27 May, 2013
This week On the Reading Rest I have yet another report from Östergötland, in Swedish, and the excavation of a peripheral site, albeit in the central Linköping region. This time the farm site is a better place than Götala, cf. ‘Down by the Farm Hands’ 21 January 2013. Valla is situated just West of the town and today it’s on the University of Linköping campus. In the 11th c. CE it was peripheral to the new town and thus regionally speaking central. In modern urban terms it is still a little peripheral.
Sköld, Katarina. 2012. En gård från yngre järnålder i Valla Östergötland Linköpings stad och kommun Kv Intellektet RAÄ 330. UV Rapport 2012:73. Särskild arkeologisk undersökning. Del 1-2. Linköping―A Farm from the Late Iron Age in Valla Östergötland … … UV Rapport 2012:73. (No summary in English).
The Valla excavation was professional, but the report is blemished by a tendency to draw conclusions from the unknown or from the possible but improbable, supported by a very modest tendency to strengthen important interpretations by relevant comparisons, except when the references are local, i.e. Ostrogothic.
When writing about a small cultivated area, c. 100 sq m just north of the main building remains, the author suggests that this area might have been a kitchen garden. There are few facts supporting this interpretation, but since Katarina Sköld (KaSk) finds this croft too small for a growing cereals or flax, she suggests that cabbage and other hard-to-prove crops might have been grown there. They might, but there is obviously no evidence of this or anything that precise in a patch that has been used at intervals during hundreds of years.
A multipurpose marginal area northwest of the farm houses, next to some large embedded boulders and rocks, is seen a ritual place in addition to its being a dumping ground. Eventually in the report it becomes the Ritual Area. An impediment to any farmer, these bounds were used during a 1000 years period and may at some point in time have been used also in connection with rituals – since ritual will take place and find its form almost anywhere at any time, but apart from that, and the odd indication in connection with dumping, there is not much to support the interpretation. Interpreting a site as ritual during a millennium demands more specific contextual patterns. As a rule local and informal ritual sites have difficulties surviving for centuries. Boulders, rocks and bounds attractive as they may be are not enough.
Next to crofts and the dumping ground there are a number of house remains, as one might expect on a site to which farmers have returned. This plot is defined by topography and the repeated use of the site, but the author detects a main farm building c. 19 m long and no less than 8 m wide. This building has been standing on the plot for 700 years or more from the LRIA into the 11th c. CE. The obvious solution to such a cluster of post holes: several houses on more or less the same spot during a period with some breaks in the occupation, is not even mentioned.
Needless to say, the report hints that the farm may have been of central importance in the Late Iron Age. But in reality it is just a fine example of a peripheral site occupied during two major and separate settlement periods – in the Late Roman-Pre Carolingian Iron Age (LR-PCIA) and the Late Carolingian Iron Age (CIA). The latter period was extended into the earliest decades of the Middle Ages (MA). Moreover, the farm incorporates the iron working site by the brook Smedstadbäcken.
A minimalistic approach forgetting about never-ending possibility and continuity, but nevertheless a critical reading of the report must be recommended. The County Administrative Board in Östergötland (CABÖ) should consider asking the archaeologists in Linköping to keep speculation to a minimum and start looking for parallels that a large number of archaeologists outside Linköping will spot in their excavation plans. In Östergötland, contrary to the rest of Sweden, there are almost as many types or forms of houses — as well as confused and overlooked house remains — as there are excavated settlement sites.
Since the report blurs the biography of the site wishing to create something as odd as a millennium of continuous settlement at a peripheral site, is must, as far as possible, be reinterpreted. The CABÖ should ask for a revision of the report. Thanks to the good quality of the documentation, such a request is not impossible to grant.
To begin with, trying to understand the archaeological context one may look at the overall organization of the site and its immediate surroundings. Surveys and trail excavations have shown that Valla is situated on a small slope at the very lowest settlement level in the local landscape. Higher up, i.e. to the north there are other possible settlement sites and of course the historical village Valla is also a prime candidate for prehistoric settlements. Be this as it may, Valla is peripheral since in this landscape there is no settlement below it, i.e. south of it. Ninety meter south of Valla, by a small brook called Smedstadbäcken (Smest) there was a small site without house remains, but with indications of iron working – that is an open air ‘smithy’. The site was used mainly during two periods as shown by the 6 14C-dates, which indicate that the Smest was visited now and again during the Late Bronze Age and PRIA (LBA-PRIA) as well as in the 4-6th century CE, i.t. the LR-PCIA (01).
If we combine the 6 dates at Smest with the 19 14C-dates from Valla they fit each other in the following way: There is one isolated date at Valla corresponding to the three LBA-PRIA dates at Smest when both sites were visited at intervals. There are six dates at Valla that correspond to the three 4-6th c. dates at Smest when the site was in continuous use. While Smest ceased to be used in the 6th c. CE, Valla was revisited and perhaps resettled already in the 8th c. with a peak in the 9-10th and an aftermath in the 10-11th c CE. The artifact dates do not speak against the 14C-dates; on the contrary, among the Valla artefacts the end phase is well represented. This probably has to do with the growing material wealth in the end of prehistory and the tendency for end phases not to be tidied up, thus leaving more artefacts to be found with a metal detector. Metal detectors were systematically used at Valla with very good results. After the Middle Ages both Valla and Smest were visited occasionally, probably because the northern part of the Valla settlement stood out as a fertile spot while a path leading down to the brook close to Smest facilitating dumping by the brook.
The dates of the small Valla-Smedstadbäcken settlement are typical of IA sites inasmuch as sporadic visits in LB-EIA are followed by a permanent farmstead. Permanent Valla is a late-comer and part of the settlement expansion during the RIA. Although this expansion comes to an end in the 5th c. it runs into the 6th century in a few places. In the Valla case the settlement period is late and short – c. 150 years compared to the usual 250-350 years. Nevertheless, the Valla settlement stands out because the site is resettled in the CIA in such as way that, as pointed out by KaSk, it becomes part of the new expansion characterizing this period. Most peripheral settlements are not resettled.
KaSk’s general understanding of the Valla structure is well argued and the Smest component easily fitted into the overall picture. The main settlement sorts itself into three areas from the north to the south. The sorting follows the landscape, gently sloping from a slightly higher to a slightly lower level, from the centre of the settlement with its larger houses, over two small cabins where people dwelled engaged in handicraft, to the outskirts of the farm area and a small house with an unspecific relation to rural economy and farm life. In the handicraft area and the outskirts, activities are less marked by subsistence than in the larger central part of the settlement. Circa 100 m south of the farm itself, but linked to it, we find the small iron working site down by the brook where nobody lived.
This enhanced farm pattern is building up and slightly changing during the whole settlement period.
If we look at the central part of the settlement there is an obvious spot where farm buildings have stood at intervals. KaSk is right in saying that the site is difficult to sort out, but three to five houses can nevertheless be traced. The oldest is a house from the LRIA – a relatively large building c. 27 m long probably containing all the farm-house functions under one roof. As discussed by KaSk the western part of the house is the dwelling. There may of course have been EIA houses too, but in that case they are difficult to see. It is much easier to detect the typical CIA houses with plank walls between the upright wall posts that also supported the roof. They cover the dwelling part of the earlier house and revive the old farmstead with houses that belong to a new approach to rural economy. This means that there is no LPCIA house — with its typical narrow mid aisle — to fill the gap between an early and late settlement phase.
It would seem, therefore, that the house types support the 14C-dates as well as the artifact dates. As KaSk shows there are four small crofts around the main farm houses. In addition to the dumping ground 20 m west of the farm buildings there is a farm-yard just south of the main buildings. If social-climbing is your goal, Valla’s the place to be born.
The central part of the farm occupies two-thirds of the total settlement area and the farm-yard seems eventually to have been enclosed by the well, a possible cattle pen, the crofts and the dumping ground. South of central part there is a multipurpose area where a lot of different activities have been going on. There are no early 14C-dates in this area, but if we look at the houses there seems to be two chronologically different types among the three obvious house remains.
The southernmost house is a small three-aisled building with three trestles. It is smaller than the houses at Götala (cf. On the Reading Rest, 12 Jan 2013). The length of the Valla house is two-thirds of the Götala houses, but the post setting is the same indicating a minimal house with two rooms – one slightly larger than the other. Probably the houses at Götala and Valla are more or less contemporary, 4-5th c. buildings. There may be a house similar to the Valla house in the iron working site at nearby Mjärdevi.
The two other houses, i.e. the ones in the northern part of the southern multi-purpose farm area, are small houses with a post in each corner supporting the roof and framing the wall planks. As a construction, one of the houses is almost identical to the best preserved small house at the central part of the farm.
When it comes to size and activities the small houses at Valla are the equivalents of pit houses. The huts are housing people who live and work just outside the farm-yard. They are workers dependent on the main household for their subsistence. Since iron working played a role for those who lived here, we may expect that now and then workers occupied themselves down by the brook already during the 4-5th century. In the CIA, when the site at the brook was given up, work seems to have been concentrated closer to the central part of the farm around the small CIA huts just south of the farm-yard.
Götala and Valla show us how the settlement crisis in the PCIA is reflected at peripheral LRIA sites. In Valla a temporary EIA one-house farm with no cemetery can sustain itself and attract the odd worker. As a substitute of a grave, there could be an informal pars-pro-toto ‘grave’ consisting of an upper arm ‘buried’ in a pit eventually covered by the croft just northwest of the main house. This farm doesn’t survive the first part of the 6th century, but the site has qualities that attract a new farm and probably more workers in the beginning of the CIA — in effect the revival of an ancient site that was not completely forgotten. The short distance to Linköping before the town was firmly established may explain the temporary success of this marginal CIA farm and its significant handicraft. In the 11-12th c. when Linköping becomes a regulated urban economy, i.e. when the workers have become townsmen, part of the economic foundation for the revived farm, with its broad production originally targeting the new market in the proto town, disappears — and so does the farm.
Götala is an even less fortunate peripheral site that was never resettled after the PCIA settlement contraction. Or we may turn the perspective around and admit that the economic expansion in the CIA could not revive a settlement that was marginal already in the middle of the first millennium.
Starting in the LBA and continuing up and until the RIA the economic capacity of nearly every place in the human landscape is defined. Many places become known in such a way that they attract people because the sites are valuable in a given economic situation.
Since remains significant of workers become visible in the middle of the first millennium, it would seem that in many parts of Southern Sweden there was no free access to land after the end of the RIA.
If we think that the abandonment of settlements or the end of expansion is a sign of a crisis in society, then the 6-7th c. CE is a significant crisis period eventually turned into a new, albeit modest period of expansion combined with a much enhanced material wealth in the CIA. There is little doubt that the stratification of society grew continuously from the RIA and onwards and that is created a drop out already in the 5-6th c. while the abandonment of farms was still an ongoing process. It seems that the ongoing social stratification checked the expansion of the CIA, eventually creating a group of landless people ready to become the first town dwellers. As soon as society had learned to see small townships as viable economic zones and societies, with at least some reproductive capacity, even rural society could change.
(01) Survey and trail excavation east of Valla and south of Smedstadbäcken has shown that the settlement doesn’t extend into these areas, cf. Ählström, Jan. 2012. Valla, Linköping inför kommande byggnation och bomässa. Stiftelsens Kulturmiljövård, rapport 2012:75.
Smedstadbäcken was excavated by the Museum of Östergötland Linköping, cf. Räf, Erika. 2009. Smideslämningar vid Smedstadbäcken. Rapport 2009:15. Östergötlands Museum
13 May, 2013
“Æschere my ‘run-knower’ is dead!” bewails King Hrothgar in Beowulf. His lament springs to mind this week when On the Reading Rest I have a re-reading of the inscription, in the old futhark, on the 5th c. rune stone from Tune in Østfold, south-southeast of Oslo. Known to scholars since the 1620s it has been re-read before (00).
Eythórsson, Thórhallur. 2013. Three daughters and a funeral: Rereading the Tune inscription. Futhark: International Journal of Runic Studies 3 (2012). Pp 7-43.
Knowing what he is up against when re-reading the inscription, Thórhallur Eythórsson (ThórEy) quotes the First Law of Runo-Dynamics attributed to the archaeologist David M Wilson: for every inscription there shall be as many interpretations as there are scholars working on it. Since archaeologists are used to handling a large, growing, badly preserved and varying source material, they are forced to agree on interpretations that are practical rather than formal. Thus having themselves given up on irrefutable knowledge, archaeologists can easily supply the Second Law: for every scholarly repetition of the true meaning of an inscription it shall be less likely that it is found out.
Runo-Dynamics therefore contradict Oscar Wilde’s unbent positivism when he reminds us that even the obvious may be proved and that telling the truth one is sure, sooner or later, to be found out.
Taking Oscar Wilde at face value runologists embark on a pursuit, a quest for the true meaning of a text, despite the fact that meaning will always deceive the huntsman. In pursuit of meaning, the laws of Runo-Dynamics will always escalate the demands on reading and re-reading texts when trying fully to understand them.
In pursuit of meaning ThórEy comes close to breaking these laws because he agrees with a number of earlier interpretations, which stand out as simply true and in no need of a renewed scientific discussion – nota bene ‘stand out’. We mustn’t not be surprised when it becomes obvious that since the late 1800s as shown by ThóEy, there has been little simple progress in the understanding of the inscription. On the contrary, clever linguistic and philological detours have been many and confusing. They are the ones that have to be weeded out.
From an archaeological point of view, ThórEy’s re-reading has the advantage of defending the probable against the improbable, thus bringing the text into the realm of Archaeo-Dynamism declaring all interpretations equal and some more equal than others.
This means that in ThórEy’s re-reading there are three statements on the stone. Owing to its preservation, some parts, represented by italics, are less obvious than others. To begin with, I present the three statements in no specific order and translate them in two ways: clumsily word by word and well, i.e. quoting ThórEy:
Wiwaz Woduride : staina : satide
Wiwaz for Woduridaz : the stone : set up
NN (Wiwaz?) erected the stone for Woduridaz (ThórEy’s translation)
ek Wiwaz after Woduride witadahalaiban worahto runoz
I Wiwaz after (and for) Woduridaz, the keeper of bread, wrought the runes
I Wiwaz wrought the runes in memory of Woduridaz, the breadward (ThóEy’s translation)
thrijoz dohtriz dalidun arbija sijostez arbijano
three daughters divided (between them) the inheritance (they were) the ownest of heirs (i.e. the heirs closest to the deceased himself)
Three daughters shared the inheritance, the closest family heirs (ThóEy’s translation).
On the Tune stone archaeologists see three related phenomena: a statement concerning the runes we read, a statement on inheritance and a statement about the creation of the monument. We understand that Woduridaz, a pillar of society, has died and that his three daughters were his closest heirs. A man called Wiwaz wrought the runes commemorating Woduridaz and set up the monument. Since Wiwaz stands out as a capable man, we may expect that he was remembered for what he did. Similarly, the daughters were probably remembered for being their father’s daughters. It may be said that Wiwaz pushed for himself and for the daughters too, but rather than being controversial, the statements impress us as factual and straightforward.
Since agency, personal qualifications and social position matter, it is fair to point out that the name Woduridaz means ‘mind rider’ adding a nimble intellectual quality to the responsible man who keeps the bread, with an eye to sharing it. Witada-halaiban is a proto Norse composite for the Anglo-Saxon ’hláford’, hláf+weard = bread+warder, i.e. Modern English ‘lord’. This was argued in a model almost law-breaking discussion by Otto v. Friesen in Arkiv för nordisk filologi vol 16 1900:191-200.
There is only one Iron Age Woduridaz, but Wiwaz belongs to a small series of names (Wiwaz, Wiwlian and Wiwio) designating those whose common denominator is ‘rushing forward’. Being Wiwaz befits a doer and both names may thus be cognomens inasmuch as they may be flattering nicknames – not least the composite Wodu+ridaz. They may also indicate the distribution of roles among kinsmen favouring names, even nicknames, on W. In that case Wiwaz wasn’t Woduridaz’ son, but he might have been a brother.
Because ThórEy has been able to read the text favouring a straightforward and indeed uncomplicated meaning, the archaeologist, having seen the names as meaningful in the way a beholder may find them meaningful without knowing for sure, may also continue and look at the stone as a combination of (1) epigraphy and (2) literary form. Epigraphy falls into two parts. One (1:1) concerns the way the texts should be read from the beginning to the end, the other (1:2) concerns its composition. I will deal with 1:1-2 before I turn to (2), the question of literary form.
Reading the obverse, i.e. the front signified by the large runes in two centrally placed lines, one would stand a little to the left looking at the text from an oblique angle reading it from the onset downwards and up again to the very top of the stone, which has become so narrow that there is room for one line only: ek Wiwaz after Woduride witadahalaiban worahto runoz. One need not read more than the obverse, but if, because the text ends at the very top of the stone, one thinks that here may be more to the read on the back side, one must take a step backwards and to the left in order to see the reverse. Here there is once again an obvious onset from which one reads downwards and then upwards again to the end of the second statement: thrijoz dohtriz dalidun arbija sijostez arbijano. Apparently there is a third line on the back side, but in order to read that, one shall have to take a step forward and turn around thus standing next to the left side of the stone reading the line in the right side from the bottom and upwards: Wiwaz Woduride : staina : satide. The epigraphic order is practical, relatively clear and meaningful. The function of the last statement is to bring the inscription to an end, making it clear that there is nothing more to say when the first two statements have been said. They in their turn are presented in a practical order: first we understand that Woduridaz is dead, then (as a secondary fact and thus on the back side) we learn that his death produced heirs. We have been told something about Woduridaz’ character, and have been pointed to the slightly odd fact that his heirs were three daughters.
The statement on inheritance is in agreement with Tacitus description of a man’s closest heirs: Heredes tamen successoresque sui cuique liberi, et nullum testamentum. Si liberi non sunt, proximus gradus in possessione fratres, patrui, avunculi.–Heirs, nevertheless, and successors (are) his own children and no will (is made). If there are no children, the next in rank to possess (the inheritance) are brothers, father’s brother, mother’s brother (Tacitus Germania 20.3.). This means that if Wiwaz was Woduridaz’ brother, or one of the close relatives mentioned by Tacitus, there would be an important point in mentioning the daughters, thus stating and accepting their rights by acknowledging their status rather than his own. Originally, the Tune stone probably stood close to the place and road where it was eventually found, and it is thus not unlikely that it was once an example of the kind of memorial stones referred to in Hávamál strophe 72: sjaldan bautarsteinar standa brautu nǣr, nema reisi niþr at niþ—Seldom do memorial stones stand next to the road, if they were not raised by a kinsman commemorating his kin.
Tacitus, who may be right or wrong, wrote 300 years before Wiwaz, but rules of inheritance often have a strong tradition. In view of ThóEy’s thorough discussion, Tacitus description speaks in favour of sijostez arbijano (the closest of heirs) being a traditional way among people in Northern Europa of defining legal heirs as descendants who are entitled to inherit simply by birth right. Choosing these specific three statements and arranging them in a composition might thus have been intentional (01).
Often, when it comes to literary form in early runic inscriptions the text interacts with the medium, i.e. with the stone. This is the case in Tune. There is a message in the way the reader approaches the stone and orders the statements in a series beginning with an opening, continuing in a consequence of what has been related in the opening, and ending in a conclusion, which tells us that the commemorative monument is completed in a most suitable way. The opening on the front of the stone – written in large runes – is composed as a period consisting of two alliterating and syllable-counting well-stressed long lines with a suitable sentence intonation – a firm and short first long line and a second more rich in syllables developing and emphasizing primarily the essence of the deceased, witadahalaiban, and secondly the honorable behavior of the verse-writing Wiwaz:
ek Wiwaz after Woduride, (5+4 =09)
witadahalaiban worahto runoz (6+5=11)
Prosody is a choice, not a must: ek Wiwaz worahto runoz after Woduridu witadahalaiban, a sensible and informative prose expression, would have done the job.
The two statements on the back side take us to this kind of simple prose by way of a solemn economic and elegant expression: thrijoz dohtriz dailidun arbija, sijostez arbijano—three daughters shared the inheritance, (they were) the closest of (his) heirs.
The last statement, the most simple prose, piles the words on top of each other as a matter of fact in an almost artless way: Wiwaz Woduride staina satide. One might also have said Woduride staina Wiwaz satide or Woduride Wiwaz satide staina or Wiwaz staina Woduride satide or any other of the possible 24 word orders. Since Wiwaz is nom sing, staina acc sing, Woduride dat sing and satide 3. pers sing the meaning of the words and the sentence cannot be obscured by the word order. Actually the reason why runologists have had no problem supplying the word satide is because it is the necessary and obvious verb to the three nouns one of which must be in the nominative. Not surprisingly, all four words have heavily stressed first syllables creating a stubborn cablese beat, impossible to get rid of. The only words that could possibly be missing are: ‘Stop! Send cash!’
There is a perfect balance between the tall stone, the design, the message, the formulation, the movement of the reader and the thirty-second three-stage experience walking around the monument reading it. The composition is low-key, but significant. It stresses the deep-rooted traditional fairness, integrity and care of the mind-riding Early Iron Age bread ward, i.e. a gifted lordly member of the upper classes.
But deád is Æschere! In Beowulf King Hrothgar laments the loss of his runwita, his ‘run-knower’, brother in arms, and counsellor, killed by Grendel’s mother (cf. v 1325). In the epic this is a symbolic loss of literacy including its esoteric qualities of knowing hidden meaning, such as the non-verbal meaning of prosody. This loss is emblematic of late 5th century Scandinavia when the likes of Æschere, such as Wiwaz, stopped writing. They were the last of their kind and hard to come by for centuries.
King Hrothgar is acutely aware of having lost an old significant component of society. In bygone days, as his name and the King tell us (02), Æschere was the spear warrior standing shoulder to shoulder with the king. Like most, they were both men in the line, when the warriors clashed, spear in hand, and wisely they sought to protect their heads behind their shields. Unmediated we are told that Æschere was the older brother of Yrmenláf (eormen+láf) – an odd name signifying the ‘great’ or ‘all-comprising legacy’. ´This indicates that living up to his obligations as an older brother, he helped bringing forward Hrothgar’s glorious world, i.e. the great legacy now threatened by Grendel and his mother. Not only was Æschere instrumental in bringing about this society, he employed the intellectual skills of a counsellor and runwita in order to manage it. And now he is dead. Grendel’s mother is proud of having killed him because she knows that what Grendel meant to her, Æschere meant to Hrothgar.
(00) There is a short overview in Norwegian of the Tune area with relevant references in:
Bårdseth, Gro Anita. 2007 Kulturmilø Tune. In: Bårdseth (ed.) Hus, gard og graver langs E6 i Sarpsborg kommune. E6-prosjektet Østfold, Band 2. Varia 66. Pp 1-6.
Although one cannot point to any large and domiant Roman Iron Age och Migration Period farm in the Tune area, the farms Missingen in Råde, just north of Tune, shows the economic possibilities of the coastland/inland border in Østfold. On Missingen, in Norwegian, see:
or in English:
Bårdseth, Gro Anita. 2009. The Roman Age Hall and the Warrior-Aristocracy: Reflections upon the Hall at Missingen, South-East Norway. Norwegian Archaeological Review, Vol. 42, No. 2, 2009. Pp 146-58.
(01) In Latin it is possible, at least for Plautus humorously, and using the archaic ipsus instead of ipse, to construct a word parallel to sijostez. In Trinummus: The Three Pieces of Money, Act iv scene 2, when Charmides is asked by Sycophanta for the fourth time Ergo ipsusne es?—Are you then himself? Charmides answers as affirmatively as possible with a superlative to ipsus, ‘own’, in the genitive: Ipsissimus—‘his ownest’, ispis+simus, i.e. his own very self. In Lewis & and Short by mistake ipsissimus is spelled ispissumus, cf. ThórEy p. 22f.
(02) Beowulf vv 1323-27: Deád is Æschere, // Yrmenláfes yldra broþor, // 1325 min rúnwita ond min rædbora, // eaxlgestealla, ðonne we on orlege // hafelan weredon, þonne hniton feþan—Dead is Æschere Yrmenláf’s older brother, my runwita and my counsellor, he stood next to my shoulder when in battle we protected our heads when the men clashed.