  5. #5 Martin R
    May 11, 2011

    It’s a fun little piece of the history of Saltsjöqvarn, at any rate.

  6. #6 Birger Johansson
    May 11, 2011

    For finding non-magnetic artefacts that are not yet so old the smell is indistinguishable from the ambience, maybe you could train animals with an even better sense of smell than dogs. The French use pigs to locate trouffles, after all.
    The problem is finding something distinct for artefacts (or with a different ratio of X compared to natural objects).

    If I may play around with ideas….were 18 or 19th-century wood items treated with any special paint/chemical? Tar might have degraded completely. Turpentine? Lignin remains soaked with paint?

  7. #7 Martin R
    May 11, 2011

    I’d like a mechanised metal detector that trundled around like a Roomba vaccum cleaning robot.

  8. #8 stripey_cat
    May 11, 2011

    The roomba is a cute idea, but you’d need tracks if you want to use it in plough.

  9. #9 birger johansson
    May 11, 2011

    Here is something you should use to protect excavation sites from looters! I suggest using something more formidable than paintballs, though.

    Auto Targeting Sentry Gun http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxBa5bQfTGc&feature=related

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