Impressions of Birka


Responding to my call for archaeopix, Dear Reader Kristi offers us two pages out of her June 2005 travel journal, recording a visit to Björkö / Birka, site of Sweden's first town c. AD 770-970. Explains Kristi:

"I sketched the things that made an impression on me, from the island and the Birkamuseet. [...] Art journaling, such as that in my scan, is very popular as a means of documenting amateur archaelogical, historical, and biological interests"

News to me, though I'd heard of scrapbooking which seems to be somewhat similar. Any more art journalers or scrapbookers around here? Somebody should write a Wikipedia entry about it!

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When I tell people I'm an archaeologist, they often ask ”So have you dug at Birka?”. As of yesterday I can finally proudly reply ”yeah, a bit”. ”Birka” is a Latinate attempt to write Biærkey, ”Birch Island”. It's an island in Lake Mälaren, two hours by slow boat from Stockholm. For a bit more than…

I am glad I am not the only one guilty of this. I thought it was my obsessiveness about archaeology, that even if I am not on the job, at least I still have my notebook. I can't enjoy a walk in the woods without feeling like I ought to have my pack, shovel, screen, sample bags, sharpies, fieldforms,quadrangle map, compass, Munsell book, etc., etc. It is really awful.--I sometimes use such sketches on, but think it is pretty cheesy.

Errr...I'm a cancer researcher and neuroanatomy instructor, *not* an archaeologist, by trade and training. My sketches may be "cheesy" indeed, but they were done as part of a travel/art journal, and I think Martin made that pretty clear in his post. I have never used such drawings in a professional publication, or even in a grant application.

Now, now, children, play nice. Mary didn't actually say Barn Owl's sketches were cheesy, only her own. And I certainly wouldn't have put them on-line if I thought so. I look forward to receiving choice selections out of both your sketch books in the future. In the age of photography, the ability to render something in crayon is a skill that must be encouraged!

I'm just a dingus from America who knows virtually nothing about Sweden (other than what my medievalist roommate shares with me), but I know Birka! I curated the business records of the Ravenna Mosaic Company, who decorated the Golden Hall in Stockholm (actually, it was their parent company, Puhl-Wagner, but Ravenna ended up with a lot of those business records). Nonetheless, the library I was working for owned mosaic panel of a design for the Golden Hall. I'm sorry that I do not have a color picture of this panel, which was used to test the translation of the original cartoons into glass. The thing weighs about 250 pounds and shows the arrival of St. Ansgar in Birka, baptizing some very small Swedes. Here is a photo of the panel. Enjoy. I know that better images exist, but I do not have immediate access to them.


Hey, how cool! My wife used to work as a tourist guide in the town hall where the Golden Hall is. Myself, I used to rent a summer house from the son of Einar Forseth who designed the mosaics. Small world!

I'm a horrible artist, so I don't do art journaling. I do maintain a journal of things archaeological (and anthropological) that interest me, but aren't necessarily part of my job. Sometimes, an illustration is needed, so I try to scribble one out the best I can. I've always liked the look of those old-school travel journals.

By Marshdrifter (not verified) on 22 Dec 2007 #permalink