Monday, July 10, 2006

Eva Olsson 1954–2006

When I started blogging I had no idea that I'd be running obituaries here. But in the last few months I've found myself writing about Bengt Händel and Christian Lindqvist, and last week I learned about Eva Olsson passing away. I really didn't see that coming. I've known Eva since the early 90s, met her in March at her office in Örnsberg and we chatted about her work with Pitted Ware. OK, I knew her health wasn't great, but now she's gone!? Some banal wound leading to blood-poisoning and then game over.

I liked Eva a lot though I can't say I knew her very well. So instead of writing something myself, I asked Roger Wikell to become Salto sobrius's first guest blogger. The following is his appreciation of Eva, translated by myself.

Eva Olsson
By Roger Wikell

Less than a week ago I received the sad news that Eva Olsson has left us all too early. A restrained Britta Kihlstedt called me from her holidays. I was looking forward to a month's holiday myself: the weather was as good as Swedish summers ever get. Sun shining from a clear blue sky. A warm sea breeze. The archipelago, friends, world cup football. The news about Eva was as if a dark cloud had suddenly appeared, casting a chilly shade despite the summer heat.

This is really hard to understand. The brain translates the words: you can read them and see them, but understanding emotionally isn't as easy. Immediately you're stuck by what you should have done – and by what Eva should have done. Her archaeological knowledge was great and you could always turn to her with questions. Now there's a gap.

Eva had worked in archaeology since the 70s, and those who have collaborated with her are many. Some have worked with her far more than I have, and might be more suited for writing this. But since Martin asked, I'm carving these runes from my own perspective. Even though I haven't really realised yet that she's gone.

The first time I met Eva was in the early 80s. She was kind enough to work with local historical societies, hembygdsföreningar, and I was active there on amateur excavations. I learned my first lessons about Stone Age settlement sites with her as site manager in 1984 on the Late Mesolithic site at Häggsta in Huddinge parish, Södermanland. Two years ago we celebrated 20 years of field archaeology together in the region. Eva was always keen on new source material and new interpretations. It's been an exciting ride, extending our knowledge of the Stone Age of Eastern Middle Sweden. 10 000 years in two decades, quite the intellectual adventure. Eva always took part in the discussion, not only regarding the Stone Age. How can a voice just fall silent like this?

Eva was always meticulous in planning, documentation and reporting. Her exacting, sometimes even pedantic control would sometimes feel a bit constraining, but it was also a source of inspiration. The work got done well. I always felt goaded to think and write clearly, and not make any half-baked statements. Eva always had time for questions, and her knowledge was great. If she couldn't give you the answer, then she could tell you where to look for it. But she was also interested in what you were doing and how you were feeling outside archaeology. There was always time for some warm-hearted words.

This sudden silence – it's a damned shame.

Larsson, M. & Olsson, E. (eds). 1997. Regionalt och interregionalt. Stenåldersundersökningar i Syd- och Mellansverige. Skrifter / Riksantikvarieämbetet, Arkeologiska undersökningar 23. Stockholm. [Review]

Kihlstedt, B.; Olsson, E. & Runeson, H. 2004. Skärgårdsbor med vida horisonter. Uppdrag arkeologi. Stockholms län under dina fötter 2004. Stockholm.

Update 3 August: Funeral service on Friday 1 September in Högalid church, Stockholm. (I don't know the time.) Everyone welcome. To join the tea party afterwards, give notice to Halldoff undertakers on 08 - 10 56 02 no later than 28 August.

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