Spent the day digging with my friends Mattias Pettersson and Roger Wikell like so many times before. I like to join them on their sites for a day every now and then (2007, 2008, 2010). The two are mainly known as Mesolithic scholars, but I have been with them on a Neolithic and a Bronze Age site as well on previous occasions. And this time they’re straight up my own alley of research: they’re digging the largest of the Viking Period burial mounds in Tyresta hamlet’s southern cemetery. Measuring eleven meters in diameter and about one-and-a-half in height, it’s a pretty imposing structure placed on the apex of the cemetery hill within view of the hamlet.
The Tyresta Foundation funds the excavation because they want to enhance the cultural attraction of this well-preserved rural milieu on the edge of a forest preserve. And the County Archaeologist gave them permission because the mound has been badly damaged by a potato cellar dug into it centuries ago. Using my new metal detector I soon found that the entire mound is strewn thickly with nails or similar small iron objects. Some may be from the disturbed eleven centuries old cremation layer at its heart, but most are probably from the superstructure of the cellar and later trash accumulation.
When the guys de-turfed the mound they found the remains of a long-abandoned badger set on the side opposite to the cellar. The badgers’ spoil dump forms a wide fan of charcoal-darkened earth down the slope of the mound. And after I gave up on the metal detecting I spent the afternoon digging and sieving this fan. We found a lot of cremated human bones, a clench nail, a tiny bit of pottery and (as spotted by osteologist Sara Gummesson) a fragment of an antler comb. This is clearly stuff that the badgers have excavated from the mound’s core and deposited outside their set. In order to date the burial all one would have to do were to send one of the bone frags to a radiocarbon lab. But the Foundation wants something to exhibit on site, and they want the mound reconstructed. So on the dig goes. I hope for some fun surprises in what remains of the burial. But it’s most likely a male one as no beads or molten copper alloy from jewellery have shown up yet. Male cremation burials of this period are rarely rich in the area.
Apart from nails, my only detector finds were two bullets from a hunting rifle, one in the turf strip left on the section baulk across the mound under excavation, another in the spoil dump of an active badger set in a nearby smaller mound. Funnily they don’t show the damage you’d expect if they’d been fired into the ground, and I found no cartridges. The larger third bullet that the guys found looks like somebody with a Dirty Harry fantasy has been target practising here. Maybe a member of the Home Guard who used to meet nearby. Can somebody identify the ammo?
Update next evening: Comments Dear Reader Franz J, “The smaller bullets are both full-jacketed military rather than hunting projectiles. These long blunt bullets date 1890s to perhaps 1930s – later bullets were shorter and sharp-pointed. They could have been fired when new or 50 years later. … 6.5mm was the Swedish military caliber from 1890′s to 1960s. The fatter bullet appears unjacketed (solid lead alloy) and may be 12.17mm caliber from the Remington rifles the Swedish Army used 1867-1890s, but military ammo differed little from hunting ammo for black powder rifles.”