Respected Swedish Archaeologist Joins Cranks


To my horror, Ystads Allehanda reports that Wladyslaw Duczko has joined Nils-Axel Mörner on a project to excavate the famous Ales stenar stone ship.

Why does this pain me? Because while (as I have reported here before) geologist Mörner and his collaborator homeopath Bob G. Lind are Swedish archaeology's most notorious cranks, Duczko is not. He is a respected senior archaeologist and known as an authority on Slavic silver jewellery of the Viking Period.

If I had heard that Duczko was going to excavate Ales stenar, I would have said "Well done, Wladde, I'm looking forward to seeing your results. Hope Bob doesn't try to kill you." But now he's lending his academic credibility to a collaboration with the people who are just about the least qualified of all adult Swedes to take part in the excavations.

The County Archaeologist of Scania will in all likelihood not give an excavation permit to anyone who collaborates with Mörner or Lind. And I believe the land is owned by the National Heritage Board, which likewise will let them nowhere near the site with a shovel. But from now on, Wladyslaw Duczko's academic credibility will be used to support some really weird fringe archaeology. Why, oh, why, Wladde? Didn't you know?

Ãsa M. Larsson and Fredrik Svanberg are also shocked and incredulous.

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It's always awful when someone you respect does something that crazy-destructive to your field. Have a tele-hug and a non-physical glass of home-brew mead.

By stripey_cat (not verified) on 07 Sep 2010 #permalink

If he truly is someone who, as you say, is respected, it seems only fair to ascertain his reason for "going over to the dark side" before trashing him. To a casual observer (me), this post seems a determination on your part to make sure the dark site is always properly regarded as dark.

This sounds more like a defensive rant than an attempt to understand something outside one's comfort range. Today's "consensus" of megalithic archaeology is made up of little more than educated guesses that are consistent with other educated guesses; sometimes one has to question the status quo in order to see different possibilities.

Questioning a consensus does not make one a Galileo, neither does it make one a Crank. Climbing "out of the box" is, however, a common trait of that kind of curiosity which often leads to valid discoveries. My point is, why should the academic world condemn such curiosity, other than that it takes itself too seriously for its own good, thus defending the status quo against all newcomers?

To play the devil's advocate for a moment here (and keeping in mind I am unaware of any of the protagonists or the issues surrounding this site), is it not possible that this is a perhaps misguided attempt at inclusiveness in research.

I know one archaeologist who has worked extensively on a particularly famous English megalithic site, who sometimes feels he has to allow erm...people with pagan tendencies shall we say, to be involved with research.

I once went on a small exploratory dig with him where the site had been 'identified' by a woman who thought the 'vibrations' were 'significant'. In other cases he is a very sensible head of department at a British University.

If an open-minded and interested person reads up on the archaeological controversies that N-A. Mörner and B.G. Lind have been involved in, I believe he/she will find that their disregard for evidence that contradicts their preconceived notions renders their work quite absurd. This, BTW, is in fact the position that all Swedish academic archaeologists except Dr. Duczko takes.

Could they damage something? I'd like to see it excavated in case there's something interesting. What silly theories the excavators spin with their finds seems relatively harmless to me as a layman--am I missing something? Has it not been excavated before by professional archaeologists?

SO where's the news?

By rachaeology (not verified) on 08 Sep 2010 #permalink

The site has only seen small test excavations before. I agree that if a site is competently excavated, then the excavator's silly theories are pretty harmless. But Duczko has joined forces with people who know nothing about archaeological excavations, and are notorious for their crazy ideas about the past. I am exasperated to see him lend them credibility, and I am worried about what they might do if there were an excavation.

I'm too lazy to go back through the archives, but wasn't Lind the guy who'd been in trouble for harassing people and damaging sites by trying to excavate without training or permission?

By stripey_cat (not verified) on 08 Sep 2010 #permalink

Yep, that's the one. It isn't clear from the newspaper story what role Lind would have in the excavation project, but he's a frequent collaborator of Mörner's and he spends huge amounts of time at the site anyway. It would be impossible to keep him out of the trench.

Cranks or not, they do have an instinct for high-profile, interesting sites not inharmonious with your call for popular archaeology. I don't know how professional archaeologists can stand leaving the stone ship unexcavated for years, or sites like Skalunda -- aren't you dying to know what's in there? Haha I want to see you in an Indiana Jones hat.

I don't know anything about the case in question beyond what I've read here, but it may be worth saying this much:

I once went on a small exploratory dig with him where the site had been 'identified' by a woman who thought the 'vibrations' were 'significant'. In other cases he is a very sensible head of department at a British University.

I went to a paper not so very long ago in which a fairly sceptical Italian archæologist had to admit that Santa Maria Maggiore di Ravenna was actually located for him by a dowser, and then verified by geophysical survey. He didn't know exactly how to allow for this in his report... Though it must be said that the dowser in question apparently knew the main narrative source for the period cover-to-cover, which must have helped him guide his search...

Has not this site been scanned recently with radar and magnetic gear that can check what is left below?

The homeopath Bob G. Lind has been in the newspapers and local tv-channels frequently, in Scania, and he has a very aggressive attitude towards people that do not share his opinion.

It has been more about personal obsession and less about Ale. It is a very beautyful place where you can see Bornholm, the Danish island.

By Thomas Ivarsson (not verified) on 09 Sep 2010 #permalink

Yes, Ales stenar has seen geophysical mapping. Underground remains of two smaller stone ships known from 18th century drawings were found. But the most important piece of news was a large ring ditch nearby that may mark the place of a leveled megalithic tomb.