Friday, September 01, 2006

Talking and Digging Near Linköping

I'll be spending the period 10-15 September near Linköping.

On Sunday the 10th at 15:00 I'll give a talk at Kaga village hall about my research into Late 1st Millennium central places in Östergötland. I'll show a lot of pictures of new finds and hopefully people will bring their own finds for show-and-tell. It's right by Kaga church, admission is SEK 50, and the organisers will offer their interpretation of an Iron Age snack (apparently involving spelt) afterwards.

11 through 15 September I'll be digging with my pals Howie, Libby, Marie and others in one of three great barrows just across the brook and due east from Sjögestad church. Östergötland has many great barrows. They are evidence for control over a lot of labour, that is, evidence for the presence of powerful people. Few are dated, and it seems that some are Early Bronze Age (c. 1500 BC) and others are Late Iron Age (c. AD 800) -- the period I'm interested in. So to move forward in discussing the political geography of either of these periods, we could use more dates for great barrows.

At 35 meters' diameter and 4.5 meters' height, the barrow in Sjögestad is among the largest in the entire province. What little dating evidence we have is weak and circumstantial: our metal detector survey last Easter showed that there's hardly any metalwork in the surrounding fields, though we did find a 10th century dress pin. On the other hand, there's a ploughed-over settlement site not far from the barrow, where we found a hammer stone that indicates Stone Age or Bronze Age tech.

Excavating a great barrow in its entirety to modern standards is a huge job that I neither could nor would undertake. So our dates aren't coming from the grave goods. Instead, we're sinking a small trench through a peripheral part of the barrow, collecting material from the barrow fill as we move down, and then (if we're lucky) finding something organic beneath the barrow. Radiocarbon dating takes as little as a single carbonised seed grain (why not spelt?) these days with accelerator dating, and it only costs about €350 / $440 a pop. Ideally, we'll get a date for stuff buried under the barrow and another one for the barrow fill, which will together allow us to assign the barrow to one of the two candidate periods.

Dear Reader, feel free to check out the dig!

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Blogger Karen said...

One of the health food stores here in town makes their own breads, buns, etc. My favourite is the spelt bread sticks with sea salt. Mmmm.

The speak and dig you're doing later this month sounds very interesting. Too bad it's ALL THE WAY over in Sweden! :-) Alun from Archaeoastronomy recommended a couple of books on the type of research/work he's doing, can you suggest anything (in English) about your work? I pretty much know less than nothing about Swedish history/archaeology.

02 September, 2006 17:52  
Blogger Martin said...

That's a very good question, and one that I can't really answer. You see, I've never had reason to shop around for an introductory text on Scandinavian prehistory in English.

This looks good, and it's only from 2003: The Cambridge history of Scandinavia. Vol. 1, Prehistory to 1520.

As for the field of 1st Millennium central places, I don't know of any introductory text at all. The papers in Central places in the Migration and Merovingian Periods : papers from the 52nd Sachsensymposium, Lund, August 2001 should give you an idea of what it's about.

Don't forget to blog about your impressions!

02 September, 2006 20:16  
Blogger Hans Persson said...

I'm planning to be there for the talk, and I hope we can find the time to go geocaching some time during the week you're here.

02 September, 2006 20:50  
Anonymous Henrik said...

I'm not really into that spelt movement, but the dig sounds interesting enough - say hello to Howard from me!

02 September, 2006 21:26  
Blogger Hans Persson said...

OK, I've now written a few lines about your lecture. I liked it!

10 September, 2006 20:27  

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