Back in February I wrote about a new issue of Halland County Museum’s periodical Utskrift. And now I have already received two new issues! I’ll talk a little about #12 here as I haven’t read #11 yet.
The volume is an homage to Lennart Lundborg on his 80th birthday. Lundborg is a beloved figure in Halland archaeology and a former employee of the museum. Fittingly, five of the twelve papers deal with the Bronze Age in Halland province, the man’s main field of study, and three with other aspects of his work, including the many comics he’s drawn!
The three longest papers (all 14 pp.) are a report on an undisturbed but sparsely furnished Early Bronze Age barrow inhumation by the late Tore Artelius, an essay on Bronze Age art by Joakim Goldhahn and a report on a soapstone casting mould for an EBA dagger blade by Ola Kadefors.
Artelius’s report is refreshingly down-to-earth and demonstrates fine fieldwork, but it contains a piece of slightly spurious reasoning. He says that a) the barrow was unusually well preserved, with an intact brim, and b) it was unusually large, 25 m in diameter. Then he compares it to other large coeval barrows in the province. But the barrow only had a large diameter because the flat brim was still there to be measured, which as he points out is very unusual in Halland. Looking only at the tall central part of the barrow, it was in fact a barrow of ordinary size.
Goldhahn points out that geological shapes and patterns in stones and outcrops that we can see today could also be seen during the Bronze Age, and that there are cases where Bronze Age rock art clearly incorporates or references such pranks of nature on purpose. But in my opinion he then overstresses the point in a pretty pretentious manner. Goldhahn goes on to say that John Coles once failed to document such a relationship between nature and art “probably because he embraces a dichotomy between nature and culture with its origins in Descartes’ 17th century philosophy which then was strengthened and solidified during the 19th century Romantic era” (p. 46). In fact, Goldhahn clearly embraces the same dichotomy since he too distinguishes between shapes caused by geological happenstance and shapes caused intentionally by Bronze Age rock carvers. The difference between him and Coles is just how narrowly they define their remit when documenting rock art. Goldhahn, who is a sensible man, would never document something vaguely boat-like in the geology of a cliff unless there were clear human-made carvings or structures nearby.
Kadefors does a good job of presenting the dagger casting mould and has even located a dagger in the museum stores that fits well enough in it. Kudos for that. But he makes this really weird argument about whether the object should be called a sword or a dagger (p. 66). The blade’s length is only 23 cm. But Kadefors decides to call it a sword because he has somehow decided that a dagger, Sw. dolk, is not a weapon, and the blades cast in the mould were only useful as weaponry. This is just wrong: daggers are weapons by definition. And it makes the rest of the paper difficult to evaluate since we aren’t told whether he always means “swords + daggers” when he says “swords”, or just sometimes when he feels like it. Kadefors’s grasp of the language is further shown to be slipping when on the same page he uses deponi (“landfill”) for depå (“hoard”) and bronset (“the bronze medal in sports”) for bronsen (“the bronze alloy”). Linn Mattson also hits us with bronset on p. 90, and I wince and groan.
As with last winter’s issue, thus, Utskrift still does not have a competent copy editor who can save contributors from looking silly. I certainly wouldn’t accept the colloquial verb modifier -andes for -ande like Utskrift does, but that may be a dialect thing. This criticism is not an attempt on my part to score another copy editing gig, by the way. As I wrote back in February, “This task should be entrusted to someone’s retired school-teacher aunt next time.”
Alf Ericsson always writes something interesting though. In his six-page contribution he introduces us to “mill hogs”. Apparently, grain mills and hog pens have always gone together because pigs get fat quickly on the mill’s by-products. This is visible in Medieval taxation records, where millers are often required to pay their taxes in grain and fattened hogs. The next time you excavate a Medieval mill site, Dear Reader, make sure to look for the hog pen.
Despite my critical remarks, all in all I found Utskrift #12 to be another fine read about a Swedish province with fine archaeology.