Prehistory of an Airport
I visited Arlanda airport north of Stockholm today. It's the largest one in the country. Like something out of a Gibson novel, it does have a lonely 11th century runestone sitting in Terminal 2. But otherwise it's all brand new.
Still, quite a bit is known about the Arlanda area's history and archaeology. The airport is on land that used to be commons between the hundreds of Ärlinghundra and Seminghundra in the Middle Ages. The name Arlanda is actually a recent reconstruction based on a 1316 mention of Ärlinghundra (provincia Aarland). According to place-name scholar Stefan Brink, it harks back to an early 1st millennium tribal area named *Arland (cf. Sollentuna - *Soland, Vallentuna - *Valland, and Oland). When the first humble beginnings of the airport were inaugurated in 1954, it was simply called Halmsjöfältet, "the [air] field at Lake Halmsjön".
A lot of excavations took place in the late 90s before the third landing strip was built, and there's a good book (see below) presenting some of the results. The hundreds commons (häradsallmänning) were infertile areas of hilly woodland, and they haven't been attractive to farmers for over two thousand years. But before that, while primitive agricultural methods were still in use, the area was full of settlements. A number of very nice Neolithic sites were excavated.
The area is full of archaeological sites in the National Register. That is, the airport is surrounded by a dense carpet of sites (black-edged blobs) that somehow seem to avoid the landing strips and surrounding installations. This is of course due to the fact that the airport was built before the national ancient monuments survey had learned to recognise settlement sites. But there are still ancient things creeping up on the glass-and-steel: for instance, something that looks a lot like an Early Iron Age stone setting (Raä Husby-Ärlinghundra 93) just outside Terminal 2. Oh yes, the archaeology is still there. All we have to do is wait for the airport to fall out of use too and become one big mutha of a site.
Anund, J. (ed.). 2003. Landningsplats – forntiden. Arkeologiska fördjupningsstudier kring yngre stenålder, järnålder och historisk tid, inom det område som tas i anspråk för den tredje landningsbanan vid Arlanda flygplats. Riksantikvarieämbetet, Arkeologiska undersökningar, Skrifter nr 49. Stockholm. 220 pp. ISBN 91-7209-294-7. [Review]
[More blog entries about airports, arlanda, archaeology, Sweden; flygplatser, arkeologi, Arlanda.]