The Aska Barrow Is A Huge Building Platform

It's been a busy couple of days with a lot of publicity. Monday morning a paper I've co-authored with my friend, geophysics specialist Andreas Viberg, was published in the on-line version of Archaeological Prospection. For reasons of scientific priority (which I myself like to establish by spilling everything I do onto the blog immediately) I've been sitting on this since April of 2013, so it feels real good to finally blog about it. Here's a brief summary.

  • There's a huge weird barrow at Aska in Hagebyhöga near Vadstena in Östergötland. It's oval and flat instead of round and domed.
  • My old teacher Anders Carlsson has suggested that this may not be a grave mound but a Late Iron Age building platform like the ones in Old Uppsala.
  • Andreas and I drove down with a ground-penetrating radar device and surveyed the thing. We found the floor plan of an almost 50-metres-long mead-hall, very similar to one of the royal halls excavated at Old Uppsala.
  • This lends added support to the interpretation I advanced in my 2011 book Mead-halls of the Eastern Geats: Aska in Hagebyhöga was the residence of a Viking Period petty-royal dynasty in Östergötland that has left no trace in the written record.

Anyone who wants the (sadly pay-walled) paper, please email me!

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The Aska barrow hits international media: "Major Viking hall identified in Sweden”
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"(A) dynasty in Östergötland that has left no trace in the written record."
...or the chronicles were burned during the reigns of Gustav Wasa and his sons. Chin Shi-Huang Di was not the last to want to rewrite the past.

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 10 Dec 2014 #permalink

It's good to see your name in all these articles and the discovery is very cool. Any theories on why it's on a mound? Just to visually dominate the landscape or for more practical reasons like flooding? It's hard to tell from the pictures I've googled how the land looks around it. Most of the references I saw to Aska i Hagebyhöga have to do with jewelry found there.

These platforms are built to raise the halls up and make them visually dominant. At Aska the site was already the highest point for miles before they built the platform.

I think I can see it on Google Earth. If I have spotted the right place, the surrounding countryside is all pretty flat. Could be to prevent flooding, but I'm guessing.

By John Massey (not verified) on 11 Dec 2014 #permalink

OK. I didn't actually see your comment before I posted mine - too busy peering at Google Earth.

By John Massey (not verified) on 11 Dec 2014 #permalink

Transporting enough earth with crude ox carts makes building just the platform quite an undertaking.
BTW Royal one-upmanship would have been a spur for technology imports. Did petty royalty have access to the kind of glass used in southern European churches/palaces or are glass windows something that arrived with the monks?

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 11 Dec 2014 #permalink

No window glass in Sweden prior to the first monasteries c. 1100. Lots of drinking glasses and beads though.

It must have been entertaining to see those old Vikings navigating the ramps after a good evening.

(OT) I didn't want to see John Massey go.
I have posted a reply on the last thread. BTW inferring perceived insult without body language is difficult.
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By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 12 Dec 2014 #permalink

It would be a refreshingly unpoetic, typically scandy literal interpretation if this is what is meant by a "high hall" as your paper suggests. I see my suburban split-level in an entirely new light.

Kevin, in an age when disputes were settled by sword and torch investing too much in flammable real estate might have been president Madison found out.
(I found the prefect song to ilustrate the point: "The war of 1812 song")
(Canadians sing) "He thought he´d invade Canada,
he though that he was tough,
instead we went to Washington...
and we burned down all his stuff!

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 16 Dec 2014 #permalink

After feasting at the hall the chieftains would stagger off to their relatively small horses and try not to fall off on the home journy...
"Study on ancient DNA reveals how humans tamed wild horses"…
Some genes in current horse arose from mutations *after* domestication 5500 years ago, such as a short-distance “speed gene”.

By BirgerJohansson (not verified) on 16 Dec 2014 #permalink

Birger @14: Speaking of the (American) War of 1812,[1] that's the war that produced the US national anthem, about the bombardment by British naval vessels of Fort McHenry in Baltimore. "The Star-Spangled Banner" is apparently one of the hardest national anthems to sing: it requires a vocal range of an octave plus a fifth, comparable to the vocal range of a decent untrained singer, whose range might not match the key in which the song is performed. For example, I can sing it in B flat, but not in G unless I switch octaves mid-song (the low G is a little too low for me, and that high D would be well into my non-existent falsetto range). Special bonus: the melody is that of a drinking song, "To Anacreon in Heaven".

[1]As opposed to the other War of 1812, in which Napoleon had the bright idea of trying to conquer Russia. Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture is about the latter conflict, and comes complete with cannon fire (usually simulated, but when the Boston Pops performs that piece on the Esplanade they fire real howitzers).

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 16 Dec 2014 #permalink

Wasn't expecting an Arrogant Worms reference here but I approve. :)

By Andrew Broome (not verified) on 16 Dec 2014 #permalink

A wonderful image, Birger, thank you. The big Viking on a little horse.