Spring is late this year in Sweden, and the weather has been dreary. But now things have perked up, and suddenly I felt the itch to get out and check out some sites before the leaves and grass sprout in earnest and ruin visibility. So Sunday night I hurriedly checked through my database of Bronze Age sacrificial finds and picked out two nearby sites where the find spots are known to good precision. I printed out maps from the sites & monuments register and checked for coeval rock art & burnt mounds nearby. And I got the 1000 BC shoreline map for each site from the Swedish Geological Survey’s web site. So I was set for a field trip Monday.
My first stop was at Rangsta in Sorunda parish on SÃ¶dertÃ¶rn, the large peninsula on whose north-eastern corner I have lived for most of my life. A small bronze spearhead was found there during tree planting in about 1955. It’s similar to spearheads from Lilla HÃ¤rnevi and the Pukbergsgrottan cave where I did fieldwork last year. The type isn’t well dated as it rarely occurs in combination with anything else, but it’s certainly Late Bronze Age (1100-500 BC) and probably after 900 BC or later.
The Rangsta find spot is on a rather steep westward slope towards a field that was dry land already in the LBA (note the collapsed elk hunting tower to the left). Across the valley floor is a hill top with a flat burial monument of similar date. Burnt mounds, cupmark sites and further stone settings are only 200-300 m away. That the spearhead has been sacrificed is not entirely clear – it may conceivably have been lost during combat – but the slope gradient is too steep for settlement or burial. And I’m seeing this funny recurring affinity between BA spearheads and hills. There’s the one from the Pukberget cave, on a dramatic scarp, and one from a crevice on Oxbroberget Hill in Helgesta parish near Lake BÃ¥ven. They’re centuries apart, but this is one of the site types for which I’m keeping my eyes open. Finally, in this part of Sweden, BA spearheads only have one of two kinds of find context: apparent sacrifice or simply decontextualised. They do not show up at settlement or grave excavations.
Roger Wikell actually happens to be re-surveying this very area for rock art right now along with S-G. BrostrÃ¶m and K. Ihrestam. There’s a major roadworks going on at Rangsta, and Roger & Co found some cupmarked outcrops just in time to document them but too late to save them from getting dynamited. After checking out one of the previously known nearby cupmark sites I drove down to Rangsta jetty and logged a geocache, and then drove to SÃ¶dertÃ¤lje for a quick lunch.
From SÃ¶dertÃ¤lje I drove west to Turinge and found the entrance to a network of narrow part-paved roads through an desolate area of pine woods interspersed with great big gravel quarries. I was on my way to a classic site, that of one of the Lake MÃ¤laren/HjÃ¤lmaren region’s largest Bronze Age hoards.
The hoard from Ekudden in Turinge parish consists of 58 bronze objects: axes, chisels, saws, a spearhead, various dress accessories and arm rings (pic above). It is extremely large not only for the region, but also for its EBA period III date (1300-1100 BC). The second-largest EBA hoard from the region has only seven objects (Tullinge in Botkyrka, also per. III). The Ekudden hoard was found in 1885 when a farmer dug a whole near the shore of Lake Yngern to bury a calf. The surface sheen of the bronze shows that the hoard was buried deeply enough to be sitting below the water table. A 1931 investigation of the site only turned up some flint – interesting given that the material does not occur naturally in the region, but not much to write home about compared to the hoard.
When I arrived at the site I found that it is currently the lakeside yard of a summer house. So I knocked on the door to ask for permission to wander around the property and take some pictures. The charming owners were very interested to learn about the hoard, about which nobody had ever told them in any detail. Not only did they readily give me access to their garden, but they also showed me around their house and asked if I wanted some Jerusalem artichokes, straight from their patch! Which of course I did.*
The hoard site is in a former field with clearance cairns along the edges. A rosehip bush sits in the approximate spot of that long-ago calf burial. A hill to the east has something the register classifies as a burnt mound at its apex, but the stones are not actually cracked, and the siting is odd, so I think it is more likely to be the beginnings of a burial cairn. A cool thing about Ekudden is that Lake Yngern (38 m a.s.l.) retains approximately the same shoreline as it did when the hoard was buried. And so its close relationship to open water is much easier to appreciate than at sites that were near the sea back in the day.
* I told them the tubers make a nice soup with cream and sherry or rice wine, and they told me they had a bottle of the most awful Chinese rice brandy, the infamous bai jiu, which had been given to them as a present. My buddy Magnus Reuterdahl, a wine connoisseur, has done some fieldwork in China. He tells me that when small-town Chinese bars offer a Western drink list, they don’t actually use Western spirits, but bai jiu and flavoured syrups. The results are invariably disastrous, since bai jiu is very far indeed from a flavourless vodka.